Project Summaries

10-680MS  Project Manager: E. M. Barnes

ASSESS COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE SOIL AND PLANT BASED SENSORS SYSTEMS AND ASSOCIATED TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS FOR THEIR ABILITY TO SCHEDULE IRRIGATIONS EASILY, ACCURATELY, RELIABLY AND ECONOMICALLY IN A USER-FRIENDLY FORMAT

H. C. (Lyle) Pringle, III, Mississippi State University

With fuel costs steadily rising over the last three years, producers are looking for ways to reduce fuel consumption. Scheduling irrigations with soil based sensors has been used in agricultural research for years but has not been widely adopted by producers in the Mississippi Delta. Recent additions of dataloggers and telecommunications to get sensor based data recorded and out of the field and into a more user-friendly format need to be evaluated.  Adoption of irrigation scheduling systems utilizing soil or plant based sensors and has the potential to improve irrigation scheduling and increase the bottom line. The main objective of this project was to evaluate the ability of different wireless sensor systems to provide reliable and practical data to a cotton producer or consultant for consideration in making real-time irrigation decisions.

A cotton irrigation initiation demonstration was established on a producer's field in LeFlore county. Irrigation initiation treatments set approximately 5 to 7 days apart were assigned to four different irrigation sets. A new Irrometer wireless monitoring system with the Watermark soil water potential sensors was used in 2012. It radioed the data from the field to a central receiver and then used a cellular gateway to transmit the data to Irrometer's server. At the server, the data is put in tabular and graphical form and for access with a username and password. Decagon sensors, dataloggers and wireless systems that used a cellular modem to send the data directly to the Decagon server used in 2011 were also used in 2012. DataTrac software had to be downloaded and the ID and password for each Decagon unit had to be entered to be able to look at this year's data. Both wireless sensors were installed in the middle of each run of each set, the Decagon was 10 rows over from the Watermark sensors. The Watermark sensors and the Decagon sensors were both installed at depths of 8, 16, and 24 inches. The Irrometer transmitter modules in the field were modified slightly by adding an extension cable between the unit and its antenna, so the unit could be placed low enough in the drill to miss being damaged by tractors and their implements. The antenna was placed on the top of a six foot fiberglass pole that was flexible enough to not be damaged. The radio system worked well.

The cellular transmission of these two systems worked well when there was a good signal. The dataloggers for each unit worked well unless the batteries became dislodged or there was a bad connection to the sensors. In any of these systems, if moisture gets into the enclosure there will be problems and there are some issues still to be investigated. Results from the Decagon EC-5 and the Watermark sensors in 2012 were similar to the results found in 2011. The later initiations, where there was more water removal at initiation at the 24-inch depth, had the highest yield samples collected. Some timely rainfall occurred during the growing season, which reduced the demand for irrigation. The producer monitored the data regularly throughout both seasons, and felt the later initiations would save him an irrigation in most cases on these soils without reducing yields. He especially liked the rainfall data that was reported remotely.

 

Project Year: 2012
 

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