20 May 2016
by Todd Sears

POSTED IN Education
POSTED IN Grain management
POSTED IN Field Weather
POSTED IN water usage



There’s one part of agriculture over which farmers exercise the most personal control – water. Producers will, generally speaking, plant and harvest around the same time and even follow very similar patterns for pest and weed control. But when it comes to water, it’s a personal decision.

And that decision comes down to trust. In 9 out of 10 cases, that means trusting your eyes and your hands. When asked what method is being used to decide when to irrigate, almost 80% of farmers say condition of their crop, and almost 40% also say in the feel of the soil. Others said they rely on a personal or USDA calendar. And some simply will make the call after seeing when their neighbors are irrigating.

Less than 10% of farmers are currently basing their decision on data coming from their fields. They’re missing key insights - the right soil moisture sensor technology can lead to incredible savings. Research indicates that soil moisture sensor data has the potential to save 2” of water per acre, or an incredible 7 million gallons on one 127-acre pivot. And one farmer in Georgia was able to increase his yield by 20%, in addition to reducing his water usage, by using soil moisture-sensing technology.

With that much savings on the line, isn’t it time to add data to the list of things we trust when it comes to deciding when to irrigate?

You own the dirt, you own the data

Here’s what we know about water:

  • 80-90% of US water use is dedicated to irrigated agriculture
  • From 2008 - 2013, water used in irrigation increased by 23%
  • 20 states are currently experiencing at least moderate drought conditions

The pressures of water scarcity fall largely on agriculture. In addition to low rainfall, many areas are struggling with declining aquifers, causing even more concerns about the future.

For over a decade, university studies have been demonstrating the power of using data about your soil to save water. One often quoted University of Florida study found savings as high as 70% for irrigated vegetables.

The key is how farmers are receiving the data, and how the data is shared. At IntelliFarms, we keep it simple. It is YOUR data, coming from your field. Just like you would pick up a handful of your soil to see how it clumps, we think technology should give you data on your own soil conditions.

Because of the importance of the water supply issue and with our belief that data should be yours and secure, we developed our award-winning weather station and soil probe network, FieldDataManager. With it, you can read your data from your soil to see how much moisture is in your soil and set a precise watering schedule.

FieldDataManager is a weather station that can be placed in your field along with a number of soil probes. Along with several other weather and condition measurements, FieldDataManager measures rainfall to 1/100th of an inch. Its wired and wireless probes can measure soil moisture and temperature six layers deep into the soil and provide insight on root depths. The soil moisture sensor probes can be spread out across the field(s) - up to 2 miles from the weather station, so you get a good understanding of how some areas are doing on moisture compared to others.

Data is reported back from the weather station and sensors to an online account, so farms can access their data and make smart, informed decisions based on what they see. We are working to take it one step further by connecting data from the soil probes to pivot controls in order to automate and streamline irrigation, and determine where and how much to focus.

I believe that with a tool like FieldDataManager and responsible management of data, farmers can trust their decisions, experience cost savings, and contribute to our world’s growing need for more sustainable water usage practices.

For a quick, print-ready snapshot of some of the facts outlined in this post, I’d encourage you to download our infographic on irrigation and conservation statistics by clicking here.