Articles, Blog

Agricultural Irrigation Management: The Current Webinar 11

November 7, 2019

Welcome everyone to The Current: The North Central Region Water Network’s Speed Networking webinar series. The network is an extension led collaboration among land grant
universities and twelve midwestern states working to build capacity for
effective decision-making on water-related issues, and I see a number
of our extension colleagues here in Blackboard Collaborate with us today,
so good to see you. I’m Rebecca Power, Director of the North Central Region Water
Network, and I will be your moderator for this webinar. The purpose of The Current is to
increase access to University Extension programming, and we hope that the
information you’ll see presented today will be useful to you in your own
work. This is the 11th webinar in our series. The format is three-
typically three ten-minute presentations with questions and discussion at the end,
although you get a little bit different format today, we have two speakers in our
our center slot, but I think you’ll find both of their information to be worthwhile. All our webinars are archived on the North Central Region Water Network
website at, so if you know folks that you think might be interested in the information presented today please feel free to share the link,
and it typically takes us a week to get this session reformatted for YouTube which is where we have our sessions posted so just know that it’ll
be about a week before we get this posted and you can share that
with colleagues that might be interested. Our topic today is Agricultural
Irrigation Management and thanks and shout out to Josh Stamper one of our
speakers for helping to organize today’s session. Our next month’s webinar will
take place on September 16th, just a little commercial here. Same time, 2 to 3
central time, and the topic will be various aspects of Citizen Water Quality Monitoring, so that’s the- and that session should have some overlap
between nutrient management and system monitoring which I think you’ll find interesting. Josh was raised on a farm in North
Carolina, has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from Berea College, a master’s in Agronomy from Kansas State. His past research has included developing
nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for winter canola in the southern plains,
evaluating anhydrous ammonia application timing, rate, and depth of placement,
evaluating nitrogen fertilizer loss under irrigation and how temperature impacts
pollen flow in hybrid seed production. Joshua serves as the irrigation
extension specialist for the University of Minnesota and is a certified crop
advisor and certified professional agronomist, so thanks, Josh, and take it away. Alright, thank you all very much. Let me jump up here to the next slide so before I get into this too much, I want to just take
a moment and acknowledged some of the folks that have really enabled us to do
this. Josh Cooke is a graduate student who’s
actually not- doesn’t really have much of a background in agriculture other than
growing up on a farm. He is studying GIS, and he was really interested in how we
can use some spacial methods to evaluate, you know, agricultural inputs and so when he
came to me looking for a project, it was around the same time when I had some
growers contact me. I also have to thank some of my colleagues here at University of
Minnesota, Dr. Satish Gupta has put up with a lot of ignorant questions from me and has enabled me to use a lot of his instrumentations, so I’m deeply indebted to
him. As we get into this, the issue of variable-rate irrigation, these concepts have been around for, you know, a long time and pretty much everybody acknowledges the need to
apply irrigation water and a lot of other agricultural cropping input at the right rate, the right placement, and at the right time. A lot of times in agriculture
we are really struggling to evaluate how we deem with extreme variability in
soils and landscape positions, and everybody acknowledges the need for
greater management resolution as we try to work with this, and we also have to ask the question how can we ensure that we, you know, spread irrigation water inputs correctly and appropriately. We’ve got two sites in this study, this is
the one I am going to talk about the day is the Belgrade site, and this is what’s known
as in the Bonanza Valley. The producer just retrofitted this pivot with a by nozzle variable rate irrigation resolution, and their primary impetus for
this was not necessarily viewing it from variable rate irrigation from an
agronomic perspective, they have a bunch of conservation wetlands that are part
of this field and, you know, as they talked with some of their dealers and their crop
consultants, they kind of evaluated and looked at this and said, you know variable rate irrigation, you know, we can save- they can save you know roughly 400,000 gallons of
water by shutting the irrigation water off as it passes over these conservation wetlands for every acre inch of water they apply,
so you know there’s some significant water savings to be had with this system. One of the first things that we did when we when they’re growers approached us and said hey we’re really interested in trying to just if nothing else answer the
question are we applying the right amount of water right at the right time. So the first thing was we came in and we mapped the site using an EM38, and then it allows us to use electromagnetic induction to give us apparant electrical conductivity, and
