Toward pivot automation with proximal sensing for Maize and Soybean in the Great Plains

Goals: 1) Evaluate the accuracy of canopy temperature measurements from pivot-mounted sensors by comparing to stationary sensors and sensors deployed on unmanned aircraft; 2) Develop a best management practice that could be automated for conventional irrigation and speed-control irrigation based on IRTs mounted on a center pivot and Watermark soil water sensors, and 3) Test and evaluate an existing patented system for SIS with pivot-mounted sensors (ISSCADA).

Partners: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USDA-ARS Bushland, TX, Valmont Industries

Contact: Derek Heeren

Abstract: The next step forward for advancing irrigation management, especially in the sub-humid eastern portion of the Great Plains, is increasing the adoption rates of scientific irrigation scheduling (SIS). Adoption rates of SIS for center pivot irrigation in the Great Plains would likely be much higher if SIS was automated and reliable. Field experiments will be carried out on a standard size (60 ha) center-pivot-irrigated field at the UNL Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center (ENREC) near Mead, NE. Treatments will include: IRT and Watermark (full irrigation), IRT and Watermark (deficit irrigation), ISSCADA System (IRTs and Acclima soil water sensors), Spatial Evapotranspiration Model, Common Practice, and Rainfed (no irrigation). Although one of the treatments in the field trials(ISSCADA) will be specific to Valmont Industries, the other research findings will be in the pre-competitive space and could be incorporated by other manufacturers and service providers, moving the industry toward center pivot automation.