Farm Progress

Here are 3 ways to improve soybean profits by using irrigation more efficiently.

Irrigation technology has developed exponentially, but the concept has remained the same over the past eight millennia: Use available water as efficiently as possible to optimize production.

Today, that means being smart about irrigation to maximize the benefits while limiting costs. Here are 3 ways to improve soybean profits by using irrigation more efficiently.

  1. Free, online programs to help irrigation planning. Programs like PHAUCET and PipePlanner can help you create efficient irrigation systems so you’re not wasting water. By inputting farm-specific details, such as row lengths and elevation changes, these programs give recommendations for irrigation-tubing hole sizing and evaluate different layout options. Delta Plastics, an irrigation polytube manufacturer, estimates that computer-based furrow-irrigation planning can result in 25 to 50 percent water savings and an average of 25 percent reduction in energy costs.

  2. Soil-moisture sensors. The European Space Agency has been tracking soil-moisture content since the late 1970s via satellite. Lucky for you, you won’t need to invest in a spacesuit to monitor water availability for your plants. Handheld soil-moisture probes can give you an instant snapshot of plant stress due to over- or under-watering. Since soybeans have different water requirements at different growth stages, soil-moisture sensors can help you decide exactly how much additional irrigation your plants need at a given time.

  3. Sub-irrigation. Although the first documented sub-irrigation system dates back to the 1800s, many farmers are only now experimenting with sub-irrigation techniques. Installing a system that irrigates from within the soil has its pros and cons. It comes with a substantial initial price tag, but the process delivers water directly to the roots, decreases the amount of water needed and prevents soil and nutrient runoff, all contributing to lower costs in the long run. With some systems providing both irrigation and drainage, farmers using sub-irrigation have unprecedented control over field moisture content.

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