New center pivot irrigation technologies are only beneficial if they are being used, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research engineer in Amarillo.
Thomas Marek is leading a team from Texas A&M AgriLife and Texas A&M University to ensure the latest advancements in agricultural irrigation management can be readily integrated for applications in the field.
The team is working to design a system utilizing off-the-shelf sensors and components to create a cost-effective and independent platform that will allow producers to realize benefits of irrigation technologies by integrating and automating information and decision support tools.
Their objectives include establishing:
- A wireless sensor network with anomaly detection.
- An irrigation system controller using real-time and forecast data, integration of data from multiple sensor inputs and unmanned aerial systems, models and safety.
- A user-friendly interface.
Marek said they have already shown significant improvements over commercially available systems by developing a technology suite that includes:
- Improved center pivot irrigation positioning and speed control.
- Improved variable rate irrigation control with real time updates using in-field near-real-time data plus predictive crop water use capabilities.
- A soil moisture in-field sensor placement method to optimize wireless sensor nodes to balance cost with necessary data reliability.
Development was conducted whereby the platform-independent control system could be retrofitted into existing center pivot irrigation systems. The project team has several patents pending as a result of the work, Marek said, adding this is one of the best research teams he’s worked with in his irrigation career.
Funding and in-kind support for the project was provided by a Texas A&M University System Water Seed Grant, AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and the USDA-ARS Ogallala Aquifer Program.
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