By Travis Goldman
Hortau’s polymer tensiometers have redefined how fields can be managed year-round with real time data. The power of knowing when a field needs water and when water can be turned off enhances the efficiency of an operation. Having precision irrigation data directly cuts out excess pumping.
There are a lot of promises that Ag-Tech can reduce pumping but at what cost? You don’t need a fancy sensor to reduce pumping hours by just cutting hours off of each irrigation. What you do need is accurate plant centric based data to make an agronomic decision to prevent leaching and reduce crop stress.
A fair amount of water can be saved in the early and later part of season by strategically cycling a crop through an optimum soil tension threshold. Moving away from a calendar or volumetric/ET based schedule can enhance both oxygen and water availability within the rootzone of the trees. This method optimizes all aspects of plant growth and is equally beneficial for establishing younger orchards and vineyards. In the middle of the season when hot days become consistent there is a knee-jerk reaction to apply more water to take care of our crops. This method can shortstop root water uptake and delay development because of a lack of oxygen post-irrigation.
When writing irrigation recommendations for younger orchards we need to closely analyse tree water uptake. Irrigations are used to replenish lost moisture within the soil. If a delpetion is not there then what are we refilling? A little water here and there on an 80 acre set can closely snowball into a high water and energy cost along with compromising vegetative development below and above the ground. ET based scheduling in the top example was excessive and reduced oxygen levels within the top 4-8” of the rootzone. The Hortau schedule was spaced out as long as possible before a short application of fertilizer was needed. Water was still readily avaible to the roots and applications were left short to minimize fertilizer leaching.
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