Tag Archive: Irrigation

Florida-Alabama Irrigation Technologies Field Day – September 5

Florida-Alabama Irrigation Technologies Field Day – September 5

Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

Join us on September 5, 2017 at Sam and Scott Walker’s Farm (1950 Hwy 99 Walnut Hill, FL 32568) to learn more about new technologies for soil moisture sensing.  The short field day will start at 8:00 am central.

Topics will include Testing the Sentek Soil Moisture Probe on-Farm, Comparing soil moisture sensors, and the FDACS BMP Program. If you need more information or directions, contact Libbie Johnson (850) 475-5230, libbiej@ufl.edu or Kimberly Wilkins, (251) 937-7176, wilkikj@aces.edu.

Pivot irrigation. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham



Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/25/florida-alabama-irrigation-technologies-field-day-september-5/

Friday Feature: Mobile Drip Irrigation from Center Pivots

Friday Feature:  Mobile Drip Irrigation from Center Pivots

Dragon-line converts center pivots into mobile drip irrigation.

Water is a precious resource, no mater where you live or farm, but is especially true in Kansas where their aquifer is diminishing.  There is a relatively new technology being called mobile drip irrigation that has been developed in Kansas to make center pivot irrigation even more efficient, because water is released right on the soil surface through drip tubes to minimize evaporation.  This week’s featured video was developed by Dragon-Line to showcase their innovative approach to convert center pivot irrigation into drip irrigation.  A video viewer was not available for this video, so please use the following link:

What is Dragon Line Irrigation?


If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across a humorous video or interesting story related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo


Author: Doug Mayo – demayo@ufl.edu

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-news – Jackson County Extension Director – Livestock & Forages Agent. My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.

Doug Mayo

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/19/friday-feature-mobile-drip-irrigation-from-center-pivots/

Summer Irrigation Tips

July’s hot summer weather has given way to August’s 31 days of what will likely be temperatures and humidity equally elevated and intense. Wishes for November’s cooler thermometer reading are already creeping into daily conversations. The lawns and gardens in Wakulla County have rains as a mitigating factor to counteract the wilting potential of normal to excessive temperature readings. Unfortunately the arrival of water from above is not on a set or easily predictable schedule.

Traditionally, summer is the wettest season in Florida, with more than half of the annual rainfall occurring during the June to September “wet season”. Florida’s highest average annual rainfall occurs in the Panhandle with averages exceeding 60 inches per year. The Pensacola and Tallahassee weather stations are listed among the ten “wettest” stations in the nation. Still, this pattern of seasonal precipitation can vary greatly between locations, years and even days.  This variability often results in the need to water the lawn, landscape and garden. By following a few guidelines, you can produce the best results for plants under stress and conserve a vital and limited resource.

It is most efficient to apply water between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. for several reasons. Only water that is in contact with roots can be absorbed by the plant. If water is applied after 10:00 a.m., a substantial portion of it will evaporate before it reaches the roots; more will then need to be applied and this resource’s productivity will be reduced. Never water late in the afternoon as evaporation will still be a problem, and wet turf and plants will invite a variety of fungal diseases to flourish as night settles.

Photo Courtesy: Les Harrison, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension

In the case of landscapes and gardens, water should be applied only when the moisture in the root zone system has been depleted to an unacceptable level, usually by 1/2 to 2/3 of the stored soil-water. There are several ways to determine when the soil-water reservoir has been depleted beyond an acceptable level.  The simplest method is a visual inspection of the turf or plants. Common symptoms of water stress include leaf color changes to a bluish-gray tint, footprints which linger long after being pressed into the grass and curled or folded leaf blades. Be sure the sprinklers are delivering water to the target area as water which misses the soil and is applied to hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks will be wasted. It also may pose an environmental problem in the form of runoff.  Surface runoff that flows past the landscape will usually reach streams, ponds, or the Gulf of Mexico. If it picks up pollutants along the way, they too will reach the surface water bodies. 

Over watering can be just as damaging as too little water. Excessive irrigation water can infiltrate the ground and reach groundwater aquifers. This issue is complicated when groundwater runs close to the surface. Excessive nutrients or pollutants can be discharged into surface bodies or move vertically into the deeper land layers.  The connected springs and sinkholes in Wakulla County make the movement of surface water a common concern.  Responsible and efficient irrigation will have positive effects far beyond the front yard.

