May 24, 2013
Cost Effective Tools to Improve Water Use Efficiency
Which tool is best for you?
See additional CropWatch stories this week for information on
With spring planting nearly done and fuel prices climbing, it’s a good time to consider installing Etgages and soil water sensors. These tools will help you better manage your irrigation applications and ultimately save energy and water to protect natural resources without sacrificing yield.
Integrating Moisture Monitoring Tools into your Production System
Watermark sensors and atmometers can be used together quite well for irrigation management. Atmometers do a great job of estimating crop water use, while crop water sensors are used to monitor soil water status. The Watermark sensors can help determine when to initiate the first irrigation, based on the suggested trigger points or grower decisions based on soil textures. After the first irrigation, an atmometer can be used to estimate actual crop water use since the last irrigation, using the reference ET and crop coefficients. The Watermark sensors can then be used to monitor irrigation decisions.
Another important tool is the soil probe. IT can be used to check soil water conditions in other areas of your field and compared with readings from the soil sensors. We recommend probing soil in three to four other field locations for the first couple of years to be sure you have selected a representative location for your soil sensors.
It’s important to use Watermark sensors to determine the timing of the last irrigation so space is left so Mother Nature can refill the soil profile during the off season. Between the first and last irrigation, ETgages can be used alone to make irrigation management decisions, saving you from having to make a weekly trip to the field to read the Watermark sensors. (Several companies now provide technologies that allow you to access Watermark sensor readings from any device with Internet access.)
UNL CropWater App
Next week's CropWatch will feature information on the UNL CropWater app, which is now available free for Android as well as Apple mobile devices. It tracks and estimate soil water status based on Watermark sensor readings.
For more information on how to use ETgages and Watermark sensors for irrigation management, see these UNL resources.
- Agricultural Irrigation section of the UNL Water website. This site also includes videos and publications on water management and a table of irrigation triggers by soil type.
- Using Modified Atmometers (ETgage) for Irrigation Management, UNL Extension NebGuide G1579
- Watermark Granular Matrix Sensor to Measure Soil Matric Potential for Irrigation Management, Extension Circular EC783
For more information on ordering ETgages and Watermark sensors, check with your local NRD. Many NRDs across the state offer cost share programs for these tools. You also may contact one of the authors listed below.
Chuck Burr, Aaron Nygren, and Gary Zoubek