Sustainable irrigation has become a significant issue for the agricultural community. In areas of the world where water is scarce and droughts are plentiful, it is essential that tools and methods are put in place to efficiently handle water management mechanisms in farming practices. Hence the use and practice of precision irrigation. Precision irrigation is the implementation of various irrigation techniques which allow farmers to manage their resources effectively to produce an optimal harvest.
There are four methods of precision irrigation which can be integrated within an irrigation system. These distinct methods allow farmers to cut-costs, reduce water consumption, and produce a successful crop. Here are the following precision irrigation methods:
Drip Irrigation is micro-irrigation system that saves water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface. Drip irrigation systems place water directly into the root zone which minimize evaporation. Drip irrigation systems distribute water through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters.
In addition to minimizing the use of water, drip irrigation provides other benefits for producing a successful crop.
Global Position Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology are used to understand field conditions and spatial variability which is important for any precision agriculture application. In fields, the topography, soil texture, and crop growth can vary, all of which can impact water needs and availability. To manage these fields, a thorough understanding of this variability and its precise locations in the field is necessary.
Though GPS has enabled precision agriculture and most recently irrigation precision. In the field, geolocation of management of zones, utilization of Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI), and understanding data from soil moisture probes all rely on GPS technology.
Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI)
VRI works by applying water at a variable rate along the center pivot (circular irrigation system) rather than a uniform rate along the entire length of the system. VRI uses Global Positioning System GPS and GIS technology to prescribe a specific amount of water for certain areas of the field. This is done with the combination of GPS and GIS information sent to a control panel to run sets of nozzles. VRI can apply no water to certain nozzles and as much as 200 percent of the normal application rate to other nozzles by opening and closing individual nozzles and speeding up or slowing down the pivot.
VRI can be integrated into most irrigation systems, including drip irrigation, by incorporating the proper controllers and software. These specialized custom systems often require significant collaboration with the grower and irrigation specialists. These specialist assist the grower in developing a plan to create a tailored system for the grower. VRI technology continues to advance, it’s likely that there will be manufacturers that can develop standards and equipment which will be more interchangeable and customizable in the foreseeable future.
Monitoring and Automation
Monitoring and Automation is the quintessential of precision irrigation. The technology allows growers to view real-time data on soil and weather conditions to help them make better management decisions.
Some of these systems not only allow growers to monitor soil and weather conditions, but can also allow them to remotely control irrigation systems, such as turning pumps, center pivots, and other systems on and off. This makes the grower’s job easier by allowing them to control systems remotely.
For those interested in accessing innovative Israeli technology for precision irrigation, there are a number of Israeli companies with excellent solutions in this area:
Viridix Viridix aims to reinvent soil sensing through the development of a scalable, affordable solution that has been recognized by top agriculture scientists and corporate entities. The company’s revolutionary, patent-pending soil moisture sensor measures the water potential available to the roots of the plant, which is considered the gold standard of measurement in fertigation. The sensor itself acts as a real plant and can be mounted on different platforms, with no electricity or network needed for operation.
Saturas Saturas developed a miniature sensor for continuous measurement of stem water potential. The sensor is implemented in an automatic system that optimizes irrigation, reduces water consumption, and increases fruit production. Embedded in tree trunks in direct contact with the water tissue, the sensors provide accurate information based on statistical analysis. The Saturas system consists of miniature implanted sensors, in-orchard communications and transponders, and a control unit.
Solidrip SoliDrip specializes in solutions to boost urban greening and improve the urban environment. The company is developing a one-size-fits-all autonomous irrigation device that will provide the optimal amount of water for each plant. The system is designed for public and private, outdoor and indoor gardens of any scale, including fruit orchards and vertical gardens, and supports most garden plants and planting methods.
NDrip N-Drip is the developer of a gravity micro-irrigation system that utilizes existing flood irrigation infrastructure to provide efficient drip irrigation. The system uses pressure lower than 0.06 bar and is compatible with dirty water, requiring no filters. N-Drip does not rely on external energy, instead making use of the field topography and gravity power to reduce conversion costs and increase operational efficiency with the goal of conserving water and fertilizer while increasing yields.
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