To learn more about the effective use of water in Wakulla County’s landscapes, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/


Author: Daniel J. Leonard – d.leonard@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/12/summer-irrigation-tips/

The Mobile Irrigation Lab Team: Helping Panhandle Farmers Lower Costs and Conserve Water

The Mobile Irrigation Lab Team: Helping Panhandle Farmers Lower Costs and Conserve Water

The Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab Team, from left to right: Mark Miles, Rex Patterson, and Robert Patterson

The Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab

Northwest Florida’s Mobile Irrigation Lab (MIL), run by Mark Miles, Rex Patterson, and Robert Patterson, is working hard to help farmers increase crop yields and lower costs through improved irrigation efficiency. By increasing efficiency, farmers can reduce operating costs and increase yields. The MIL has been providing free irrigation evaluations in row crop systems since 2005, and has completed more than 1,000 evaluations across the panhandle, from Escambia to Jefferson County.

Not only are these irrigation assessments good for a farmer’s bottom line, but they are a highly effective way to help conserve Florida’s water resources. The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) estimates that the MIL evaluations have resulted in more than 9.25 million gallons of water saved per day across the district, totaling more than 2.5 billion gallons saved to date. The MIL is funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the NWFWMD.

The team places a water collection bucket every 20 meters in a straight line along the path of the center pivot to capture irrigated water. Once the buckets are in place, the pivot is turned on and starts moving across the field.

Why are these evaluations important and how are they done?

The MIL wants to make sure that a farmer’s irrigation system is running at maximum efficiency, and a major part of this is making sure that the center pivot distributes water evenly across the field. If not, some plants receive less water than others, and farmers have to increase the amount of water applied to make sure all plants get enough. In areas that are over-watered, fertilizers can move past the crop’s root zone into the aquifer system. These nutrients are no longer available for plants to use, and they contaminate our water resources. By fixing distribution problems, farmers reduce the amount of water used and operating costs are lowered – less fertilizer is wasted and pumping costs (electricity or fuel costs) are reduced.

When the pivot has moved past the buckets, Rex Patterson measures the content of each one while Robert Patterson records the data. This will let the team know how evenly the pivot system is distributing water in the field.

During an MIL evaluation, the team will go through the entire irrigation system to evaluate how effectively it is running. This includes testing the center pivot’s distribution uniformity (how evenly water is applied to plants in the field), the application rate, pivot speed, water pressure, water flow rate and checking for leaks. The MIL analyzes this information and prepares a confidential report for the farmer. Recommendations to improve efficiency can include replacing sprinklers, fixing leaks and end gun adjustments, among others. Farmers can have an evaluation done every three years.

Mark Miles (left) places the flow meter on the center pivot’s pipe stand and Rex Patterson (right) waits for the system to pressurize before checking the water’s flow rate on the meter’s console.

How do you schedule an irrigation evaluation for your farm?

To schedule an appointment with the Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab, call: (850) 482-0388; Fax: (850) 463-8618. Their offices are located on 4155 Hollis Drive, Marianna, FL 32448.

If your farm is outside the Panhandle, us the following FDACS website to contact the MIL that serves your area:   MILs in Florida.  There are currently 14 MILs providing services in 62 counties across the state.

Cost-share funds for irrigation management

FDACS, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the water management districts offer cost-share funds for irrigation management, which includes irrigation system enhancements and conversions, end gun control and pump bowl upgrades among others. Contact your local FDACS field staff, NRCS office and water management district for more information on available cost-shares and funding deadlines. This information can be found on the following websites:



Author: Andrea Albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

Dr. Andrea Albertin is the Northwest Regional Specialized Agent in Water Resources.

Andrea Albertin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/the-mobile-irrigation-lab-team-helping-panhandle-farmers-lower-costs-and-conserve-water/

SesameFARM – A New Irrigation Scheduling Model for Sesame Production

SesameFARM – A New Irrigation Scheduling Model for Sesame Production

Rowland SesameRomain Gloaguen and Diane Rowland, UF/IFAS Agronomy Department

Sesame research has been carried out at the University of Florida (UF/IFAS) for more than 5 years now.  Scientist there know more about the crop and its behavior in the Southeastern US than ever before. Research results from multiple aspects of sesame management, such as row spacing, cultivar selection, fertilization rates and timing, planting date and irrigation, is now being compiled and submitted for publication. These results will soon be available to interested growers in the region. The UF/IFAS team has also developed SesameFARM, a new irrigation scheduling model that has a similar platform to the model already available for peanuts called PeanutFARM (http://peanutfarm.org/).

