Precise results

Improve distribution uniformity to encourage better crop growth.
By Vicente Ossa

The realm of agriculture and farming is continuously evolving, and at the forefront of this transformation lies the implementation of automated irrigation systems. These innovative systems have the potential to revolutionize farming practices by significantly enhancing precision irrigation by improving distribution uniformity and promoting sustainable water management.

In this article, we delve into how automation can improve precision in an irrigation event, highlighting its importance in optimizing agricultural processes.

Maximizing water use efficiency

Distribution uniformity, commonly referred to as DU, is a crucial metric that assesses how uniformly and precisely water is distributed across an orchard. It highlights whether specific areas of the orchard receive more water than others. DU serves as a fundamental measure of the irrigation system’s effectiveness and is an invaluable tool for growers when making management decisions.

One of the significant advantages of automated irrigation systems lies in its capacity to optimize water use efficiency. Conventional methods like flood irrigation can result in excessive water consumption and uneven distribution, which can be detrimental to the orchard. In contrast, these systems provide precision and control over both the amount and timing of water delivered to the crops. This precision not only conserves water but also enhances DU, leading to healthier trees and a more robust orchard overall.

One noteworthy case study from a few years ago involved a forward-thinking almond grower that sought to optimize their irrigation practices and improve DU. The farm faced a common challenge: Despite having substantial pumping capacity and an array of valves, they struggled to achieve uniform water distribution across their blocks. Initially, they attempted to open multiple valves concurrently, but the hydraulic limitations of their system hindered their efforts. This not only consumed valuable time and labor but also yielded less than optimal results.

Implementing a sophisticated sequential valve control system, they revolutionized their approach to changing irrigation sets. This approach allowed them to precisely control the flow of water to different parts of the orchard, ensuring optimal distribution and maximizing efficiency. The grower not only tackled their existing problems but also paved the way for a more sustainable and productive future in agriculture.

The automation allowed them to transition to the next irrigation set, opening one valve at a time while closing the corresponding valve from the previous set. This precise technique ensured that irrigation water was applied in a uniform manner, addressing historical trouble spots across the ranch. Consequently, this approach not only transformed the problematic areas but also significantly enhanced the overall health of the trees. By implementing this meticulous method, the grower achieved unprecedented consistency in water distribution, leading to thriving orchards and a substantial improvement in tree vitality.

Ongoing impact

In a year, the farm underwent a transformation. The distribution coefficient saw a dramatic improvement, leading to a consistent and highly efficient water delivery system for their trees. Over the subsequent years, the ranch made a shift from underperforming in terms of yield to becoming a top producer for the grower. This pattern of success not only endured but continued to thrive, solidifying the efficacy and long-term benefits of their strategic irrigation system. This success story stands as a testament to the power of embracing agricultural technologies in revolutionizing both productivity and sustainability.
The case of this innovative almond grower serves as a compelling testament to the pivotal role of automation and precision in irrigation in modern agriculture. These systems enable growers to customize irrigation schedules to precisely meet the unique requirements of their crops. This adaptability not only optimizes agricultural practices but also plays a fundamental role in enhancing crop yields, ensuring a sustainable and abundant harvest.

Addressing scarcity with precision

These systems make substantial contributions to water conservation, addressing a pressing concern in regions grappling with water scarcity. By delivering water precisely where and when it is needed, they minimize wastage and significantly conserve this precious resource. This dual impact — improved yields and responsible water use — not only benefits individual farmers but also contributes to the larger global effort toward sustainable agriculture, making it an indispensable ally in the quest for food security and environmental stewardship.

The story of this almond grower vividly illustrates how automation and precision in irrigation can drive significant enhancements in tree health, crop yields and water use efficiency. In an era where the world confronts escalating challenges concerning water resources and availability, the adoption of these cutting-edge technologies becomes not just important but imperative for the future of sustainable and productive agriculture.

By integrating automated systems, farmers can harness the power of precision agriculture, ensuring that resources are utilized judiciously and environmental impacts are minimized. This shift not only secures agricultural sustainability but also plays a pivotal role in global efforts toward mitigating water scarcity and bolstering food security.

Automation fosters a culture of continuous improvement. It encourages farmers to explore innovative techniques, adapt swiftly to evolving agricultural landscapes and explore new frontiers in sustainable farming practices. In essence, the adoption of automated irrigation systems represents a transformative journey toward a more resilient, productive and environmentally responsible agriculture sector. As we move forward, these advancements not only drive individual farm success but also shape the future of agriculture, paving the way for a world where technology, sustainability and productivity harmoniously coexist.

Vicente Ossa is a marketing strategy manager for WiseConnUSA in Los Angeles.
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