Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012DE237B

Improving Irrigation Management through Soil Moisture Monitoring and Automated Control of Sprinkler and Sub-Surface Drip Irrigation

Institute: Delaware
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-06-01 End Date: 2013-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $1,500 Total Non-Federal Funds: $3,000

Principal Investigators: James Sims, James Sims

Abstract: Of Delawares 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.