Sesame is known to be a relatively low input crop, able to reach good yields with 60 lbs/ac of nitrogen fertilizer. It is also, and more importantly, drought tolerant. In fact, in some African countries it is the last crop that can be grown when every other crop fails under severe drought. This trait is particularly interesting since water consumption in Florida is likely to intensify in the coming years, accentuating the conflict between urban and farming uses. However, like all crops, sesame will perform better under irrigation.

The purpose of SesameFARM is to help growers with the irrigation management of their crop, taking advantage of its relatively low requirement for water. Sesame is a new crop for most growers in the Southeast, so questions arise about whether to irrigate or not because of the drought tolerant reputation of the crop. Common questions include, “How long can the crop resist a dry period?” and, “How can I determine if the crop is water stressed before the first wilting symptoms appear?”  SesameFARM addresses these questions through utilizing phenological measurements of the crop over the past five years of research, and the application of a growing degree day (GDD) model for sesame. The development and validation of the model is a collaborative effort between UF/IFAS and the University of Georgia with Drs. Wes Porter and Scott Tubbs.

Rowland Screenshot 1SesameFARM estimates the daily amount of water available for the crop in the soil, compared to the estimated daily amount of water used by the crop. To do so, SesameFARM models root length, canopy development, and water use throughout the season utilizing accumulated GDDs. The user simply inputs the daily average temperature, rainfall, evapotranspiration and irrigation applied, and the model estimates whether irrigation is needed. The weather data can be accessed through the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) (http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/) website for Florida, and the UGA Weather Network for Georgia (http://weather.uga.edu/). Rowland Screenshot 3

The final output from the model is either “Adequate Soil Moisture” when the water supply is sufficient for the crop, “Check Field” when it falls below 70% of the maximum plant available water and “Irrigate” when it falls below 50%. The model can only run with data from the previous day, since the weather stations release their information after a 24 hour cycle. To compensate for this, the model gives an estimate of how many days are left before the next call for irrigation.Rowland Screenshot 2


An online version of SesameFARM is not yet available, but a free beta version can be obtained upon request to: Romain Gloaguen. If you choose to use it, feedback and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



Author: Diane – dlrowland@ufl.edu

My professional research is focused on the physiological mechanisms which determine stress response in crops. I am particularly interested in drought tolerance and irrigation scheduling. I study peanut, cotton, corn, and sesame.


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/24/sesamefarm-a-new-irrigation-scheduling-model-for-sesame-production/

Irrigation and Crop Management Field Day September 13

Irrigation and Crop Management Field Day September 13

Irrigtion Field Day graphicIf you have irrigation or are planning on investigating in a pivot for your farm, please join us at the Irrigation and Crop Management Field Day on September 13th in Escambia County.  The Field Day will start in Sam and Scott Walker’s field near Oak Grove, Florida (very close to Walnut Hill).  The field is located at the intersection of Highway 99 and Melvin Road; it is located just south of the Oak Grove Baptist Church.  If you are not familiar with the area or you get lost, call either Libbie Johnson at 850-554-3792 or Scott Walker at 850-336-7099.  The event will conclude at the Walnut Hill Community Center, after the field demonstrations are completed.

University of Florida and University of Georgia specialists, agents and graduate students, employees from the Northwest Florida Water Management District, and FDACS will be on hand to provide up to date information and demonstrations.   The highlight of the day will be the demonstration of the soil moisture monitors installed this year at the Walker Farm; little did we know it would end up raining so much.

Topics to be discussed at the Field Day

  • On-Farm Soil Moisture Sensors

  • Interpretation of Soil Moisture Sensor Data

  • Mobile Irrigation Lab Demonstrations

  • Irrigation Best Management Practices

  • PeanutFARM Irrigation and Harvest decision support

  • Sesame (SesameFARM)

  • Determining Peanut Maturity with a Scanner

Download the printer friendly flyer: Escambia Irrigation Field Day Flyer

PLEASE call to reserve your spot for lunch. Libbie Johnson (850-475-5230), Kimberly Wilkins (251-937-7176), or John Atkins (850-675-3107) will accept your reservations, so give us a call.  Helton Irrigation will be sponsoring the lunch, and we need a headcount.  We welcome participants from any state.



Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/08/13/irrigation-and-crop-management-field-day-september-13/

PeanutFARM Irrigation and Harvest Tool is Now Mobile Friendly

Rowland Peanut FARM Field StatusBrendan Zurweller and Diane Rowland, UFIFAS Agronomy Department

Even in the southeast, where annual rainfall totals would lead you to believe that water stress rarely occurs, depletion of soil water can develop quickly during the peanut growing season.  There are certainly times when supplemental irrigation can reduce crop water stress and prevent yield reductions. Adding to the challenge of effectively irrigating the crop are the often unpredictable rainfall events, sometimes following irrigation applications, resulting in too much soil water and the risk of reducing peanut yield. To address these challenges associated with irrigation management, the University of Florida, University of Georgia, and Auburn University have been conducting research across multiple locations throughout Florida, Georgia, and Alabama for developing and refining an effective irrigation scheduling tool as part of the crop management tool called PeanutFARM.

The most recent improvement in PeanutFARM has been the development of a mobile devise friendly, web based platform to deliver both irrigation scheduling and harvest aid predictions (peanutfarm.org).  Added features within the PeanutFARM smartphone application include a field GPS coordinate locator that automatically records the location of a particular field (when a grower is actually present at the field location) and associates the field with the closest weather station, including stations in FL, GA, AL, NC, and SC. A drop pin can also be placed on a map for selecting the field location, if the user is not using a mobile devise in the specific field. Identifying the field location and connecting to the closest weather station allows the program to automatically import daily evapotranspiration, maximum and minimum temperatures, and rainfall. These parameters are then used to calculate adjusted cumulative growing degree days (aGDDs) specific for peanut, which are used to estimate plant available water and demand over the growing season, as well as the maturity level of the crop. The rainfall received can also be edited to better match the amount of precipitation received at a specific field and will improve the irrigation recommendation considerably. In addition, the irrigation inputs can be recorded by the grower under the data tab on the home screen. An additional improvement to the PeanutFARM site is the option to request automated email alerts when the irrigation recommendation threshold is close to being reached.

Rowland Peanut FARM maturity ProfileThe maturity tools offered in the PeanutFARM suite are two methods that both predict and quantify the maturity level of the crop. Maturity prediction is achieved through an automatic calculation of the aGDDs – a value of 2500 accumulated aGDDs has been shown to be predictive of optimal maturity for most available peanut cultivars. For those growers that collect a sample for blasting, a link is also provided under the PeanutPROFILE tab on the home screen to allow for image analysis and a specific days to digging quantification of the maturity level of the crop to be sent automatically in an email alert (http://agronomy.ifas.ufl.edu/peanutprofile/).  When using PeanutPROFILE, a grower uploads a scanned image of blasted peanut pods to receive a days to dig estimation based on the percent of mature (brown and black) pods. Future updates for the PeanutPROFILE tool are aimed at allowing a grower to upload a picture of blasted pods taken from their smartphone directly, without having to scan the pods.

Download the five step guide for using the PeanutFARM tool:

PeanutFARM 5 Step Guide

Links to the PeanutFARM tool

PeanutFarm new website

Peanut Profile upload scanner image



Author: Diane – dlrowland@ufl.edu

My professional research is focused on the physiological mechanisms which determine stress response in crops. I am particularly interested in drought tolerance and irrigation scheduling. I study peanut, cotton, corn, and sesame.


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/05/20/peanutfarm-irrigation-and-harvest-tool-is-now-mobile-friendly/

Winterizing Irrigation Systems

Center Pivot Irrigation

The end of the year is the best time to winterize irrigation systems, prior to freezing winter temperatures. Photo credit:  Doug Mayo

Gary L. Hawkins, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences Department & Calvin D. Perry, C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park 

Irrigation systems are typically used during the summer months to supply supplemental irrigation water to crops as needed. This application of water can be through drip irrigation systems on the surface or sub-surface. Application of water can also be provided overhead with center pivots, travelers, or solid set systems. Regardless of how supplemental water is supplied to the crop, the irrigation system should be checked at the end of the season to maintain proper operation for the coming season.  There are some things that should be done at the end of each season to “winterize” an irrigation system, through normal maintenance, and draining the water out of the system, prior to hard winter freezes.  The University of Georgia Faculty have a nice publication to guide farmers on steps to winterize drip and center pivot irrigation systems.  Some basic steps can protect your irrigation system, as well as ensure that the system is ready for the next growing season.