this is a really useful tool for kind of fine-tuning what we know about the soils really rapidly and a cost effective method. You know there’s also tools from
Veris that give you a very similar metric, and what we found is that this is a
really useful way to assess a site without having to get into any destructive
sampling. So what Josh did was after he came in and mapped the site for apparent
electrical conductivity we also pulled in SSURGO data, topographic wetness index, and elevation. We wanted to include some past yield data into how we established our zones, but we were working with a pretty timeline and this site
actually got planted on the 14th of April which is extremely early in
north-central Minnesota. I grew up in the southeast and a lot of times, you know, we
never, we rarely planted that early in North Carolina. So after we came through
and created our zones we picked out neutron probe access to locations based off of some statistical assessments of variability, and when it came to how many access tubes can we
install and place, we were really limited by how much time we think we
could contribute to traveling to each of these sites carrying a thirty-pound
neutron probe around in 22 inch corn, so the number of observations we had for this field was really dictated by the logistics and not really a
statistical approach. When we initially did our, created our zones and we actually did it without having any knowledge of the grower’s current variable rate irrigation prescriptions that he had developed, and the software that came with his VRI system is pretty user friendly but the grower expressed concerns about
I don’t really know if this is right. He said I know that you know where I have these kind of light-colored, opaque like in the very northwest corner of this field that’s where one of the conservation wetlands is. He knew that he wanted to turn the water off there
but when it came to the south and the southeastern corner of the field where
he was backing off his irrigation water volumes by 50%, those were areas
where he wanted us to come in and track soil moisture in the profile and kind of give him some a little bit better handle on are these prescriptions correct. And just as
a frame of reference this current prescription saves him 13%, it’s a 13% water reduction as opposed to if this entire pivot was all green so that gives you an idea of what their water savings is. In season measurements, each week we go out and take a neutron probe and collect volumetric water
content every 15 centimeters down to a depth of one meter. You can also just
passed in the background you’ll see it looks like a two-by-four standing up, we also
have a rain gauges that are placed at each of these sites so that we can quantify the volume of water
that’s moving into the system at each of these specific sites. I’ll talk a little bit about some of the challenges associated with that especially as you move into ultra-narrow row tall crops. So this is looking at the past couple weeks, the size of these dots represent mean
volumetric water content at each of these different sites throughout the field, and
one of the things that’s interesting as if you look at the July 30th, the 1st graphic in that line you’ll see that this is actually our measurements following a
five-inch, we had five inches of precipitation preceding this readings, so when we look a this July 30th that really represents a situation where we’re really
kind of viewing it from a field capacity standpoint. And so you can see how volumetric water content across, averaged across the profile changes as you move to these
different points on the landscape. One of the things that we actually weren’t able
to do before we started this site, if you go back to that earlier picture where we
were mapping with the EM38, we’re actually mapping it right after the field was planted, and this was in, you know, mid-April. So we weren’t able to go in and saturate our access tubes and develop a site-specific calibration. We’re actually going to be going in and doing that right after the crop is out of the field. So that why we can have a dry and then have a wedded reference area site for each of these specific
access tubes. So this is just to give you a handle on the kind of information
that we’re collecting as we move through the growing season. Impressions to date, a lot of farmers, a lot of irrigators are really interested in this site. Our other, the other location where we’re doing something very similar but underneath potatoes is very visible from the highway. When we go out there and travel this site and collect information there’s almost always somebody stopping, getting out of the truck, wondering out through the potato field asking us questions about what we’re doing, and it’s been a great learning opportunity. The growers have been, it’s really kind of piqued their interest in managing soil water, and it’s also given us a lot of
information about where to site soil moisture sensors that growers may want
to use, so we can go through and kind of talk with them about available water holding capacities, assessing variability within a site, and where they should be thinking about siting their soil moisture sensors. So with that I think we can transition to our next presenter. We’ll have questions at the end right? Yes, that’s correct. Excellent. And, everybody, please, if you have questions for Josh and his
first presentation you can go ahead and put those in the
chat box so we can record those and get them ready for the end of session,
