Web Site a Learning Tool for Using Weather Information for Irrigation

Web Site a Learning Tool for Using Weather Information for Irrigation

April 18, 2008 

Reliable weather and climate information is a key tool in today's farm management. Knowing what the weather is likely to do can help you schedule irrigations to save water and energy and curb expenses, particularly with skyrocketing fuel costs.

Effective use of weather and climate information in irrigation scheduling requires knowledge of the prediction and data products available as well as how to use them for specific farm management decisions. Building experience and confidence in using the tools requires practice.

UNL has developed a web-based learning and training module to help irrigators build their skills and use the information gained in irrigation decision-making. Two focus groups have evaluated this module and found it had positive effects on irrigation decisions. This module, which is available online at http://driftwood.unl.edu/farmsmart, provides:


  • Weather Products – Observations and short-term predictions of variables influencing evapotranspiration and crop water use. They include observed percentage of soil water content, soil water accumulation, five-day precipitation forecasts, five-day temperature forecasts, daily wind predictions, and meteograms. Specifics are provided on how to read and interpret each of these products and access current observations or predictions.


  • Production Decisions – How weather data can be used when making decisions about irrigation, insurance, planting, spraying, and harvesting


  • ThinkAboutIt – A virtual irrigation decision-making environment in which you will be making an irrigation decisions under realistic scenarios. This virtual decision-making environment is created to help producers build experience in using the weather information and observations to effectively manage irrigation.

When you log-in to the ThinkAboutIt training module, be sure to use your e-mail address as your login name and remember your password so you can reaccess the site later. After you log in, you can enter "Irrigation Module #1" and be put in a real case scenario in which you will make a decision on whether you need to irrigate, and if so, how much water is needed. In making this decision, you can first use your current irrigation management method. After considering observations of soil moisture and other weather parameters and predictions provided by the "Weather Products," you can revise your decision and compare your earlier decision with the latter one. Correct use of weather and soil water information may help improve your irrigation management.

Tips for using these observations and predictions with special soil and crop growth conditions is carefully explained through online "coaches" and "consultants," who you can "visit" if you need help. After learning and using the observations and predictions, you can decide whether to irrigate and how much to irrigate. You also can use this module to interact with other irrigators to see how they're using the information in making the same decision.

This module was designed by a team of UNL specialists: Steve Hu, Lisa PytlikZillig, Ken Hubbard, Gary Lynne, Steve Melvin, Derrel Martin, and Roger Bruning. It was created so producers could practice and interact with peers and professionals and develop experience on how to use soil moisture data and weather and climate predictions when making irrigation decisions.

If you have any questions or comments about the site or how to use it, please contact Steve Hu at 402-472-6642 or archive/-/asset_publisher/VHeSpfv0Agju/content/qhu2@unl.edu.

Steve Hu
Extension Climatologist

Online Master of Science in Agronomy

With a focus on industry applications and research, the online program is designed with maximum flexibility for today's working professionals.

A field of corn.