In today’s Almond Matters, brought to you by Valent, precision irrigation systems have helped growers make the most out of available water supplies. Water-use efficiency is even more important when California experiences drought conditions. The use of sensor technology and smarter irrigation systems have helped the industry become more sustainable in its water use. While many orchards have historically used flood irrigation, the industry has been moving to micro-sprinklers and drip irrigation in recent years.
“Dual-line drip on a crop like almonds works very effectively. In fact, I think it’s more precise and efficient than even flood irrigation,” said Todd Burkdoll, Field Market Development Specialist for Valent USA. “Having a drip system has costs upfront, but the savings long term can be pretty significant.”
Sensor technology has played a big role in helping growers become more efficient with their irrigation practices. Some growers use evapotranspiration information collected by sensors from the California Irrigation Management Information System. Other growers have opted to install sensors in their own orchards to get more fine-tuned data. “Some people use both, some people don’t use anything at all. It just depends on the grower and how sophisticated they want to get and how accurate they want to be,” Burkdoll noted.
Precision irrigation programs have a multitude of benefits for growers as well as the environment. Making the most efficient use of water can help producers mitigate the cost of sometimes scarce water supplies. Through the use of smarter irrigation systems, growers can keep trees at an appropriate growth level by meeting water needs while also preventing potential waste of water.
“Basically, it’s a formula. How much does the crop need, how much do you have to apply, or applying it when the crop needs it,” said Burkdoll. “It’s a management thing where you irrigate according to the crop need. If you do that and you’re monitoring the soil moisture, you can keep the crop at an optimum level of hydration and maximize yield, or at least sustain a yield that is economically viable to keeping your operation in place.”
Listen to the report below.