C Spire is teaming up with farmers and smart equipment manufacturers to test new automated irrigation techniques that promise to boost crop yields and conserve declining ground water levels in the Mississippi Delta.
Aided by mobile coverage from its wireless unit, the Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology firm is working with JF Phillips Farm and PrecisionKing to learn if new water management techniques can increase selected row crop yields and conserve groundwater resources.
While the full results won’t be known until the end of the growing season this fall, the plan is to compare standard irrigation practices on row crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton with the new automated system that features moisture sensors monitored from a computer, smartphone or tablet.
“Agriculture is the state’s No. 1 industry sector and we need to help growers embrace precision farming practices and Internet of Things (IoT) systems that can increase efficiency, boost yields and conserve ground water resources,” said C Spire President Stephen Bye. “Automation and analytics are the key factors that will help us deliver on that promise.”
Preliminary results in the Phillips trial are encouraging. Water usage already has been reduced by up to 53 percent for corn fields and from 50 to 65 percent for soybean plots, according to Nick King, president of the Yazoo City-based PrecisionKing. “We’re optimistic this approach will save water and improve overall productivity and crop yields,” he said.
Growers like Jack Phillips said working with C Spire and PrecisionKing on technology solutions is critical to future success. “Row crops like corn and soybeans have lots of variables that need to be closely managed,” said Phillips, owner of JF Phillips Farms, a row crop farming operation in the lower Mississippi Delta.
Recent research shows IoT can increase yields by up to 15 percent and revenue by $100,000 annually for a typical 1,000-acre farm. Mississippi has more than 36,200 farms covering 10.7 million acres, much of it in the Delta, producing products ranging from cattle to catfish, poultry to pecans and horses to horticulture, according to the Mississippi Development Authority.
In recent years, declining groundwater levels have been of growing concern in the Mississippi Delta. Gov. Phil Bryant and other state leaders and federal agencies formed the Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force in 2014 to tackle the problem and develop solutions to ensure future sustainable ground water resources in the region.
King said managing water resources will help an industry that employs 29 percent of the state’s workers and generates over $7.6 billion annually for Mississippi’s economy. “We need to do more with less and IoT technology-based innovations will help farmers deliver on that promise.”
C Spire is uniquely positioned to help smart farming prosper in rural Mississippi, especially in the environmentally sensitive Delta region, Bye said, noting that a robust mobile broadband network and partnerships with ag IoT providers like PrecisionKing ensure that precision agriculture has a bright future in the Magnolia state.
C Spire reinforced its commitment to innovation last fall by launching the C Spire Tech Movement initiative designed to leverage the company’s technology leadership and investments to help transform its service areas. Precision agriculture, smart farming and the agricultural Internet of Things are key elements of its focus on technology innovation to move the state forward.
To learn more about the C Spire Tech Movement, visit http://www.cspire.com/cms/wireless/tech-movement/.