Tag Archives: Variable-Rate Irrigation

Priming Yourself for Variable-Rate Irrigation

Fertilizer does it.  Seeds do it.  Why not water?

To date precision agriculture has focused its cost saving variable-rate technologies on major crop inputs like fertilizer and seed.  Ironically, the most important and precious resource needed by any growing crop is water.

Variable-rate irrigation technologies have by no means hit the mainstream as many producers do not even fully know what it is or what it can do for them.  That may have to change.

Aqua Prime Irrigation ImagePumping water is expensive and its not getting any cheaper.  Plus, Mother Nature isn’t helping the situation as headlines about drought continue to spread across the country.  Some towns in Texas have less than a 90-day supply of water.  California is the driest its been in over a 100 years.  And in Nebraska, some irrigation water districts have now placed new limits on the amount of water that can be applied in a single crop year.

Part of the problem of implementation comes back to the old conundrum between the chicken and the egg. Deploying VRI on a field with a center pivot requires upfront the collection of some very specific precision field data such as detailed soil electro-conductivity (EC) maps and also ultra-accurate topographical information. Then if by chance they do have such information, many growers’ existing center pivots may not currently be equipped with technology to actually implement a VRI prescription.

In order to make it easier for growers to get started with VRI, our company Prime Meridian recently launched its new AquaPrime service.  We’ve teamed with a software company called PCT out of Australia that allows us to create very specific water application maps based on the soil and terrain characteristics of the irrigated field.  In turn, those recommendations can be uploaded to a variable-rate equipped center pivot system where water can be varied by sector or zone depending on the pivot’s capabilities.

VRI has many benefits beyond just water savings.  It saves energy – lots of it.  In fact, many electric companies are now starting to look at possibly cost-sharing the retro-fitting of existing systems with such VRI technology.  Regardless of such incentives the technology is ready for the mainstream. It is important that growers start preparing today because there’s a lot of precision work to be done in the fields before turning on this technology called VRI.

For more information or to schedule a free farm review about VRI and to learn more about Prime Meridian’s AquaPrime irrigation solutions, please contact Steve Cubbage at 417-667-4471 or email:  steve@primemeridiandata.com.


The Magic Is Back: EC Makes A Comeback

In the early days of precision agriculture there were a lot of technologies arriving on the scene that captured the title of “The Next Big Thing.” One of those “Big Things” was something called “EC” – the acronym for electrical conductivity.

The theory was that by shooting an electrical current into soil to measure resistance and logging that data with GPS you could make an “EC Map” of your field.  Why? For many it was like being able to peer into a soil’s soul as you could discover its character and how it might react under certain conditions. In scientific terms the EC data told you how much of your soil was sand verses clay and helped determined its water and nutrient holding capabilities.


In the early 2000’s the “IT” piece of hardware to have in your precision stable was a pull-type coulter EC rig called a Veris or an EM-38 machine that sort of looks like you’re pulling a landscape timber with wheels attached!

So, it was that EC maps became the “IT” layer to have in your precision portfolio trumping at the time the even still fascinating colored yield maps and those variable fertility layers.  For a brief moment in time EC soil data was considered the “magic bullet” – the “go-to” layer for making management decisions involving variety selection, seeding rates and nutrient and herbicide applications.

What happened next?  Reality sank in and it was discovered EC data is not exactly magic – but it isn’t snake oil either.  It is tool – a layer of data – no different than yield data, topo data or fertility data.  Unfortunately because of this reality, EC mapping went through a sophomore slump as precision service providers went back to their meat and potatoes services like making GPS soil sampling and making yield maps deeming EC data not worth their time or effort.  Both metaphorically and in reality EC became regulated to the fencerow right next to the 5-bottom plow that nobody used anymore.

Fast forward to today.  EC is back – and so is a little bit of the magic!  Retooled and this time with a purpose. The difference this time is that EC data is being leveraged to validate traditional data such as yield maps and soil type maps. It has also become a foundational layer as variable-rate seeding technology has hit the mainstream. It just makes sense to better understand things like the water-holding capability of your soils before deciding on how many seeds per acre to plant.

The other big reason for EC’s comeback is another new acronym called VRI – “Variable-Rate Irrigation”.  VRI is literally an electronic prescription that tells your pivot how much water to put on as it moves across the field. Again, it is just common sense that something that determines the water holding capabilities of a field’s soil be used when determining how much water to apply to the soil!

It is because of these reasons that we at Prime Meridian believe that this time EC is back and it’s here to stay simply because now there is relevance as we’ve discovered ways to apply what we can learn from it.

At Prime Meridian we saw this coming and for the past several months we’ve been gearing up to integrate EC services into our offerings to our clients. We already offer basic ala carte EC data collection and mapping but be looking for pending announcements on how you will be able to integrate EC data into popular our multi-year Prime Packages – making it more affordable and easier than ever to collect EC data on your farm. In addition, we’ll be offering new EC data combos by combining it with other advanced data layers like topo data and aerial imagery.

It’s nice to know that EC data was not a one-hit wonder and it’s good to see that the sophomore slump is over.  It is now clear that it is about to graduate to a whole now level.

What do you think?