Optimal crop irrigation

New techniques could help farmers make better decisions about water use in arid environments
13 December 2013


Water dropGrowing crops in arid areas has become a little easier with the release of new technology that assesses the local environment.

Understanding weather and environmental data to calculate how much water is required to successfully grow crops requires training and advanced knowledge not readily accessible by farmers. Furthermore, making sense of this data with statistical analysis is difficult to validate.

To overcome these difficulties, a team of researchers led by Richard Snyder at University of California, Davis, have now released a 'how to' video in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.  Their experimental setup includes a standalone recording station, complete with sensors to measure temperatures and wind movements.

The device measures evapotranspiration, the rate of loss of water from plants and the soil. The package comes complete with validated statistical software, compiling information from the sensors and providing a simple data readout for farmers to make informed ecological decisions.

The device could also be used in other locations, such as forests, to accurately study environmental demands.

"After its development, this technique paved the way for researchers in the field of agriculture to explore field-scale water use in a variety of crops," said Kyaw Tha Paw U, one of the research team.

The research stations are currently being tested across California for many crops, including rice, grapes, almond, avocado and corn.



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