State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012DE237B
Title: Improving Irrigation Management through Soil Moisture Monitoring and Automated Control of Sprinkler and Sub-Surface Drip Irrigation
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 6/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: At large
Focus Categories: Irrigation, Water Supply, Water Quality
Keywords: Irrigation management, soil moisture monitoring, sub-surface drip irrigation
Principal Investigators: J. Thomas Sims (University of Delaware); J. Thomas Sims (University of Delaware)
Federal Funds: $ 1,500
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 3,000
Abstract: Of Delaware's 430,000 acres of agricultural land, approximately 25% is irrigated. While irrigation improves yields and reduces the risk of crop failure, the environmental cost of mismanagement can be sizable. Over-irrigation reduces yields, leaches fertilizer, and wastes water and energy. Under-irrigation reduces nitrogen and water use efficiency, and depresses yields. Currently, farmers use a combination of evapotranspiration, soil feel, instinct and experience to determine when to irrigate their crops. Each of these methods requires a grower to estimate the soil moisture status of each field. Recent improvements in data communication and sensor technology provide an opportunity to replace the estimation of soil moisture with actual data. Nationally, irrigation research is dominated by the needs of the semi-arid Southwest U.S. Unfortunately, the humid climate and sandy soils of the Mid-Atlantic limit the adaptability of research conducted in other regions. In order for Delaware farmers to efficiency utilize soil moisture technology to schedule irrigation events, basic crop response research must be conducted to determine the ideal soil moisture trigger points for a variety of crops. Consequently, the goals of this project are to determine the ideal irrigation management methods for a variety of Delaware crops. Furthermore, this project seeks to quantify the benefits of soil moisture monitoring as a tool to apply only the irrigation water demanded by the crop.

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