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Broad Area Irrigation Scheduling Mobile App

Project ID: 966
Principal Investigator: Jama Hamel
Research Topic: Agriculture Water Supplies
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: irrigation, irrigation scheduling, water supply, on-farm water management, mobile app, iphone, android, water conservation

Research Question

Climate change is anticipated to put a lot of additional stresses on water supplies due to increased demands and longer irrigation seasons. Irrigation is by far the largest user of water. Irrigation scheduling tools help irrigators know the optimum time to turn irrigation water on and how long to leave it on. These tools can significantly decrease total irrigation water use and simultaneously improve crop yields as well as improve runoff water quality. Irrigation scheduling is complicated and time consuming and most irrigators don't have the time or interest in doing it. Water use estimates require weather data from agricultural weather stations. A simplified mobile app for irrigation scheduling can greatly simplify the process of irrigation scheduling by simplifying set-up and automatically bringing in data from weather networks, and doing most of the math and chart production. A prototype irrigation scheduling app has been developed that runs as web page (http://weather.wsu.edu/is). We would like to get this further developed to make it available as a downloadable app for iPhone and Android.

Need and Benefit

Climate change is projected to put much more stress on reservoir and irrigation water management. This is due to a projected lengthened irrigation season and an increase in the peak crop water needs in the middle of the summer when natural river flows are the lowest. This increase in the difference between the water supply and irrigation water needs hydrographs will make it much more difficult to meet the water demands with the existing water stored in reservoirs. In addition, growing additional food to feed a growing population, meeting the additional irrigation water demands to grow biofuel crops, and the continued pressure on water resources for environmental concerns will put stresses on our water supplies particularly during the middle of the summer.
Irrigation is by far the largest consumer of water in the arid west and is responsible for the use of up to 80-90% of the available fresh water. Data-based irrigation scheduling has been shown to help increase grower yields while simultaneously improving runoff water quality and decreasing total water use by an average of 17%. It also decreases fertilizer leaching, decreases pumping energy costs, lowes irrigation-related labor costs, and more water remains in rivers to drive power-generation turbines at multiple dam sites. In short everyone benefits from good irrigation scheduling. Because of this the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as well as Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and even some irrigation districts have incentivize data-based irrigation scheduling. The USBR has also put significant resources into providing crop water use estimates (ET) for use with irrigation scheduling as evidenced by the very successful AgriMet program. Although most irrigators are familiar with the benefits of irrigation scheduling, those who practice it are still in the minority because of the education and effort required. Also most irrigators do not have time or interest to sit at a desktop computer to find irrigation water use estimates for use with irrigation scheduling efforts. It would help immensely if crop water use estimates were compiled, analyzed and the current soil water deficit information was made readily available in a mobile phone application.

Research Products

The output will be a mobile phone app for irrigation scheduling that is usable on both the iPhone and the Android platform that is user-friendly and simple to learn and use. This app will facilitate scientific irrigation scheduling by automatically pulling crop water use (ET) estimates from AgriMet and other automated agricultural weather station networks. It will help farmers, home owners, and other irrigators to do the check-book method of soil water balance to help them to know when to irrigate and how much.

This information was last updated on September 23, 2014
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