Center Pivot Winterizing Checklist

  1. Conduct a sprinkler package performance check
    Prior to shutting the system down for the year, perform a “catch-can” uniformity test to verify that the system is applying water uniformly (see UGA Extension Circular 911, “Evaluating and Interpreting Application Uniformity of Center Pivot Irrigation Systems”).  Check for leaks, malfunctioning or missing sprinklers, damaged pipes, etc., and repair the problems.  Consider a new sprinkler package that could replace what’s on your system now if it’s not performing well.  There are many new, innovative sprinkler designs on the market.
  2. Drain the irrigation system
    Remove the plugs to drain pipes, valves, pumps, sprinklers, booster pumps, and anything else on the above ground portion of the irrigation system that can hold water.  Drain the pump casing to remove any water that may still be in the casing.
  3. Secure system components
    Close or cover openings (even on motors and pumps) that would allow mice to enter.  Lock the control box in the OFF position.
  4. Service required parts.
    Service gearboxes, drive lines, motors on pivot towers.  Service engine used to drive the pump.
  5. Restore the ground around the tracks
    Repair any rutted pivot wheel tracks.  Repairing tracks at the end of the season will help reduce erosion during the winter and spring.
  6. Test the metering equipment
    Make sure the flow meter on your withdrawal point (usually at your pump) is functioning properly.  A properly functioning meter can be used as a means to determine proper operation of the pumping unit. Note the end reading so that, in conjunction with a starting reading, you will have a record of water used over the growing season.

Drip IrrigationDrip Irrigation Winterizing Checklist

  1. Flush with clean water
    Flushing of drip tube based systems (like micro-spray systems, inserted emitters, in-line emitters) will allow removal of small debris that could potentially clog emitters during winter drainage or upon start-up the next season. Instructions for adequate flushing:  1 – Open the end or flush plugs on drip lines, 2 – Increase the pressure on the system slightly above that of the operating pressure, 3 – Flush with clean, debris free water, 4 – Continue flushing until the farthest point from the pump has water flowing for at least three times as long as the time required for the water to reach the end point, and 4 – Close the end plugs and turn pump off.
  2. Run a chlorination flush
    Running a chlorination flush on drip irrigation systems with drip tubing and emitters (in a permanent or semi-permanent system) prior to storage over the winter months will kill and remove any algae that has built up. A short clean water flush after the chlorination will remove most of the chlorine from the lines.
  3. Open any drain plugs at the lowest most points
    When all chlorination and clean flushes have been completed, remove the drain plugs at the lowest points on the irrigation system to allow extra water to drain from the system. This will allow water to drain from the lines and standpipes and reduce the potential of water standing in pipes and freezing if low temperatures occur during the winter months.
  4. Back flush the media filters
    Back flushing the media filters will remove any sediment that has accumulated since the last back flush.  Removing this sediment will reduce the potential of a crust forming over the media during the winter months when there is no water in the filters. If a crust forms, it potentially would have to be removed prior to the next operation. Otherwise performance will be less than optimum. Any sediment remaining in the filter could also potentially be introduced into the system upon start-up and plug up the emitters.  After the back flush process and a good clean stream of water is produced, stop and open all drain ports to allow the water to drain from filter(s).
  5. Drain screen filters
    Draining the filter will remove all water and reduce the potential of static water freezing during the winter months. At the time of draining the filter, the screen should also be checked to determine if it is still in a good condition and cleaned of any sediment. The case and screen can be reassembled at this time, or the case and screen can be removed during the winter months.  If the case is removed, the opening should be covered to stop any rodents or small animals from getting into the filter case or lines, which have the potential to form a stoppage. If the case and screen is returned, then the flush valve should be opened and covered to prevent any water from accumulating in the case and to prevent any animals from making a home in the case over winter.
  6. Drain or remove control valves
    If possible, control valves should be removed and stored in a location where freezing is not likely to occur.  If the valve is removed, any openings should be covered to prevent rodents or animals from getting in and blocking water flow upon start-up.  If valves CANNOT be removed, then the valves should be drained to remove as much water as possible.  Draining the valves will reduce the potential of valves if any freezing temperatures occur. After draining, leave the drain port open, but cover it to stop any animals from getting in the valves during winter months.
  7. Remove drain plug and drain water from any above ground pumps
    Above ground pumps can hold water in the casing, so pumps should be drained prior to storage. This removal of water will prevent water from accumulating at the low points of the case and freezing during periods of sub-freezing temperatures. If water remains in the case, the expansion of the freezing water can cause the case to crack.
  8. Remove or drain any other system components that may hold water
    On some systems, there maybe other components that can hold water. If there are such components in your irrigation system, drain or remove them from the system. As before, if there are any openings remaining after removing the component, they should be covered during the winter.
  9. Secure any electrical components
    To prevent the unintentional starting of irrigation components, the electrical boxes should be locked. This will prevent the system from being turned on, which could introduce water into parts of the system that would potentially freeze and crack the irrigation components.
  10. Service any engines used for pumping
    All engines used to move water should be serviced prior to storing for the winter. This will be a way to clean the engine, change the oil, and get the engine ready for the next growing season.


