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Need To Water? Ask MIST
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Need To Water? Ask MIST

By Carroll Smith
Senior Writer
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More farmers are irrigating and need easy-to-use tools to determine proper timing and how much water to apply. Individuals in Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri are collaborating on or supporting the Web-based Mississippi Irrigation Scheduling Tool (MIST), spearheaded by Drs. Gretchen Sassenrath, USDA-ARS, and Amy Schmidt, Mississippi State University.

Another reason for developing MIST is to set up guidelines for proper water management to avoid depleting aquifers because of increased water use in the Mid-South.

“We are developing the MIST system on-line through a central server, so the producer doesn’t have to download and install anything on his or her computer or smart phone,” Sassenrath says. “The farmer can go online to a Web site and set up farm fields by inputting information such as planting date, soil type, crop, etc.

“The system will use a standard equation to calculate evapotranspiration (ET) from weather data,” she adds. “Crop coefficients are developed from research and used with the calculated ET to determine crop water use. The system then tallies crop water use against water available in the soil to calculate a deficit and flag when an irrigation is needed.”

Once a farmer provides initial field information, he or she can logon to the Web site, which is password protected, look at a particular field, and the system will say when that field needs to be irrigated. Another feature is prior notification that a field is about to need irrigation. The farmer can set up how far in advance he wants to be notified. The notification can arrive via email or text message.

The only other information the farmer has to input into the MIST system during the season is the irrigation amount for each field so that MIST can more accurately calculate the water in the soil.

A Farmer’s Perspective
Darrington Seward, who farms 18,000 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans, rice and wheat with his father, Byron, and their partner, Scott Harris, near Louise, Miss., is a MIST cooperator working with Sassenrath this summer to test the system.

“Farming 18,000 acres doesn’t leave many free moments during the day,” Seward says. “Any tool that allows us to automatically collect data and make a solid production decision based on that data is of great value in streamlining our operation.”

The Mississippi farmer says he carries a laptop in his truck, but if the MIST data is easy-to-read in a mobile format for a smart phone, he will take advantage of that option, too.

“The more accessible the data, the better,” Seward says. “We utilize a lot of precision agriculture, and MIST is just another facet of precision ag. In my opinion, to have irrigation scheduling data readily accessible without having to drive 50 miles would be of great value to production agriculture.”

MIST will be field-tested in 2011 and 2012, and a complete release is scheduled for 2013.

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.


Collaboration/Support Team

• Dr. Gretchen Sassenrath – USDA-ARS, Crop Production Systems Research Unit,
  Stoneville, Miss.
• Dr. Amy M. Schmidt – MSU
• Steve Martin – Head, Delta Research and Extension Center (DREC), Stoneville, Miss.
• Joe Crumpton – MSU
• Dr. Jeanne Schneider – USDA-ARS, Great Plains Grazing Research Lab
• H.C. Lyle Pringle III – DREC
• Dr. Henk van Riessen – Adjunct Professor, Delta State University
• Mark Silva – DREC
• Dr. Scott Samson – MSU
• Dr. Bijay Shrestha – MSU
• Dr. Ken Fisher – USDA-ARS, CPSRU
• Paul Rodrigue – NRCS Mississippi
• Peter Robinson – NRCS National
• Yazoo Mississippi Delta Water Management District
• Department of Environmental Quality
• Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board State Support Program
• Mississippi Corn Promotion Board State Support Program
• Cotton Incorporated

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