Smart phones, smart cars, smart homes – technology hums along in every aspect of our lives. Aside from convenience, smart technology really performs when it saves you money along the way. That is why growers may want to look into smart irrigation.
Extension specialists at the University of Georgia have been studying distributed sensing for managing irrigation. This simply means that one or two soil moisture sensors are placed in blocks of plants to collect real time information about the microclimate. The neat thing is that the sensor networks are attached to solenoid valves which can control irrigation events based on the data. And wireless technology allows connection to the web for access to the information from anywhere.
Studies have shown direct benefit to growers in reduced water use and excellent disease control. Applying the right amount of water with the correct timing results in less leaching and runoff as well as reduced fertilizer needs. They also reported better control over plant growth and quality. In some cases the plants reached sellable size much earlier with less dependence on growth regulators. Of course all this makes good environmental sense too.
Cost-share monies for moisture sensors and weather stations are available thru the Mini-FARMS program for agricultural producers within the boundaries of the SWFWMD. While the FARMS Program funds larger projects, the Mini-FARMS Program reimburses growers for 75 percent of their costs, up to a maximum of $5,000 per approved water resources project. For more information contact Noel Marton, 1-800-320-3503 (FL only), ext. 6516.