Source:  UGA Bulletin 1439 – Winterizing Your Irrigation System



Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/12/19/winterizing-irrigation-systems/

Cotton Irrigation Scheduling App Saves Water & Money

Cotton Irrigation Scheduling App Saves Water & Money

Irrigated Cotton at NFREC

Irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer are keys to producing high yielding cotton. New scheduling tools being tested at Southeastern Universities may help farmers utilize these valuable inputs more efficiently. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Brendan Zurweller and Diane Rowland, UF/IFAS Agronomy Department

Smart Irrigation AppThere are many challenges facing cotton growers in the southeast, but this year it will be even more critical to improve efficiency. This is particularly true for Florida cotton growers where water conservation has become a major statewide initiative. New research addressing irrigation scheduling is currently being conducted by University of Florida scientists in conjunction with the University of Georgia and Clemson University. The goal is to develop a standardized irrigation scheduling platform for cotton, so that growers have a common and familiar scheduling tool to use, while providing regional specific crop coefficients that optimize water conservation in each region. The platform chosen was the SmartIrrigation Cotton Application developed by Dr. George Vellidis at the University of Georgia (http://smartirrigationapps.org/). Similar trials testing the app were conducted in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina by cooperating researchers.

The Florida trial, lead by Brendan Zurweller a UF Ph.D. student, was conducted at the Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak, FL.  The trial compared full and reduced irrigation schedules for four cotton cultivars. Water treatments included a full irrigation treatment which replenished the depleted plant available water provided by the SmartIrrigation app, and a 40% reduction of that amount. To utilize the scheduling app, Zurweller used a 50% depletion rate of plant available water on the app for triggering irrigation. Rates varied across the season according to the effective rooting depth of the crop. While Zurweller typically monitored the app manually, growers have the option to set automated notifications, monitoring the plant-available water deficit and crop growth stages.

Because water quality is such a huge issue in this region, different levels of nitrogen applications were also tested within each of the irrigation treatments in the trial. Nitrogen (N) levels included a total amount of 20, 60, and 100 lbs of nitrogen per acre. Following the initial N application, N was applied according to the chlorophyll content measured using a SPAD chlorophyll meter (Minolta) beginning at first bloom and using a threshold value to determine optimum nitrogen application according to plant need.

Average cotton lint yield as affected by the total amount of N applied and percent of depleted plant available water replenished through irrigation (Abbreviations: 100% PAW, 100 percent of depleted plant available water replenished; 60% PAW, 60 percent of depleted plant available water replenished; LSD, least significant difference at P<0.05).

Average cotton lint yield as affected by the total amount of N applied and percent of depleted plant available water replenished through irrigation (Abbreviations: 100% PAW, 100 percent of depleted plant available water replenished; 60% PAW, 60 percent of depleted plant available water replenished; LSD, least significant difference at P<0.05).

Results from the 2014 trial indicated that reductions in irrigation and nitrogen applied yielded similarly to the full rates. This indicates that increases in water use and nitrogen use efficiency were achieved in the trial using these two scheduling tools. A continuation of the research is planned in 2015, to more fully evaluate these tools. These preliminary results indicate that the irrigation scheduling app can be easily utilized by Florida and southeastern cotton growers to aid in scheduling decisions, and has the potential to achieve water conservation as well.

Get more information about the App: 

     Cotton Smart Irrigation App


           Download a PDF of a 2014 Beltwide Cotton Conference paper describing the SmartIrrigation Cotton App.

