Online Irrigation Calculator Streamlines Decision-Making for Almond Growers
A new Irrigation Calculator is available to the California Almond industry that aims to help growers irrigate more efficiently. Supported by Almond Board of California (ABC) and designed in partnership with University of California irrigation experts and consulting firm SureHarvest, this online calculator ensures that grower irrigation schedules are based on local growing conditions by integrating a number of variables, including weather and orchard conditions, with irrigation system type and efficiency. The free tool is available through the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) website at SustainableAlmondGrowing.org.
To use the Irrigation Calculator, growers will need to enter information about their orchard, such as row and tree spacing, age and percent canopy cover, along with optional inputs such as soil texture and rooting depth. The calculator automatically obtains weather data for the calculations from the nearest California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station, based on zip code. Some basic information about a grower’s irrigation setup is also required, including whether it is a drip, microsprinkler or solid-set sprinkler system; average gallons-per-hour rate; and distribution uniformity. Once this information is entered, the calculator will provide amounts to irrigate based on the weather and orchard inputs, and run times based on the irrigation system inputs.
Guidance for obtaining some of the required inputs is provided through hover text and pop-ups, saving growers the effort of researching this information on their own.
The Irrigation Calculator accesses local weather data from CIMIS. Growers select the CIMIS weather station closest to their operation or orchard to receive the most accurate information. The time needed for individual irrigation systems, as defined by the grower, to replace the water lost due to evapotranspiration in a specific time period will be calculated and provided through the tool.
“The beauty of the Irrigation Calculator is that growers can enter all the basic information from their orchard in one place, and the tool will calculate how much irrigation water is needed based on those specific conditions using the seasonally relevant almond crop coefficient [ETc],” said Gabriele Ludwig, Ph.D., director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs at Almond Board of California. “The goal is to make some rather lengthy calculations simple in order to obtain a basic calculation of irrigation demand specific to characteristics of the orchard.”
The information can be cloned and modified for different orchard blocks, saving the effort of re-entering required input data for each orchard, and growers can begin using the calculator at any time during the growing season.
Goal of Improved Efficiency
The irrigation calculator complements a new effort by the Almond Board of California that encourages all almond growers to adopt irrigation management practices to improve irrigation efficiency. The Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, developed in partnership with UC, CSU and UC Extension irrigation experts, includes five practices:
- Measuring irrigation system performance and efficiency;
- Estimating orchard water requirements based on evapotranspiration;
- Measuring the amount of water applied;
- Evaluating soil moisture; and
- Evaluating plant water status.
Building on the Almond industry’s decades-long commitment to improving water use efficiency, the continuum defines three proficiency levels: 1.0 (minimum), 2.0 (intermediate) and 3.0 (advanced). The minimum level is something that any grower can implement with limited additional investment in time and/or financial resources. Levels 2 and 3 refine irrigation management with the employment of additional investments.
“Through resources such as the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, the Almond Board is working to translate decades of research into grower-friendly, easy-to-use tools that can help improve how we grow almonds,” explained Dr. Ludwig. “Not only does good irrigation water management help trees produce to their highest potential, it also ensures good management of nitrogen inputs. Fundamentally, the tools and the continuum are about increasing our efficiency and sustainability around California’s most valuable natural resource — water.”
. What defines California Almond sustainability? Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food supply.