and now on to our next speaker actually John Panuska and Rebecca Larson are
going to split this second slot. I’ll introduce John first. John Panuska is a natural resource extension specialist in the Biological Systems Engineering Department at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches courses in BSE at UW-Madison, conducts applied research, and provides outreach programming in the
areas of irrigation, drainage, nutrient management, and water quality, and he is part of the University of Wisconsin Extension Nutrient Management Team. Thanks, John. Alright, thank you, Rebecca. And I guess I’ll kind of keep it brief here and give Becky some time here, so I am going to move along a little quickly. I work closely here at UW- Madison with Scott Sanford. The two of
us work together on irrigation water management issues, but we have quite a
range of growers here in Wisconsin. We have a very well-established vegetable growing region in the central part of the state, our central sands area. For those of you not familiar with the state that’s around the Stevens Point area, and there
we’ve got growers that are quite sophisticated and knowledgeable about
soil water management and the use of sensors and so on and so forth, but we
also have a kind of a new group of folks that are coming into the irrigation game. Ours being a lot of corn and soybean growers as well as dairy farmers putting in irrigation systems. Dairy farmers of course for forage insurance to make sure that if they do
have a forage supply in a dry year, and so we’re seeing kind of a range in
terms of knowledge from folks who have been using rather sophisticated
instrumentation such as TDRs for the last twenty years to folks that are just barely getting into the whole thing, and they’ve installed their pivots and the
companies have put in the hardware and equipment and kind of left them to
manage on themselves, and so this range of knowledge that we had with growers kind of pushed us in the direction of having to do quite a bit of
programming and develop a range of programming to address those different
areas or different bases of knowledge that we were working with. So just as
kind of a side note one of the other issues here in Wisconsin again in that central sands area around the Steven’s Point region there’s
a sub-basin there called the Little Clover River Basin and in that
particular area there’s been some issues with groundwater levels and irrigation
impacts on the lakes and streams, and so right now there’s currently a study
for the comprehensive modeling study going on with USGS, DNR, and the Geological and Natural History Survey here in the state are taking a very close look at that situation, and it’s really quite an interesting project. The growers are very involved in that and very interested in that and seem to be very
willing to make changes as needed to address some of those issues. So it’s
going to be kind of I think a model for our entire Central stands area here more or less just starting out with the Little Clover River and looking at, you know, what types of
perhaps different crop management schemes and things that can be used to better manage and market more water use efficiency out of that system. So one of
our educational efforts has been to get people out there monitoring soil moisture and understanding, you know, how these instruments work and so one of our new publications that
we just recently put together, Scott and I worked on these, this is a new one on methods to monitor soil moisture, it’s available through our UWEX Learning Store as a free PDF. And in there, it’s really just an overview of the different technologies, we have some pictures as you can see there of some of the different instrumentation. It talks a little bit about the difference between tension and dielectric methods and how the different sensors work and approximate cost and then also of course
different types of data management systems, whether those be readers or loggers or telemetry and then there’s some information also that we’ve added to our
website on installation methods for these types
of sensors, so really just trying to get people to understand what the technology
is, what the range of sophistication of that technology and the costs associated
with it and try to guide them in terms of making choices that will work best
for their situation but just doing whatever we can to get them to start
monitoring soil moisture and really seeing what they’ve got out there. The second
publication that we recently re-did, this is one that was done back in the
nineteen seventies and recently updated, Scott took the lead on this one and this was our irrigation management in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Irrigation Scheduling Program WISP. So we went through and really kind of more or less updated that
particular publication to get it more up to speed with current technology, and also this is the publication that really talks about the concept of
irrigation scheduling and root zone water balance and how all that works in the
different tools that we currently have available to do that including, you know, just a hand method
for doing irrigation scheduling so these are kind of just base documents that we
wanted to get out there and start making growers aware of. The other thing that we
just recently completed here in fact within the past week we did a fairly major content upgrade to our website. We have a FYI website UW Extension Crop Irrigation site, and there’s been quite a bit of material just recently added to
that, and so again here we’re trying to create a more or less a repository of
