Greater control over the water you put on your crops.

March 1, 2016

With Jeremy Becker

Water is the limiting factor when it comes to yield. Since we can’t count on Mother Nature to consistently provide it when and where we need it, we need to take control by using the water we do have available to us as efficiently as possible.

If your yield maps look like a bullseye, whether it has rings or spokes, that’s an indication that your pivot system is not distributing water uniformly—and uniformity is key to irrigation efficiency.

Make sure your sprinkler package is operating at maximum efficiency. As nozzles and regulators age, they become more inefficient after seasons of pumping silt and sand along with water. As a result, the spray patterns change and you’re not applying water where it’s needed—or in the amount required. And that has a direct effect on yield.

Variable rate irrigation (VRI) systems are becoming more prevalent as growers look for ways to improve the efficiency of their irrigation system. VRI technology allows you to customize water application rates so the water is applied only where it needs to be. This can help maximize yields on good soils, minimize inputs on non-producing soils, reduce runoff, and increase efficiency.

VRI Speed Control divides the circle into simple slices of the “pie” and delivers different rates of water by varying the machine speed within each slice. VRI Zone Control systems provide site-specific irrigation with by varying the speed of the machine as well as controlling individual sprinklers along the entire machine. This truly is “prescription watering.”

Ask your ISG professional at 21st Century Equipment about soil moisture monitoring systems that can tell you how much water your crop truly needs and helps prevent over-irrigation. It’s much more accurate than simply eyeballing your field—or deciding to turn on your pivot because the neighbor turned on his or when the water is in the canal system!

Remote irrigation management products from Valley and AgSense give you ultimate control of your irrigation systems. With products like Basestation3 from Valley and the Field Commander from AgSense, you can use your smartphone, tablet or laptop to monitor and control your pivots remotely, anywhere you have internet access. VRI prescriptions can be uploaded wirelessly; the ability to start and stop the pivot, as well as many other available commands turn your smartphone, tablet, or computer into a “Virtual Control Panel.”

Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems provide the ultimate in efficiency and control by delivering water and inputs right at the root system in precise (and smaller) amounts. The return on investment of an SDI system is attractive when you consider the savings in water and labor—and the uniform availability of water and nutrients to every plant in your field and the yield bump that can result.

Finally, you should take the initiative to properly maintain your pivot system. Make sure the gear boxes have plenty of oil. Check all seals and connections. Inspect the tires for wear, weather-checking or air loss. Breakdowns and failures during the irrigation season are certain to waste time, cost money and reduce yield.

Contact 21st Century Water to discover more about improving your irrigation system and taking greater control over what moody Mother Nature decides to dole out this season.