Irrigation plays an integral role in our crop growth, health, and productivity. Yet, we often give little attention to it. We give utmost priority to pests and weed control, fertilizers application, crop monitoring, soil analysis, etc.
Good, but those amendments without irrigation are like fueling a car without starting the engine; It won’t move. The same is applicable here. Other practices will only be efficient when proper irrigation is in place.
Irrigated land produces abundant and higher yield crops when compared to dryland. Statistically, 17% of irrigated agriculture produces 40% of the global food. Irrigation improves yields, enhances profitable harvest, and helps soil structure if it is done perfectly.
Due to variability in soil types and crop requirement of water, doing manual irrigation on your crops may be overwhelming and nerve-wracking especially if it’s a large farm. To ease this process, a cutting-edge technology called VRI (Variable Rate Irrigation) is introduced.
Some important Facts About Variable-Rate Irrigation
It was initially introduced to aid large-scale farming in the early 2000s. Nowadays, variable rate irrigation is used on any type of farm because of the problems of unforeseeable rainfall patterns, variation of soil type and crop conditions, and the need to fast-track useful management decisions concerning nutrients and water.
What is Variable Rate Irrigation?
It’s an innovative technology that distributes water to plants at the right amount and at the right interval to satisfy the plant’s demand for water.
Since the water requirement of plants and soil varies, VRI permits the Central Pivot irrigation system, using GPS (Global Positioning System) and GIS (Geographic Information System) technologies to determine the specific amounts of water to be applied to each area of the land.
Applying water uniformly to a field can make some areas watery while some will be dehydrated. Through VRI, you can supply water to every region of your farm without over-watering or under-watering the land. Although using it promises efficient use of water, it doesn’t necessarily mean little water will be consumed.
Components of a Variable rate irrigation System
A VRI system has the pivot irrigation system incorporated with the following characteristics;
Sprinkler control valves that spray water according to the instructions given by the control signal.
A Global Positioning System that tells us the position of the system within the field.
A user interface that finishes the field mapping and establishes the system. A controller that instructs or directs each sprinkler or all of the sprinklers. Also, It can be used to change the acceleration of the irrigation.
How does variable-rate irrigation reduce climate-related risks?
By implementing a VRI system, there are two ways to optimize water consumption on your farm. Firstly, by allocating a substantial amount of the water to soil with low holding-water capacity while leaving out areas without crops.
Secondly, lowering water application in marginal areas that require little irrigation or soil with high retention capacity e.g clay soil. A report by (Sadler et al. 2005) suggests that it has saved up 8 – 20% in water usage more than uniform irrigation.
With a VRI system in place, irrigated plants are less prone to climate-related risks because they are well-watered which arise owing to proper management of water thereby making plants unaffected by drought.
Benefits of VRI on Agriculture and Production
Since its water consumption is lower than the uniform irrigation, It saves cost by reducing the amount spent on water usage and pumping.
It aids yield and productivity improvement due to the irresistible nature of irrigated crops against pests and disease and other crop-related issues
It minimizes nutrient loss in soil by leaching and improves soil health. Since it controls leaching, soil salinity conditions and drainage is strengthened.
What are the Barriers to Implementation?
Inadequate knowledge about the system and lengthy period used in learning how to operate the system.
Maintenance cost – employment of labor for troubleshooting and repair. Additional costs on other field equipment are needed for the system to function such as buying in-field sensors and data processing fees. Sometimes, farmers may have difficulty adjusting to improvements in the system.
How does it work?
While demand for food production has highly increased over years, the need for proper irrigation in agriculture is more than what a man can comprehend. The need for a better water management system prompts the introduction of VRI (variable-rate irrigation).
It has aided modern agriculture in various ways. It’s an automated technology that uses a central pivot irrigation system to supply water to plants at the demanded rate. It is recommended a minimum of four zones control the VRI section.
Zones are created automatically and manually with the help of 30-year history imagery of soil (agrochemical analysis, scanners data, EC, moisture), and topography data.
GeoPard helps you properly distribute the agricultural inputs such as fertilizing, crop protection, seeding, irrigation, etc. for better crop yield.Irrigation Systems