Too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing, especially for your crops. So, how do you determine how much water to irrigate? This is the million dollar question when it comes to finding an efficient and affordable irrigation control system. The core purpose of any irrigation control system is ultimately clear – to turn on the water valve in order to irrigate the field, the park, or the golf course. But just how does an irrigation system operator determine exactly how much water to irrigate, and what tools do they have to help them optimize their crop water usage?
Before diving deeper into the subject, let’s take a closer look at irrigation in general.
Each valve in the irrigation control system has an irrigation program. The irrigation program sets various parameters, the most important of which are: the day of irrigation, the time of irrigation, and the amount of water to irrigate. The amount of water for irrigation can usually be determined on the basis of time or quantity.
Delivering the right amount of water for the plant is necessary because it will determine the overall quantity and quality of the crop, the appearance of the garden, and the quality of the turf on the golf course. The right amount of water will also directly affect the ability to meet the given budget, save more on energy, and a whole lot more.
Let’s review which parameters will directly affect the amount of water in the irrigation program. Along with variables such as plot size or irrigation cycles, it is worth paying attention to a number of additional parameters that should also be taken into account.
Climate – how will the weather affect the amounts of water for irrigation?
Crop type – how do we know when to adjust the amount of water according to the requirements of a particular crop?
The age of the crop – how do we know when to adjust the amount of water for a new plantation, a mature plant, or a crop that is about to harvest?
Water budget – assuming we do not have unlimited water, how can we determine the right amount of water to irrigate throughout the irrigation season (without exceeding the budget)?
Hydraulic Limitations – many of the irrigation systems work under the limits of flow, water pressure, limited watering times, and more. How do we know when to adjust the amount of water in such a way that it does not exceed the limits?
From what we have learned so far, we understand the importance of knowing the right amount of water in the irrigation program, as well as the need to adjust the timing in accordance with the different variables.
That said, the critical question arises as to which tools the control system operator has so that they can adjust the amounts of water according to each variable, and how effective and simple these tools are when it comes to managing systems that control hundreds and thousands of watering valves and irrigation programs.
Generally speaking, the correct amount of water for each crop irrigation program can be determined in the irrigation program in one of three ways:
The Manual Method – In this method, the operator determines the amount of water for irrigation manually. This amount of water will not change as long as the operator has not changed it manually.
This is the traditional method which along with some advantages is very limited in its ability to adjust the amount of water for irrigation depending on the climate, type of crop, and other variables.
This method is applied to local controllers and older control systems that do not allow the integration of external information data into the system.
The Automatic Method – According to this method, the formula that determines the amount of water for irrigation in the irrigation program is embedded in the control system. Some of the data in the formula are usually constant (such as plot size, crop type) and some vary as the daily evaporation (ET) does.
According to these formulas, the amount of water to be calculated should compensate for the amount of water that evaporated yesterday. A weather station (one or more) is usually connected to the system and it transmits the daily evaporation data (ET) to the control system.
These methods are implemented in agriculture and landscape control systems and allow for the efficient and simple change of irrigation programs automatically.
It is important to note that over time a number of formulas have evolved to calculate the amounts of water to be irrigated alongside the classic formula.
These formulas allow the control system to automatically calculate the amounts of irrigation even in the absence of data such as area size or evaporation figure.
Autonomous Methods – These methods are becoming more and more popular, especially for control systems for agricultural irrigation.
Unlike the automatic method, the algorithm for calculating the amount of water for irrigation is not embedded in the irrigation control system, rather is part of an expert system connected via an API to the irrigation control system.
The autonomous method is based on connecting third-party expert systems to the control system.
The expert systems for this would be the crop sensors in the field that collect real-time information about the climate, soil and fruit in order to transmit the data to the cloud.
In the cloud, the expert system performs an analysis of the data using a special algorithm.
Each provider develops their own unique algorithm based on the knowledge and experience they have gained.
The output of this algorithm offers two main recommendations: the amount of water for irrigation, and the timing of irrigation.
These recommendations are transmitted to the irrigation control system via an API and are automatically implemented for you.
Mottech, using ICC PRO software, supports each of the methods mentioned above and allows each user in the system to find the most appropriate way to determine the correct amount of water to irrigate for each valve and program in the system.
Want to learn more about the different options for determining water quantities using ICC PRO software? Visit Mottech’s website or contact one of our representatives today.