information. We did recently also completed a video training series and
got down there so we’re trying to get all this information up to speed. Our
goal this time was to get it done before our farm tech days which is next week so we did make that goal, and we’re gonna be
promoting that and bringing people, raising people’s awareness to that site at our farm technology days here next week. And then of course we do have an irrigation
scheduler. We have several, we have an Excel based tool that’s available on the
website but then we’re trying to promote also a web based scheduler that we’ve got out there that essentially has the ability to go out and look up the potential ETs based on
the latitude and longitude location of the pivot, and it’s your basic
irrigation scheduling type tool, its got the daily balances that it keeps track of
water in, water out and so on and so forth, and also we have a feature over here under the percent moisture, only add percent cover but under percent
moisture, a grower can go in and the model will give a predicted value and they can
actually put in their monitored value and they’ll use the monitored value to
ground truth the model over on the right we have deep drainage popping up in big red letters to try to bring that to their awareness. So essentially just a soil water
balance scheduling tracking tool, and we’ve also got a feature on here that they can do a partial irrigation strategy, they can put in some percentage of a full irrigation,
it’ll draw a line across and tell them what that amount is, so the idea there is to just try to get them thinking about different water management strategies and giving them a visual, some series visual of what’s going on and that website for that particular
tool is available right below on the bottom of the page. So that was pretty much what
I had, and I guess I will turn the podium over to Becky. Great, John, thanks. I’ll just quickly introduce Becky. Becky Larson is an assistant professor and extension specialist focusing on biological waste in the
Biological Systems Engineering Department at UW Madison. She completed her bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in biosystems engineering at Michigan State.
Her research and extension interests include all areas of biological waste
including manure management handling and treatment of agriculture waste,
diffused source pollution, agricultural sustainability, and waste energy
technologies including biogas production from anaerobic digestion. A main focus of her
worker is manure management system focusing on increasing profitability and
sustainability of food production while simultaneously reducing environmental
impact, and Becky is going be talking to us today about a little bit different
aspect of irrigation which is on manure irrigation. So, Becky, go right ahead. Thank you so much! Oh, I think I lost my title page there. Today- my name is Becky Larson. I am at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am mostly a manure person but recently we’ve had a lot of interest in the state
of Wisconsin on manure irrigation. You can see these lovely billboards that we’ve been seeing around the state with a lot of concern from the public about the use
of manure irrigation as a technology. So responding to that kind of outcry that
we saw, we wanted to start to look into manure irrigation and develop some
information for all of the public and producers in the state to try to
make some recommendations on how we think manure irrigation should be used. This has been a project done by a lot of stakeholders in the state. It’s led by Dr. Ken Genskow. He’s also at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison. He’s leading a workgroup part of this research and evaluation. We have 18 members on a workgroup. The workgroup is looking at all the possible benefits and
concerns from manure irrigation practices, and then there’s a separate
piece that is research component that myself and Dr. Mark Borchardt of the USDA up in Marshfield Wisconsin have put together looking at pathogen impact
from the use of manure irrigation. So this has been a very large effort that has been put
together, something I won’t be able to get into very much detail on in the next
five minutes, but we wanted to evaluate all the impacts and potential picks of the
technology so that we could make recommendations to not only producers
using the technology but to some of the regulatory groups within the state. So I have here that we intended to complete this in the spring of 2015, I missed that one. We are now saying sometime in 2015, but you can find all of the work that about manure irrigation on our website and all of the details and the report will be posted there when it’s
completed. Some of the benefits and challenges, one of the reasons we’re
really interested in if we could manage this particular technology and keeping it is that it has great potential to try to increase nutrient efficiency by applying
nutrients throughout a growing season, we’ve a lot of issues with weight on
roads with agricultural equipment and so manure haulers had been facing a lot of problems in that area and we also have the potential
when we have overflow and other things to utilize this type of technology, but
there’s been a whole slew of challenges we’ve had to face from odor to drift to
water quality, air quality and then the really big one that people have been
concerned about is the potential for airborne pathogen transport. Our workgroup report will detail of the information and have our workgroup response recommendation on how to use the practice. One of the big things we’ve been
