Irrigating with Mobilize Helps Growers Cope with Drought
If you are the manager of any agricultural water in 2022, we don't have to guess that spring is revving up your irrigation anxiety. 2021 hit farmers hard, then hit them again. Drought, hurricanes, and wildfires added to the labor and health issues of COVID. So far 2022 is not offering much relief, with a continued lack of rain and snow pack in the west and Canadian prairies, southern Europe, and other places in the world. The supply chain issues are still pounding farmers, making fertilizers and equipment more expensive. More uncertainty for farmers looms as war in Ukraine continues to rage.
So we look at ways to control what we can.
At the most basic level of farming, soil, water, and sunlight are vital. And now, water -- in 2022 and henceforth -- is very often from unpredictable and increasingly limited sources. Water is liquid gold if you grow crops or raise livestock.
In the past, growers either grew crops that did not need irrigation, or they focused their attention on ways to get water from a river, lake, pond, well, storage tank, or even a municipal water source to their plants. They carried it in buckets, directed it in ditches, pumped it from aquifers.
But today, irrigating crops is not just about the logistics of buckets and digging wells. Now the recognition of water as a resource that is neither free nor infinite has shifted the focus to how to irrigate crops so that water waste is minimized, but crop yield and quality is maximized.
Drought, climate change, weather disasters, and inefficient infrastructure have made us all into water misers. Growers have switched crops, liquidated livestock, minimized tillage, installed irrigation systems, carefully timed fertilizer applications, planted cover crops, and remained hypervigilant to ways to improve their use of water.
A green row celery field is watered and sprayed by irrigation equipment in the Salinas Valley, California USA
Growers who irrigate their crops see not only increased yields and higher quality products, but they can also extend their growing season. They can grow high-value specialty crops that might otherwise not be feasible. They can increase profits of animal products by assuring the forage supply, and they can improve crop rotations. They can manage fertilizer, pest control, and seed planting so that they use the least and safest amount of these resources as well.
Up to 70% of the planet’s freshwater withdrawal goes to irrigation – up three times from just 1970. Irrigated agriculture represents 20% of total cultivated land but contributes 40% of the total food produced worldwide. As we face changes in our climate and increases in our population, the global demand for water for irrigation in agriculture is forecasted to increase at least another 20% by 2050. In many places in the world, water for agriculture is already in competition with water for people’s everyday uses, and some rivers and groundwater sources are being tapped dry. Water is no longer a resource that can be taken lightly, overused, or wasted, and modern growers know this from both personal ethics and financial pressures. If a farmer irrigates crops, they must know exactly when in the crop’s growth cycle to start and stop irrigation, how much water to apply, and when to apply it.
It all starts with a Vantage Pro2 GroWeather station, which reports data from the grower's field with its own microclimate that may differ greatly from nearby locations. The station reports two data points that are especially key to irrigation decisions: rainfall and Evapotranspiration (ET). Understanding how these parameters affect irrigation decisions is crucial.
Next come sensors installed in EnviroMonitor Nodes. Real-time data from soil moisture, leaf wetness, soil salinity, pressure, flow meters and depth sensors, as well as data from the GroWeather, relays automatically to an EnviroMonitor Gateway. Growers can choose either IP Gateway that utilizes Wi-Fi/Ethernet to upload data to the WeatherLink Cloud or the cellular Gateway.
Growers now have their data at their fingertips with the WeatherLink and Mobilize apps. In the Mobilize app, growers input their specific crops and planting dates. The app then takes the data from the sensors and presents it to the grower and team members in the form of irrigation and crop reports. Growers get easy access to the data in color-coded graphs that show soil water content by zone (saturation, good, stress, wilt) and by “irrigation on” and rainfall.
Farmers like Matt Morris, whose story about saving water and increasing yield with an EnviroMonitor system was a Davis favorite, know very well that over-irrigating is a waste of money and water. But they also know that another way to waste water, and possibly harm their plants, is to apply it at the wrong time in the plant’s development. Growers can use the Mobilize Crop report to track their crops’ exact development by GDD and use this to set their irrigation start and stop dates. The custom crop report lets them create multiple views to track GDD and chill hours across many different crop varieties and plant dates.
With EnviroMonitor and Mobilize, growers have a powerful tool in creating an irrigation system that will let them control the costs and dangers of water waste, while increasing their yield and quality. No more water wasted on crops that need no irrigation once they are physiologically mature, no more pushing nutrients below the root zone by over watering, no more plant damage or death due to water stress, no more nitrate runoff into potable water supplies, rivers, and streams.
With Mobilize, modern growers have the data they need -- data from their own fields -- in the palms of their hands.
To get a more advanced perspective on using EnviroMonitor and Mobilize for irrigation, set up a FREE consultation with one of our Agriculture Specialist or download our FREE buying guide for agricultural weather solutions.
Learn more about EnviroMonitor here.