Managing Irrigation

Aug 23, 2023

Written By: Calyn Anderson, Ag Innovation Specialist

We've all experienced the challenge of standing in the field and attempting to gauge our soil moisture using the traditional hand-feel method. Despite our best efforts, we are often left scratching our heads as we try to quantify the moisture content in terms of field capacity. With the hand-feel method being very subjective, methods like soil moisture probes and irrigation scheduling services can help growers and irrigation managers better understand the trends within the soil profile and make effective management decisions.

We all know the direct relationship between soil moisture content and yield. There is no surprise that growers are constantly yearning for more rain. Water is one of the most important requirements for crop development. This is because without water, plants are unable to transport nutrients into and throughout the plant. What is less understood is how the amount of water at specific staging will affect the development of the crop. Managing our soil moisture through irrigation can help us provide optimal conditions for the crop development. One tool we use at Simplot Grower Solutions (SGS) to help evaluate our soil moisture and make irrigation decisions is our SmartFarm Irrigation soil moisture probes.

Our soil moisture probes constantly measure the moisture content, electrical conductivity, and temperature of our soil repeatedly throughout the day, all through the growing season. From this data, we can make data-driven decisions to help optimize our irrigation management. Our goal is to help our growers take a step away from the guesswork that comes with understanding their soil moisture and applying the right amount of water, at the right time. With the Simplot SmartFarm irrigation program, growers are able to see the field capacity of their soil profile at the touch of a button. Although knowing your current soil moisture is beneficial, our team of experts take it a step further in which we model and predict your expected soil moisture for the days ahead. With these two tools in hand, we are able to optimize every drop of water.  As we continue to expand our irrigation acres across the prairie provinces, the importance of managing and allocating water becomes increasingly important. At SGS, we prioritize maximizing the utility of every drop of water, considering its limited availability, to ensure our growers achieve optimal results.
Let's talk about how our SmartFarm Irrigation program can benefit you.

First, soil moisture can be difficult to define using traditional methods, causing us to feel anxious and uneasy with our decisions. When we near the end of the season especially, we fear that if we don’t irrigate, there won’t be enough water in the soil to finish the crop. At the same time, we also fear that if we do irrigate, we will lodge the crop. Our judgement may become clouded by our emotions and the uncertainty our choices will have. With our support, we equip you with the resources needed to be confident in your decision.

Second, like nutrient management, the right amount of water at the right timing can have significant impacts on our yield. We find that too much water will impact our overall yield just as not having enough water.  We also know that the amount of water at specific stages varies greatly between different crops. For example, how we irrigate alfalfa throughout its growing season is significantly different than how we manage canola or potatoes. With inefficient irrigation management and scheduling, the profitability of your irrigated acres is significantly reduced. Alongside this is the sustainability approach to proper irrigation management. With a finite amount of water, the more efficiently we use it, the more acres we can cover with the same amount of water, while still optimizing overall profit. Our program can not only inform you of moisture deficiency, but also prevent excess irrigation.

And third, your logistics. As the high temperatures have stretched across our Southern Alberta and Southern Saskatchewan regions the last few weeks, I have received many calls from growers asking what fields to irrigate and how much water they should apply given the limited water allocation remaining. On top of this, some growers only have one pump for multiple fields, which restricts them as to when each field can get water. By forecasting what crops will reach stress levels first and understanding how to manage your water near the end of the season, we can ensure that your application restrictions will be maximized. The last aspect of logistics, and often the most important aspect, is your time. With our soil moisture probes in your fields by your side, we are able to consistently give you up to date information on your field, enabling you to get more done in your day.

At Simplot Grower Solutions, we strive to provide our growers with solutions, it is in our name. Whether you are looking for support in soil moisture monitoring or irrigation planning and scheduling, reach out to your local Simplot Grower Solutions’ representative for more information.

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