Precision farming technologies are finding their way into more operations and, specifically, precision irrigation technology is impacting irrigation in several ways.
Variable rate irrigation (VRI) is a common precision irrigation strategy. There are three primary methods of variable rate irrigation on center pivots. The ability to designate each pivot’s application speed, set by zone, or even control each individual sprinkler makes VRI appealing and advantageous. But to arrive at the proper VRI prescriptions and execute the right strategy, a larger precision irrigation picture first needs to be painted. Enter remote management.
Remote management is the ability to remotely monitor and collect data, then use it analyze and execute a strategy like VRI. Here’s how each of those three pieces works to complete the precision irrigation puzzle.
Precision irrigation begins with knowing the full picture of what’s happening on the farm. Certain features like crop, soil, and typography are already known and will remain unchanged. It’s knowing what’s happening in real-time and having some insight into what’s to come that can bring big value. This is where remote monitoring factors into the strategy.
While one may assume remote monitoring is only related to a system’s total water application, there’s much more that can be tracked in real-time. Additional system functions like a pivot’s water flow and pressure, or factors outside of the equipment including weather and soil moisture can be monitored by many sophisticated remote management systems.
Before this information can be analyzed and used to bring any decision-making power, it first must be collected in one area and organized in a way that’s easy to understand.
To manually gather info on individual pivots, including water flow rate, and additional factors, like fertilizer application and soil data would be a time-intensive process. A manual collection strategy also leaves room for human error. Because data collection is an essential step in an irrigation management strategy, the capabilities of a remote management system again bring an advantage.
As mentioned earlier, a remote management system gathers data on everything from individual pivot zone applications to wind speeds. Once collected, it sends the data into a user-friendly system via software integration. A grower is able to review all the data in one program and use it to make decisions at year-end or, in the case of addressing immediate needs, make decisions quickly.
Depending on the brand, data management software can typically be accessed remotely. For example, AgSense from Valley Irrigation can be accessed from a smartphone, tablet, or computer, anywhere in the world.
With crucial data in one place and easy to review, a grower is now in position to take an important step in the remote management process – action.
Analysis and Action
Arguably most important step in remote management is just that – management. Using the information gathered, growers must analyze and decide what steps to take and adjustments to make. With data from remote monitoring collected and housed in a single system, a grower is able to review all the data and use it to make decisions at year-end or, in the case of addressing immediate needs, make decisions quickly.
At its most immediate, the info can alert a grower of an equipment malfunction that can be addressed right away. On the other end of the spectrum, the info can be used to make bigger-picture decisions, such as major adjustments to the VRI strategy for the next year.
A proper precision irrigation strategy begins with having relevant information, continues with easy access to view data in one place, then extends to its fullest with the ongoing use of that data to take action.
About The Author
Scott Barthel is Sales Manager of MVI in Wadena, MN.
For more information on variable rate irrigation, center pivot irrigation systems, or agriculture equipment for sale, contact your local MVI or RDO Equipment Co. store.