New Technology Reduces Agricultural Water Consumption

Faculty at the University of Georgia have invented an easy-to-use, GPS-based technology that allows farmers to more accurately target irrigation needs, reducing water consumption by an average of 15 percent.
Most of our water use worldwide goes to agriculture, so reducing that amount will be critical as our population grows and climate change makes water supplies less predictable.

The Ceres Aqua Gauge report I mentioned yesterday paints that picture:

The rising global population (estimated to create from 7 billion dollars to 9 billion dollars by mid-century) together with economic growth in growing marketplaces will mean burgeoning demand for both potable water and food. Agriculture now accounts for roughly 70 percent of global water use, but as dietary changes in developing countries raise demand for water-intensive foods such as meat and dairy, this proportion will grow yet higher. Without performance profits, farming water need is predicted to create by 45 % — or an additional yearly 1,400 billion dollars cubic measures of water per season — by 2030.
The collaboration is also dealing with farm owners to decrease water intake in other ways:

1.     Reducing water pressure and capping irrigation lines.Farm owners use lower water pressure and spread moisture closer to the ground to reduce wind flow. They also cap the ends of irrigation lines so water is not broadcast beyond the fields.
2.     Advanced irrigation scheduling. A system of soil sensors, monitored through a wireless broadband network and powered by solar panels, allows farmers to monitor soil conditions on a daily or hourly basis and to selectively target areas for irrigation. For example, a cultivator could hold off irrigating when it’s pouring.
3.     Conservation tillage. By using a cover plants and making flower remains in the field, farm owners can change flower main framework to improve the soil’s capacity to hold water and reduce ground temperature, thereby reducing the amount of water lost to water loss.
4.     Sod-based rotation. . Farmers plant a warm-season perennial grass and fallow the field for two years, improving soil quality and water-holding capacity. However, only farmers who both flower row plants and eat livestock can afford to do this, said Perry.

In revenge of the cost, reducing agriculture’s water consumption in Georgia’s Flint Stream Container (and beyond) is not an summary exercise: Water lack in the South east has reduced water moves in the lower Flint Stream system, harmful its excessive bio-diversity, such as vulnerable types. Leaving water in the stream defends these types — and the future of gardening. The area’s farming industry is worth $2 billion dollars in revenue yearly, and watering is central to production, said The Nature Conservancy.

While historically wet, the Southeast United States have seen persistent drought conditions over the past decade and legal conflicts over water. That makes Georgia’s Flint River basin, where farmers grow thirsty cotton, corn, peanuts, and pecans, a good proving ground for this technology.

A common method of irrigation is the center pivot, which projects water 360 degrees, creating the crop circles obvious from an airplane. The Flint River basin has 6,250 center-pivot systems. The problem with this technology is that it sprays water blindly, even across areas too wet to plant, such as grass waterways, seasonal wetlands, permanent ponds, a lake on the edge of a field.

Around 2004, University of Georgia faculty Calvin Perry, Stuart Pocknee, and Craig Kvien, developed variable rate irrigation (VRI), which allows farmers to selectively turn off specific nozzles as the pivot crawls over patches that don’t need water.
This year, they made the system easier for farmers to use. The previous version required a farmer to develop a water application map on a computer, upload that map to a thumb drive, and transfer it to the irrigation controller. Using the new push-button version, “he would just walk his irrigation system to one of these areas he wishes to not apply water … push the button to tell the controller, ‘this is where this anomaly starts.’ He then walks the system to the far edge of the anomaly, pushes another button, which says, ‘this is where that ends,’” said Perry, who works in the university’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Around 2004, School of Atlanta staff Calvin Perry, Stuart Pocknee, and Todd Kvien, developed varying rate watering (VRI), which allows farm owners to precisely turn off specific misting nozzles as the rotate crawls over areas that don’t need water.

The VRI equipment, sold by vendor Advanced Ag Systems out of Dothan, Ala., is expensive: about $5,000 for a modular, limited system and up to $30,000 for a large, full system, according to Perry, who acknowledged that most farmers can’t afford it.
Water and meals costs are likely to increase globally due to improved need — combined with growing anxiety about water and meals security — which would make technology like VRI more economic. Until then, Perry, his associates, and the Flint Stream container farm owners may be just a bit before their time.