mentioning is the idea of this work group is to look at manure irrigation in
comparison to other manure application methods which are highly variable. We’re
mostly looking at the traveling gun system which you can see here and then
also the center pivot system for manure. The center pivot systems has been more of the focus of the larger operations, and we have maybe 10 to 20
larger dairies that are using these at the moment. We know that-we don’t know
the number of producers using traveling guns but those have typically
been at smaller facilities so therefore we really don’t know the depth of implementation but we have seen more use of those recently. Here’s just a few
pictures so you can understand some of the concerns that people have with the spray. There’s concerns particularly with odor is one big one and then also with the pathogen potential and the potential for drift in nearby areas as well, so
all of those will be addressed in the report. I know I am probably running out of
time but the one thing I do want to touch on is that we conducted a lot of trials to actually measure air born pathogens with these different types of equipment. We tried to vary it to encompass a lot of different weather conditions that you
may experience out in the field and then we took that measured data where we actually collected the pathogen samples and did something called a QMRA which is a Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment to actually look at what the risk is when people are inhaling those concentrations of pathogens. So I could take forever to explain this, but generally you do a lot of draws and you do a statistical evaluation of people of different ages breathing in
different rates outside for different time, you take a concentration that we found
within the study and what the risk might be. So there’s a whole lot of assumptions
that are made in doing this but one of the important things that I want to show here is after you look at the evaluation you can see the dotted line
represents where we think the acceptable drinking water risk, that’s what the US EPA uses, and so then we show the lower the median risk is below that drinking water standard, and then the upper quartile risk is ahead of that risk. So the one issue that I want to say is there’s a lot of assumptions made here and one is that you have to assume how the prevalence of these particular microorganism and you have to assume
what type of microorganism you used as a surrogate to do this particular evaluation, and I don’t have time to explain that in great detail, but what I’d like to show you is our current setback is about 500 feet from manure
irrigation, so if we use gram negative bacteria as our surrogate and we look at Campylobacter Salmonella and E heck you can see the typical prevalence and the
bottom you can see the probability of acute gastrointestinal illness. So those black dots represent the median risk and when you look down the blue dashed dots, dashed lines are the drinking water acceptable risk and the green dashed lines are the recreational water acceptable risk. So these are common
standards, we don’t really have a lot of these kind of similar standards for inhaling different types of pathogens, so we tried to look at what would happen at typical
prevalence. On the right hand side would be a
hundred percent prevalence which is much more than you would normally see and then we have these different gram negative bacteria which are more easily
degradable and then bovine bacteria I used which is a more hearty microorganism. So you can see our median risk in my eyes is a little bit low below, below, definitely below
recreational water but also below in many cases if you look drinking water acceptable standards at that 500 foot setback. So there’s a lot of things to infer about this, and I apologize, I probably even have gone over and don’t have time to explain it all, but if you look at the report you can see all
the detailed information we’ll also be doing a webinar when we put the report out on all of the information about that. We’re also working on some modeling using some dispersion models and then we’ll also use that model to do some additional QMRA to assess the impact, and we’re trying to look at different conditions and different scenarios which may impact what that risk assessment comes out to
tell us. Even with that data there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of different ways to read into that and so our group has been working with this for three years, in our report we will come out with what our recommendations for use might be. So I know that was kind of a whirlwind, it’s a very large project but thanks for the time, and I will hand it back over to Rebecca. Thank you, Becky. This is a great example of trying to give you a taste of some things that are going on in the region
and just giving you the opportunity to determine what you want to know more
about so feel free to stick questions in the chat box for Becky, and we will go on
to Josh’s second presentation which is outcomes from an irrigation capacity building workshop that had some support in funding from the North Central Region
Water Network and, Josh, why don’t you tell us what y’all did? Thank you. So one of the- last year we had the North Central
Region Water Network workshops and this was in September of 2014, and one of the really cool things about this was the opportunity to get together with a lot
