Goodson, R.1; Daniels, M.2; Hamilton, M3
1CEA- AGRICULTURE, Univ of Ark. Division of Agriculture, HELENA, AR, 72342
2Crop Soil Scientist, Univ of Ark. Division of Agriculture, Little Rock, AR, 72204
3Irrigation Educator, Univ. of Ark. Division of Agriculture, Truman, AR, 72472


Irrigation is an important consideration to minimize economic risk in row crop production.   Improving irrigation water management is necessary to produce a successful and profitable crop.  However, concerns exist about groundwater decline due to irrigation demand.  The State of Arkansas projects that by 2050 groundwater levels will shrink to levels where irrigation demand will not be able to be met by groundwater alone.  The objective of this program was to increase irrigation water use efficiency, by helping farmers make more informed decision concerning using irrigation only when is needed by the crop in the field.  Soil moisture sensors were chosen to meet this need.   To aid in adopting this technology, 5 result demonstrations were conducted in 2018 and 26 in 2019.   Watermark moisture sensors were placed in each field at 6 in, 12 in, 18 in. and 30 in. deep.  Readings were taken on regular intervals to calculate the amount of moisture in the soil profile.  Irrigation events were then scheduled using these observations.   Water use measurements were used to determine both water and cost savings using moisture sensors.  Results from these demonstrations indicate an average water savings of over 105 million gallons of water and an average cost savings of $11.06 an acre over the 900 acres in the demonstration program.  Participating farmers provided favorable feedback in the ease of use and the value of the data.  Adoption of moisture sensors to determine irrigation initiation is increasing due to educational efforts being conducted, increase in affordable telemetry where data can accessed on a mobile device and the farmer’s desire to be more efficient in their irrigation operation while maintaining yield.  The irrigation demonstration program will continue working with producers to make their irrigation practices more efficient and therefore less costly.  Eventually, this will be another tool for producers to use to improve their profitability on the farm as well as meet the needs for water conservation.  Results from these demonstrations are disseminated through spring production meetings, civic organization presentations, multi state farmer to farmer conservation field day and an annual demonstration book for the county. 

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