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How to Use Water Monitoring Systems

Funded by Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board checkoff dollars, Chris Henry, Ph.D. with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, has been working to help growers monitor soil conditions in order to terminate irrigation at the optimal time. Henry, an irrigation engineer and assistant professor, utilizes monitors, sensors, computerized hole selection and surge irrigation to improve irrigation water management.

Considering the various Arkansas soil types and using Watermark™ sensors, a database has been developed along with a new mobile app and fact sheets to help determine how many irrigation cycles would need to be made before termination of irrigation efforts. A Sap Flow monitoring system helps track a given field’s water usage so that the crop can be growth staged right up to R6.5. Henry’s data indicates that at R6.5, nearly three inches of water are needed to finish. Monitoring and knowing the soil moisture is critical when making your final irrigation decision.

Here in Arkansas, research has concluded that this practice has resulted in both yield improvement and reducing needless irrigation cycles - and thereby water and fuel costs - by up to 27%.

Holding irrigation water management schools for growers has helped get around the steep learning curve associated with soil moisture sensors. This "school" includes how to build and use the sensor and its app and data to arrive at a termination chart so that farmers can use this information in the field.

Measuring their yield and water use keeps our growers sustainable, profitable and also puts them in the running for a $20,000 prize for winning the "Most Crop Per Drop" contest that is also funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. This contest, similar to the Grow for the Green contest, includes the obstacle of using the least amount of water to do so.

For more of Henry's documentation on how to improve irrigation water management, click here. To listen on the go, click here for the podcast version of this video as well as other helpful checkoff-funded research in audio format.

To learn more about the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board's checkoff-funded research, watch the full Field to Film: Featured Research video series here.

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