of other extension specialists and educators and researchers from other
states, and we got to have some really interesting conversations about some of our shared issues relating to water, water quality, water quantity and how irrigation within our
state kind of interacts, and you know we all kind of acknowledged that we had a
lot of really similar challenges and issues when it came to talking about
water quality and as the group talked a little bit, we said you know this there’s
a lot of opportunities here for us to get together and collaborate and maybe
pursue external funding and also to look at some of the irrigation research that’s been going on in Nebraska, and Nebraska’s one of the most heavily irrigated states in the
country. They’re a little bit more similar to the East than to a lot of the true western states because a lot of their water allocations are actually groundwater as opposed to surface water allocations like what you might get in Idaho or California or places like that. So when started interacting a little bit together we came up with a proposal and it was for multi-day irrigation workshop in
Nebraska, and we really wanted to focus it towards getting some of the extension specialist, some of the local
educators, some of the researchers, and some of our Soil and Water Conservation District
staff that are providing technical assistance to our irrigators and in Minnesota those Soil and Water Conservation staff really play a big role in providing irrigators with technical assistance and with
irrigation scheduling, they offer that as a service, and we were really interested
in collaborating and sharing some of our success stories and to begin to start looking at how do we, you know, pursue some of these external funding opportunities. When we travel to Nebraska one of the things that we really enjoyed was some of their really
exciting original research that Dr. Suat Irmak at UNL has been doing, and so this was we spent one afternoon out at the Clay Center research site where Dr. Irmak has a
subsurface drip irrigation system, and the picture on the left is the water filtration
component of this drip irrigation system and that’s one of the major, you know, key kind of linchpins for success is, you know, when you’re pushing water through very small orifices, you got to have a lot of really, really clean water and you really need to go to great
lengths to make sure that you’re not plugging those orifices and plugging that tortuous path that the water has to move through, through the drip tape to be plant-available. In the picture on the right is I think a monumental feat of engineering
and plumbing, these are all of the valving manifolds to run the drip tape in each of the individual plots that are out in the field. Subsurface drip irrigation is not, you
know, when you go out and look at a field, it just looks like a field, there’s no center pivot,
there’s no linear traveling guns, so you really have to see the guts of the plumbing to really understand the intricacies of this. One of the other things that we are able to see is Dr. Irmak’s bowen ratio neurological station, and so this is where he’s actually going in and measuring evapo- transpiration using some of this
information for refined crop coefficients, but it was really useful for us to get in there
and look at the amount of fish that was needed to be able to accurately quantify and measure evapo- transpiration under these, and this is one of 14 or 15 bowen ratio stations that Dr. Irmak has spread out across the state of Nebraska, so I mean
it was really cool to go there and see a critical mass of the information that’s being collected that actually helps us quantify actual consumptive water use. Our external grant application that we put together and that was led by Dr. Irmak was really, we wanted to kind of have a research and demonstration site that
showed how do we use soil moisture sensors to optimize irrigation water
management and be able to demonstrate that, you know, it is, you know, reduces the risk to groundwater quality
and that really emerged as a theme, and we base it off of the Nebraska Ag. Water
Management Network model that Dr. Irmak came up with, and I believe that he’s
presented that in the past in one of these webinars. The proposal focused on quantifying water quality impacts with advanced irrigation water management a component of that was measuring nitrate leaching below the root zone. One of the other things I think that was a little bit different than what the engineers and the agronomists historically think about was we really wanted to have a significant economic and
social science component to our applications, so we were really blessed
and really lucky to be able to work with some really great social scientists and economists on this project. When we surveyed our participants some
of the feedback that we got back was they really came away with an increased
understanding of how and when to use soil moisture sensors. Irrigation scheduling based on evapotranspiration was really viewed by a lot of participants as being too
cumbersome for farmers and irrigators because of the data management and the data entry obstacles. There was also a lot of
interest in finding a way to integrate soil moisture sensor data into irrigation scheduling software. Minnesota, we use a joint irrigation scheduling
tool that was developed by our counterparts in North Dakota. Dean Steel and Tom Shared worked with my predecessor, and it’s actually a pretty slick way to be able to come in and make real-time
