The Irrigation Innovation Consortium is funding seven research projects in 2021. The consortium awarded a total of $533,126 in Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research funding to selected projects. Through collaboration with partnering institutions and industry, these collaborations are bringing an additional $979,424 in matching funds to support their innovative research and outreach efforts.
The selected projects:
- Integration of Precision Mobile Drip and Variable Rate Irrigation Technologies for Specialty Crop Vegetable Production. Principal Investigator: Charles Rush, Texas A&M University. Industry partners: Dragon Line, Valmont and Dynamax Inc. Rush’s team is integrating existing irrigation technologies into a new system for improved irrigation water management to facilitate diversification and sustainability of center pivot irrigation cropping systems throughout the High Plains. Budget: $128,333. The total investment, with match is $393,394.
- Towards Pivot Automation with Proximal Sensing for Maize and Soybean in the Great Plains. Principal Investigator: Derek Heeren, University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Industry partner: Valmont. Heeren’s team is developing thresholds that trigger irrigation events configured for the sub-humid climate of the eastern Great Plains, evaluating an existing patented system, evaluating the accuracy of irrigation sensors, and comparing crop health and water stress of maize and soybean. Budget: $50,061. The total investment, with match is $113,355.
- Improved irrigation scheduling combining soil water supply and atmospheric evaporative demand. Principal Investigator: Trenton Franz, University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Industry partners: Aspiring Universe Corporation, Arable Lab, HydroInnova LLC, Corteva and PlanetLabs Inc. Franz’s team is quantifying and comparing the water use efficiency of several common irrigation practices at two study sites in Nebraska. Budget: $83,333. The total investment, with match is $257,777.
- Connecting Field-Scale Performance to Watershed Health: The Added Power of Sharing Data. Principal Investigator: Dayle McDermitt, Nebraska Water Balance Alliance. Industry partners: Grower Information Services Cooperative and Olsson. McDermitt’s team is improving algorithms that estimate water delivery through the growing season by using electrical power consumption data for systems that experience static or dynamic aquifer levels through the growing season and communicating the results to irrigators and water managers. Budget: $113,083. Total investment, with match is $256,984.
- Quantifying Irrigation Water Savings from Multiple Agrivoltaics Configurations. Principal Investigator: Jordan Macknick, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Industry partner: Jack’s Solar Garden. Macknick’s team is demonstrating and quantifying the potential irrigation savings and cost trade-offs under and around solar panels using different vegetation types at a Colorado farm. Co-locating agriculture and solar panel systems could improve the efficiencies of both. Budget: $60,091. Total investment, with match is $153,266.
- Closing the Loop on Sustainable Plasticulture. Principal Investigator: Charles Hillyer, California State University-Fresno. Industry partners: Jain Irrigation and DOW Chemical. Hillyer’s team is investigating the economic and technical feasibility of using recycled plastic materials from thin-walled drip tape in thick-walled drip lines to benefit long term investments of perennial plantings such as fruit and nut trees. Budget: $75,583. Total investment, with match is $190,132.
- Precision Irrigation on Golf Course Fairways Using Soil Moisture Sensor and Mapping Technologies. Principal Investigator: Chase Straw, California State University-Fresno. Industry partners: The Toro Company, United States Golf Association. Straw’s team is demonstrating the benefits of using precision irrigation practices on golf courses, thereby reducing inputs, economic costs and environmental impacts. The researchers are also surveying golf course superintendents nationwide to better understand their willingness to engage in, and approach to pursuing, precision water management on their courses. Budget: $100,000. Total investment, with match is $225,000.
Projects were selected through a competitive review process that weighed and prioritized projects according to their innovation, scientific merit, inter-institutional collaboration, outreach plans and potential for impact.
Launched in 2018 with a $5 million contribution from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), the Irrigation Innovation Consortium leverages public-private partnerships to maximize impacts from investment in irrigation research. The Irrigation Innovation Consortium is a university and industry collaboration that accelerates the development and adoption of water- and energy-efficient irrigation technology.
Through the consortium, industry and the public sector co-develop, test, prototype and improve equipment, technology and decision-support systems.
The consortium, which is headquartered at Colorado State University, includes four other U.S. land-grant universities: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University, Texas A&M University and California State University-Fresno. The consortium’s founding and sustaining industry partners are: FFAR, Aqua Engineering, Irrigation Association, JAIN Irrigation, LI-COR, Lindsay Corporation, Northern Water, Valmont, Hunter Industries, Toro, Rubicon, Colorado Corn Growers Association and Senniger Irrigation Inc.