Irrigation water management tools can increase yields, conserve water and energy, and reduce runoff. The Row-Crop Irrigation Science and Extension Research (RISER) program at Mississippi State University was developed as a science-based approach to evaluate irrigation best management practices and is designed to assist producers in reducing water use while maintaining yield and profitability.
Through this program, irrigation water management tools have been identified and shown to save water and time and increase profitability. One of the easiest ways to improve irrigation efficiency is by utilizing soil moisture sensors for irrigation scheduling. Soil moisture sensors can help take the guesswork out of irrigation scheduling for timely irrigations.
With funding help from the Mississippi soybean checkoff program, a series of resources were developed to assist growers in adopting soil moisture sensors. One resource is the Soil Moisture Monitoring Showcase.
This showcase provides an opportunity for the agricultural community to learn more about the soil moisture sensors and accompanying telemetry services currently on the market. For 2020, 11 soil moisture monitoring systems from nine companies through six vendors were installed on the same field at the West Farm of Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center.
The website serves as a virtual tour and even connects visitors to live data, allowing producers to explore various soil moisture sensors, telemetry hardware and user interfaces for free prior to deciding which service or sensor to choose.
To access this free resource and learn more about the participating vendors and their respective systems, visit https://www.ncaar.msstate.edu/outreach/index.php#showcase.
Beyond deciding which sensor and telemetry service to use, producers may have questions about systems installation, data interpretation and sensor-based irrigation scheduling. With funding help from the Mississippi soybean checkoff program, a series of instructional fact sheets were developed to share relevant recommendations from the RISER program on how to use Irrometer Watermark sensors.
Extension resources available:
This publication provides a step-by-step guide to proper Watermark sensor construction. Following these steps will make the sensors easier to install at the intended depths and easier to remove at the end of the season.
Where sensors are installed affects the likelihood that the readings are suitable for irrigation scheduling. This publication provides a step-by-step guide to selecting an appropriate sensor location for a field.
Proper installation increases the likelihood that sensors will accurately portray the wetting and drying of the crop root zone. This publication provides a step-by-step guide to installing a set of Watermark sensors properly.
An irrigation trigger is the point at which an irrigation cycle starts. Starting too wet wastes water and energy, while starting too dry reduces yield. In this publication, we give guidance on how to select an appropriate trigger for each irrigation system and how to schedule irrigation using Watermark data.
Soybean farmer profitability is the mission of the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board. MSPB invests checkoff dollars in public research and programs to address production challenges and drive the adoption of management practices. Learn more about ways MSPB ensures the sustainability of Mississippi soybean production at MSSOY.org.
Editor’s note: Drew Gholson is an assistant professor and extension irrigation specialist with Mississippi State University at the Delta Research and Extension Center. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.