adjustments to the actual soil moisture deficit based off of, you know, soil feel and soil texture or if you have a way to calculate a deficit based of off volumetric water content, that’s another way to you know come in midseason and pretty
accurately correct any drift that we might have seen in our model over the growing season. And another component of this was the telemetry, making
information available in a real-time proved to be really exciting and a lot
of growers view that is a very powerful tool. So with that I’ll turn it back over to Rebecca and we can catch questions. Great, thanks, Josh. Okay, questions for our speakers, again, put them in the chat box if you got them. I had a question I think for both Josh and John,
and Josh you talked about having the potato growers that in your area getting curious about what you were doing in the field and I am just wondering what types of questions that you heard
most from them related to variable rate irrigation? And John, you could probably
answer a similar question. Yeah, I think the potato site is particularly interesting because I liken it to putting lipstick on a pig, this site has an old walk wood pivot that probably
35 years old and the irrigator rather than put up a new pivot said, well, I’m just
going to go back, you know, functionally it works great so he just went back and retrofitted it with some state of the art technology so a lot of growers, you know,
they see a lot of this old, antiquated equipment and I think a lot of times
it’s kind of this idea of planned obsolescence but this grower in particular kind of breathed new life into something that I think a lot of people would have been
looking at it from a salvage value standpoint. They spend a lot of time and a lot of effort making sure that it was well engineered and well instrumented, but the growers that
are really started asking a lot of questions about, you know, some of them been trained to use
irrigation scheduling software that was developed by North Dakota but they’re
also, you know they’re, also realists and they’re wanting to be able to go in and have some site-specific information to feed into their system so that they can be assured that, you know, they’re meeting the water demands of their actively transpiring crop. I guess I would have to say here in Wisconsin we’re maybe a little bit behind
the eight ball on the VRI variable-rate stuff, but we’ve got several of the more
progressive growers primarily central sands potato growers that are using it. We have a local company up in that area
called Precision Waterworks that offers the service of mapping soils and setting up VRI prescriptions and that sort of thing and so they’re making some inroads but they’re not making a lot of inroads. I would say there’s the early adapters who
have taken it on and they’re starting to do it but really overall we haven’t seen
a large movement or I what would call significant interest in the VRI applications here in Wisconsin so much.
It’s just we were trying to get them up to speed and make everybody aware of
that technology and certainly all of the equipment dealers here in the state have it
and are talking to growers about it, but just from my experience thus far I haven’t
really seen any sort of a large-scale adoaption. It’s really just been the
some of the more cutting-edge early adopters that have started to do that in
combination with using more sophisticated probes with telemetry on them and then placing those probes based on the mapping and all that sort of thing that you were talking
about earlier, Josh. So yeah, we’re seeing it but I would say not to any great degree. Thank you both, and I think you started touching on this a little bit but what do you see
as some of the biggest barriers to adopting precision irrigation
technologies in your states and what did you hear, I know, John, you weren’t able to attend the session in Nebraska but, you know, there are a number of states
there and you know did you all have any sense in those conversations about what some of the primary barriers are to adopting precision irrigation
technologies and also, you know, what do you see as Extension’s role in working with producers to increase adoption of these technologies? This is Josh. You know, one of the major stumbling blocks I think that a lot of guys go into is or one of the major questions they have is, you know, if you’re putting this onto a new
pivot there’s significant costs associated with retrofitting a system for VRI. You
know, it can range from average seven or eight stand pivot, you know, you’re talking about forty to sixty thousand dollars and that
doesn’t include if you have to go in and put in a VFD. So cost is a major component.There’s also some of the challenges that are associated with you’re increasing some of the complexity and, you know, do you have enough physical variability within the field to justify those increased costs and can you recoup your investment? I
think that those are questions that are being asked right now and, you know, to be real honest I don’t know that, you know, we’ll be able to answer those in the next two or
three years because this still a relatively young and maturing technology. Yeah, I would totally agree with what Josh
said that here the big barriers has been the cost associated with it
and then that return on investment. You know, you can go out and you can do the mapping
and it kind of depends, you know, obviously site to site in terms of that what that
