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.
Pumping 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.