A new agricultural technology has been tested by several farmers to see if it saves water usage. The technology allows farmers to access soil-moisture readings right from their phones, with updates every three hours.
A University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension trial included three farmers from the Suwannee River Valley who tested the new system.
The technology includes sensors, with a travel time signal that is electric pulse, which go through the soil. When the soil is wet, the signal travels at a different speed, which is recorded and the data is sent to the farmer. Most of the data is scheduled to be sent every three hours. From a website that the system works with, farmers can view color-coordinated graphs to see whether the sub-soil is dry or wet on their lands.
Patrick Troy, a regional specialized agent for row crops with UF/IFAS Extension, explained how the color coordination of the graphs works. He says that a color-coded graph shows blue for full, green for good (or water availability), and pink for stressed soil-water levels. He says, “For blue, you do not water, and pink you do.”
Troy says that the technology has a quick payback to farmers.”It is one of the practices that is going to be cost-shared by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at about a 90 percent rate,” he says. Troy explained that the trial was a success because it proves the technology is beneficial.
“For me, this technology is a no-brainer,” says Troy. “It is an easy payback for a farmer within the short term. I think the more that the farmers can get hands-on experience with it, and see that they’re managing more accurately to what the crop’s needs are, they are going to match their irrigation schedule appropriately.
“It also works as a weather station. Instead of looking at the general rainfall simulation from a weather tower that is 30 to 50 miles from where your site is, there is a very specific and direct relationship with what your management can be.”
Another perk of the new technology is that farmers can access data management online and with a simplified phone version. This means that farmers who have sites in different areas would have access to the same data as if they were to drive to the sites. “There is nothing worse than guessing, but having this digital type of printout is a big improvement from the analogue version of digging down and looking at the roots,” says Troy.
Troy is looking to expand the number of experimental trial sites.
“There are a lot of new technologies out there, and with the next generation of farmers coming in trying to be creative about making a profit, it’s going to depend on how much of a payback each one has. I like the idea that UF/IFAS and the industry can partner to see ways that the best technologies, that have the quickest payback, can get into their hands,” Troy concludes.
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