Watch the Tutorial Video



Author: Diane – dlrowland@ufl.edu

My professional research is focused on the physiological mechanisms which determine stress response in crops. I am particularly interested in drought tolerance and irrigation scheduling. I study peanut, cotton, corn, and sesame.


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/03/13/cotton-irrigation-scheduling-app-saves-water-money/

Florida’s Valuable Water Resources and the Importance of Irrigation Efficiency

Florida’s Valuable Water Resources and the Importance of Irrigation Efficiency



Center Pivot Irrigation on Panhandle Peanuts. Photo credit: Mark Miles

Competition for Water Resources in Florida

In a state like Florida, where rivers, lakes, and springs abound, there seems to be no shortage of water.  Annual precipitation ranges from 45 inches in Clewiston to 69 inches in Milton (http://www.usclimatedata.com/) with typical rainfall patterns of greater precipitation during mid-summer.  Coincidentally, it is mid-summer when most peanut and cotton are reaching their highest demand for moisture, in the Panhandle of Florida.  Typical is the key word.  Long term trends show that June, July, and August average the most rainfall, but these rain events are often not spread evenly throughout the month, and sometimes never occur at all.

As the profit margin for row crop producers in today’s economy grows ever more narrow, many in this region have turned to irrigation to provide the “insurance” that they can make a crop.  In the far western part of this state, most irrigation water is derived from groundwater sources.

Competing for use of this limited underground resource is an ever growing population that has their own demands for water.  According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) May 2014 publication, Water Use Trends in Florida, agriculture and public supply have accounted for 80% of all water use.  Until recently, agriculture commanded the lion’s share, but since 2010, public supply has become the dominant user.  The population of Florida has skyrocketed, from 7.8 million in 1980 to almost 17 million people in 2010, leading to an increase of water used from 1.4 billion gallons per day to 2.3 billion gallons per day.

Over the next twenty years, overall water use is projected to continue to increase as the population continues to accelerate.  The figure below shows FDEP’s Current and Projected Freshwater use for the state of Florida.

water use trends floridaAlthough agriculture will still command a significant amount of water, competition with other uses will increase.  Water wars between public demand and farmers/aquaculturalists have already begun.  Droughts of varying degrees exist throughout this county (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/), and these droughts, combined with increased pressure on water supply, places greater demands on government agencies and the public for better, more efficient, irrigation technologies.

The 2013 Annual Status Report on Regional Water Supply Planning provided in the table below shows the Projected Water Demand (in Millions of Gallons per Day) by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, covering 15.5 counties in Northwest Florida (The eastern half of Jefferson county is part of the Suwannee River Water Management District).  Agricultural demand, though not as high as public and domestic water demands, is growing substantially.

water use NW water management districtMonitor Your Irrigation Efficiency with MILs – a Free Service

For more than sixteen years, the Florida Office of Agricultural Water Policy (OAWP) has been operating 17 Mobile Irrigation Labs (MILs) that serve the needs of agricultural and urban users in 66 counties.  These MILs work within the five water management districts and are funded by four of the water management districts, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), selected counties, and/or selected utilities in the State.  Each MIL provides free services to irrigation users by visiting sites to analyze irrigation systems, educating the owner and providing recommendations on how to improve water conservation and use, like, for example, a new nozzle configuration. Farmers are also aided by MILs in that water quality improvement opportunities are identified that utilize Best Management Practices (BMPs).  Once recommended improvements are implemented by the producer, the MIL returns to conduct a follow-up evaluation and is not required to return for another three years.

MILs have been shown to be very effective.  According to the Office of Agricultural Water Policy, agricultural MILs have conducted more than 7,000 evaluations on more than 277,000 acres of land throughout Florida, since 2004.  This has resulted in water savings of more than 11 billion gallons of water a year, with the potential to save more than 27 billion gallons a year, if all their evaluation recommendations were implemented.

Locally, from 2009-2014 MIL representatives visited nine of the 16 panhandle counties from Escambia to Jefferson 568 times, and checked the efficiency of irrigation equipment that services 43,182 acres.  To schedule a MIL visit for your farm in the Panhandle, contact Mark Miles at (850) 482-0388 or by email at mark.miles@fl.usda.gov.


Evaluating efficiency of an irrigation system. Photo credit: Mark Miles


Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/11/10/floridas-valuable-water-resources-and-the-importance-of-irrigation-efficiency/

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