Variable Rate Irrigation Changes the Way Growers Irrigate

New technologies are changing the way growers irrigate – helping them maximize yield potential by applying the correct amount of water over every inch of their fields.

“Irrigation is very dynamic, and most fields have differing watering needs,” said Sam Haider, irrigation scientist and vice president of international business development at Lindsay Corporation. “Applying the correct amount of water at the right time is essential to maximizing yields and profitability.”

With variable rate irrigation (VRI), Haider said growers have the ability to control the amount of water that’s applied to different areas of their field. He said it’s especially beneficial on fields that have:

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  • Different crops under the same pivot
  • Crops with different maturity dates
  • Crops with different planting dates
  • Multiple soil types
  • Roads or drainage ditches under the pivot
  • Ponds, creeks or wet spots under the pivot

“Variable rate irrigation helps manage fields with different landscape, soil and crop characteristics,” he said. “It helps prevent under-irrigation which leads to crop stress and over-irrigation which results in deep percolation and leaching of fertilizer from the soil root zone. With VRI, growers can also avoid watering designated areas – shutting off the system as it crosses a pond, for example.”

Haider added that there are different types of variable rate irrigation – basic (also known as sectional, sector-based or speed-based) and precision.

“Sector-based VRI allows control of application depths for up to 360 sectors of a pivot area and can be used on virtually any pivot that was either purchased with or retrofitted with FieldNET,” he said. “Sector-based VRI makes it easy for growers to work with agronomists and crop advisors to create irrigation recommendations that are unique to the field and crop conditions.”

Precision VRI is much more flexible, as it gives growers the ability to control their water application with pinpoint accuracy by adding GPS-based control over each individual sprinkler at every spot within the field.

Which type is best for you? Haider will take a closer look at the benefits of each option in our next blog post.