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Irrigation app to increase water-use efficiency

A new mobile app and irrigation management system is to help cotton growers increase water-use efficiency.

Texas A&M AgriLife is developing an inexpensive and easy-to-use mobile app and irrigation management system to help agricultural producers increase water-use efficiency and continue producing cotton.

Sensors mounted on center pivot systems

The app will collect crop information from sensors mounted on center pivot systems, use weather data from online sources, and provide a number of potential combinations of real-time updated deficit- or full-irrigation schedules and economic outcomes.

Historic and projected short-term future weather data

The field information will be used in conjunction with the historic and projected short-term future weather data over the growing season in crop and economic models to estimate projected cotton yield, irrigation levels and net returns under different irrigation management strategies.

“To our knowledge, none of the existing apps use projected short-term weather forecasts in generating real-time irrigation schedules, and our proposed app does that,” said Srinivasulu Ale, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research geospatial hydrologist and lead investigator on the project in Vernon.

“Producers can choose an irrigation strategy that best suits their well capacities and expected returns,” said Keith Biggers, Ph.D., director of computing and information technology at the Texas A&M Center for Applied Technology.

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  • Increasing water-use efficiency in cotton will be the focus of a new study at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon. - Photo: Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife

    Increasing water-use efficiency in cotton will be the focus of a new study at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon. - Photo: Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife

  • Weather data collected in the field over the growing season will be used to help identify the proper irrigation management strategy. - Photo: Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife

    Weather data collected in the field over the growing season will be used to help identify the proper irrigation management strategy. - Photo: Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife

Recurring droughts and declining groundwater levels

The app is being developed in the Texas Rolling Plains region, which produces about 13% of the state’s cotton. Yet that cotton production faces challenges from recurring droughts and declining groundwater levels in the Seymour Aquifer.

Furthermore, projected warmer and drier weather in the future will require larger groundwater withdrawals to meet crop water demands.To sustain cotton production in this region producers must adopt water-use efficient irrigation strategies.

Once validated using data from a field experiment, the proposed system will be further evaluated by selected producers under different crop conditions, soils, irrigation capacities and weather.

Other row crops

The plan is to have the app developed by the end of this year, test it in producers’ fields in 2021 summer, and release it in fall 2021. The scientists expect the proposed system to allow modifications to include other row crops and for use in other crop production regions of Texas and beyond.

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