Low Production Risks- How to optimize irrigation systems?


30 Jun 2017
  • After a rainfall, how do you know how much water stays in your field?  How long does it stay before it drains from the surface level?  How quickly is it absorbed by your crops?
  • Is my irrigation system optimized for a better yield?

If you knew how much water stayed in the field, wouldn’t it be easier to anticipate over-watering conditions: rot, disease, pests; anticipate under-watering and take measures to add water? If you knew what was happening in your farm, you’d be a better farmer with better production quality and better yield.

Theoretically, the process seems very simple- turn the water on or off. In reality, it is far more challenging. You need to play the part of a botanist, physicist, hydrologist and a soil scientist. Well don’t stress out. ConnectedCrops can help you understand soil and water measurements, how soil sensors work and finally help you look like an expert in irrigation.

In order to monitor water content in your soil, you first need to understand the concept of soil moisture content level. The knowledge of soil moisture content levels will further help you to understand how soil holds water. This information will also be useful to setup thresholds for watering and irrigation in your fields with soil moisture sensors.

So, let’s study the soil moisture content level types:

ConnectedCrops- optimize irrigation systems

Saturated Soil

When all the spaces between the soil are filled with water. At this point it cannot hold any more water and might get flooded if water gets trapped. It cut’s off the plants supply to oxygen, and therefore drowns the plant. So clearly as a farmer you do not want to over water and saturate your fields causing your plants to drown and die.

However, if only the top surface layer is saturated, the gravity will pull the water down and uniformly move the water deeper into the soil. This can be a helpful technique to overcome poor distribution uniformity.

Field Capacity

When all the excess water drains freely from the soil, it is said to have achieved its field capacity. It’s different from saturation. At field capacity, the soil at the root level soaks up the maximum amount of water and the excess water drains from the surface level. The moisture sensors are deployed in the root zone to calibrate these measurements and differentiate from the water level on the surface layer.

As a good irrigation practice, you would stop watering when the field capacity is reached.

Maximum Allowed Depletion (MAD)

If you are an experienced farmer, you would have started watering before reaching this point. However, if MAD is achieved, you should run the water immediately. Maximum allowed depletion is the point where your field will start to show signs of stress. At times, you might allow the maximum depletion level to be reached before you start watering, especially in the times of drought when you are trying to conserve water. But for good yield and quality, this should be avoided. The soil sensors automatically set a threshold for MAD based on your field size and field capacity of the soil type you are using in your farms. ConnectedCrops app will send you alerts before MAD level is reached.

Permanent Wilting Point

Insufficient water levels to meet the plant’s needs is hit at the permanent wilting point. This level should never occur over normal irrigation and agriculture practices. However, in some circumstances, farmers chose to adopt deficit irrigation strategy and ConnectedCrops can help you with setting up thresholds for soil sensors with this model if needed.

Oven Dry

As the term suggests, it is the level where most of the water has dried up. Oven dry is often measured with VMC- Volumetric Moisture Content. If you dig up some soil and put it in the oven. The difference in weights before and after will be the VMC weight percentage change.

ConnectedCrops- optimize irrigation systems

Gravitational water

The term used to describe the amount of water held between the soil when it reaches saturation and the field capacity.

Water Holding Capacity

This term is used to describe the amount of water available to the plants between field capacity and wilting point.

Plant available water

The portion of water that is available for the plant to be absorbed. Usually it is fifty percent of the total available or holding capacity.

Hopefully the above terms will help our readers understand the different types of soil moisture levels, and how soil sensors use these measurements to calibrate numbers for setting up thresholds and sending alerts.

Click here to read more about ConnectedCrops Advanced Irrigation System.


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