variability is going to be. I was just meeting a researcher the other day that had a field mapped and I think he said he saw a difference in EC of about maximum 4%, well, you know, that’s not a big enough difference to really justify going with a VRI type system, but other types of fields, other soils, under other pivots, you know, maybe a different story. So I think it’s going to be highly site-specific
for one thing, but certainly yeah, that cost of bringing in that technology and the
complexity, a lot of these, at least on our end here, you know, just getting growers to go out and monitor soil moisture and follow a schedule has been a challenge
in terms of the complexity of technology to put in variable-rate prescriptions and things like that is a whole another level that, you know, some of them
just don’t really want to go there yet at least unless they can be really convinced that it’s going to make a big difference for them. Thanks to you both. One more question on the quantity related irrigation issues. Josh, you know you’ve got this team, this North Central team or group of folks interested in irrigation and working on
irrigation that’s been working together over the past number of months, you know I am putting you on the spot a little bit here, but what do you see as or what are some things that are coming up for that group
or do you expect to be working you know continuing to work together as
opportunities come up or what’s next? You know, I think right now we’ll learn an outcome of our USDA National Institute for Food and Ag. application, we’ll learn about that a little bit more at the end of the season. Specifically I think we have some water
quality issues that we all kind of acknowledge are pretty similar across a lot of our areas. One of the things that’s emerging now and it’s not
really irrigation, it kind of more falls on to the drainage side of things is
there’s been a lot of interest from the grower community and from some of the
researchers on looking at how do we use captured drainage water to sub-irrigate your tile systems, specifically in the Dakotas and Minnesota where we have a pretty
extensive network of tile drainage, you know, by using controlled drainage structures can we pump water across the top of those stop-walks and sub-irrigate? I think that’s something that is a little bit higher profile
because there’s probably a lot more tile drainage in our area than there is
overhead sprinkler irrigation, so that’s one of things that some of our participants have talked a little bit more about and to be real honest I know I’m interested in learning more about it.
Thanks and we’ll have a- I think there’s a commitment to have this irrigation group get together in March, March 21st through 23rd at the next North Central Region Water Network conference that’ll be in Lincoln, Nebraska, so you’ll maybe get to see a little
bit of what’s going on there in Lincoln. There’s some amazing irrigation
knowledge and practice going on there both on the research side and the
extension side, and any questions for Becky? I really want to give people an opportunity for that, and then Becky, you know, I know you’ve released some of the information that you found from these pathogens studies then it seems like people still
have some concern or questions about the data is there anything that you can
tell us there, you know, about things that you still feel like you need to address
with the group or you know what are the outstanding concerns that you’re still
hearing? The data we feel pretty strongly that it’s accurate. I think Mark put a
lot of time to queing quality control and the data and how it’s represented. It’s
more questions of how you then interpret that data and what people
think certain things mean, but we have gone over that extensively in our group and one of the things we’re
trying to use the data to do is make recommendations on technology use and in our report, I am sorry I didn’t have time to get into any of this, but how you might-what the impacts of using different wind speeds, operating at different wind speeds or what kind of nosels we recommend or what kind of drop heights that you would need to minimize some things, so there’ll be a lot of detail out there provided in some of that. I think the bigger concerns will come with after our group recommendation where regulatory do you want to go with this and where they pick an acceptable level of risk and what they from the recommendations what they decide to
implement in terms of nutrient management and regulations concerning application with
their agricultural livestock permits. So hopefully everything and anything opinions and information will all be in the report and there’ll be details about that are coming up soon going to depth about all of these pieces. One of the questions that Rebecca had asked a little bit earlier was actually which states were participating in the proposal in the USDA Water for Ag. Proposal that was we had North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and then involvement from Wisconsin, Michigan, and also Indiana, so those were the states that were participating in that. Thanks, Josh, and thanks to everybody for participating today, thanks particularly to our speakers and for all of you joining us via the web. Our session will be archived in a week
or so, so you’ll be able to- we’ll send the link out for that and you’ll be able to send
that on to other folks that might be interested. It will be at and our next session is coming up in September, September 16th,
and will be on Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring. Thanks so much and have a great

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