The aim is clear: Water conservation. That’s what the AIM (Advanced Irrigation Management) project is all about, and it is bringing very high-tech, but now cost-effective and user-friendly products to the fields and farm offices to cotton, peanut and corn producers in southwest Georgia.
David Reckford, director of the Flint River Basin Partnership, a conservation partnership between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The Nature Conservancy and the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, says the primary objective of the AIM program is to help farmers conserve water through innovative irrigation water management practices.
Some of those innovations supported by the program include irrigation retrofits, variable rate irrigation (VRI), remote soil moisture monitoring and conservation tillage.
“What we have been doing since 2004 through a series of pilot projects is developing new and innovative technologies and improving that technology to the point where it is cost-effective and usable for the producer to integrate into the farming operation,” Reckford says.
Improving Irrigation Skills
The program assisted in the deployment of 22 variable rate irrigation systems, and in 2005, the 100-square-mile wireless broadband telemetry network provided connectivity to 17 center-pivot irrigation systems covering 2,467 crop acres, plus supplying each farm with Internet access. Now, as part of the project, producers have been able to receive remote soil-water moisture sensors to learn more about what’s really going on below the soil surface.
Rad Yager, who works as an Extension agent in Dougherty County, Ga., and as an Extension and outreach specialist at the Stripling Irrigation Park near Camilla, says one of the purposes of the project is to demonstrate the usefulness of sensors to the producer.
“The sensor is read every 15 minutes,” he says. “The producer can go to the Web site and see in real time what is happening to the moisture level of his soil.”
Money For More Producers
Another good aspect of the AIM project is that the data and graphs will be available to the producer after the season is over.
“They will be able to go back, look at the data and say, ‘This was a really dry period here. What could I have done differently?’” Yager says.
Besides innovative devices, the AIM project received a grant to include the water-conserving sod-based rotation program. Sod-based rotation incorporates rotations of perennial warm season grasses into row crop systems. The benefits of this type of practice include water conservation, carbon sequestration and reductions in the use of agricultural inputs.
Contact Amanda Huber at (352) 486-7006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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