Articles

5 University Information Resources for Farmers

by admin on December 28, 2015

Grapevines in CaliforniaUniversities that conduct research on agriculture provide excellent resources for farmers on how they can increase efficiency and productivity. Most universities have an extension or outreach page on their website that provides free information for farmers. Here are some examples of valuable resources available at leading agricultural science universities.

Washington State University
Washington State University has partnered with Washington state farmers to improve productivity and efficiency of products.

Practical Use of Soil Moisture Sensors for Irrigation Scheduling
Practical recommendations for using soil moisture sensors to improve an operation.

Drip Irrigation for Agricultural Producers
Basic information for getting started with drip irrigation and how to calculate drip application rate.

Kansas State University
The Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service has been working on farming issues for 100 years.

Frequently and Not-So-Frequently Asked Questions About Subsurface Drip Irrigation
Essential information to know about subsurface drip irrigation.

Cropping Rotations Using Limited Irrigation
Limited irrigation is a management practice utilizing crop rotations to “minimize water stress during critical crop growth stages.”

Water Runoff From Sprinkler Irrigation – A Case Study
An article discussing factors that influence irrigation runoff.

University of Arizona
The University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension provides information on a wide range of topics including sustainable agriculture, irrigation, and drought.

Measuring Water Flow and Rate on the Farm
Information on things to consider when selecting a measuring device for irrigation.

Determining the Amount of Irrigation Water Applied to a Field
An article that explains how to avoid applying too little or too much water to a field.

University of Florida
The University of Florida’s online agriculture resources features an abundance of informational guides and publications.

Smart Irrigation Controllers: How Do Soil Moisture Sensor (SMS) Irrigation Controllers Work?
An article explaining soil moisture sensor irrigation controllers.

Selection and Use of Water Meters for Irrigation Water Measurement
Describes the different types of flow meters, selection criteria, and maintenance.

University of California Davis
UC Davis was ranked as the second best university for agriculture sciences in the world.

Irrigating Corn with Limited Water Supplies
A guide for irrigating corn crops with limited water supply. They also provide guides on Almonds, Olives, Winegrapes, Tomatoes, and other crops here.

How Farmers Irrigate in California
An article describing the typical irrigation methods in California and facts about crop water needs.

Tip: A good way to find resources is to search a specific domain in Google for a keyword. E.g. site:http://extension.arizona.edu/ irrigation

How to Give the Gift of Water This Holiday

by admin on December 14, 2015

There are numerous organizations that are working on tough challenges related to water including improving accessibility to clean water or conducting research on the best strategies to conserve the freshwater resources we have. Here are 12 excellent organizations that you can contribute to in order to help with global water issues.

Pacific Institute
A think tank that provides thought-leadership in developing sustainable water policies. Its mission is to create and advance solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges.
Donate

The Water Project
For $12,000 to $15,000, you can sponsor a well or water project that will provide clean water and have an enormous impact on an entire village. Photos and GPS coordinates are provided to show progress during and after construction.
Donate

Project WET
Seametrics previously interviewed the CEO of Project WET, an organization helping teachers throughout the world teach students about important water concepts such as managing and conserving water resources.
Donate

Columbia Water Center
As part of Columbia University, the Columbia Water Center works on developing innovations to address water scarcity around the world. Some examples include large scale rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharging systems in Africa and water quantity and quality management strategies in China’s Yangtze River basin.
Donate

Global Water Challenge
GWC is a coalition of leading companies & NGOs that aim to solve our world’s most pressing global water challenges. They work with companies like Coca Cola to invest in safe water access programs with the goal to benefit 2 million people by 2015.
Donate

American Rivers
American Rivers focuses on river conservation and has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers since 1973. They advocate for water efficiency and low impact supply solutions to protect the water flowing in rivers.
Donate

WaterCredit
WaterCredit provides microfinance tools to help people obtain access to clean water. They have helped more than 2.6 million people access clean water and sanitation through $128 million in capital disbursed.
Donate

Charity: Water
Charity: Water puts 100% of public donations toward clean water projects and they provide photos and GPS to track projects you contribute to. You can donate small amounts or fund entire water projects starting at $10,000.
Donate

The Soil and Water Conservation Society
SWCS is a scientific and education non-profit that primarily serves as an advocate for conservation professionals and science-based policy. They create training and professional development opportunities for conservationists and educate local policy makers about conservation problems.
Donate

Imagine H2O
Imagine H2O inspires innovation and empowers entrepreneurs to tackle water problems through its prize competitions and business accelerator programs. Past competitions have included $50k in prizes for data-driven solutions to water resource challenges.
Donate

American Water Works Association
The largest non-profit scientific and education association focusing on managing and treating water. It works on providing solutions to effectively manage water and educates water professionals and the public about water issues.
Donate

Waterkeeper Alliance
The Waterkeeper Alliance works to protect water resources with 260 local organizations throughout six continents. The organization supports laws that protect water resources and volunteers monitor rivers and lakes for pollution.
Donate

As global demand for food grows and accessible freshwater resources continue to shrink, precision irrigation technology is helping farmers to save water while increasing productivity. The term precision irrigation can often refer to drip irrigation, however it can also include other tools such as variable rate application, sensors, and analytics that help farmers reduce water waste. Essentially, precision irrigation is concerned with optimizing irrigation across an entire field. Here are five tools and methods that help farmers to implement precision irrigation.

precision-irrigationData Collection and Analysis
Collecting data about farm conditions from tools like real-time soil moisture management systems, climate data monitors, and drones can help farmers make quick decisions to optimize their water usage. Real-time data about the soil moisture in the field can allow the farmer to apply the right amount of water based on plant needs to avoid water waste or plant stress. Drones are an early-stage technology that is pending approval from the FAA for farm use and can efficiently collect useful data such as field drainage, plant maturity, irrigation leaks, crop health, and more. Software applications can analyze data from multiple sources and provide farmers with recommendations to increase irrigation efficiency.

Drip Irrigation
A large amount of water is lost with overhead spray irrigation from evaporation and surface run-off but drip irrigation provides water directly to the root area. A study by Washington State University found that a drip system resulted in 50% less water use and 50% less weed growth. Although the challenges include greater up-front costs and more system maintenance, the advantages include lower water costs, less weed growth, and lower soil erosion potential. Farmers switching to drip irrigation have also seen increases in yields which can increase revenue per acre of farmland.

Variable Irrigation
The University of Florida describes variable irrigation as “innovative technology that enables a center pivot irrigation system to optimize irrigation application.” While uniform irrigation may overwater or underwater some areas, a variable irrigation system (VRI) can apply irrigation at different rates to different zones of the field. Management of irrigation zones is based on data collected such as soil electrical conductivity, soil moisture, topography, and aerial photos. A control system, that includes valves on sprinklers, can turn individual sprinklers on and off and vary irrigation rates.

Monitoring Irrigation Rate
After determining the optimal rate of irrigation based on data from the field, it is important to have an accurate way to measure the rate of irrigation that is being applied. Irrigation water flowmeters are one commonly used tool that will help monitor the water flow in an irrigation system. According to New Mexico State University, flow meters are excellent devices for measuring flow in an irrigation pipe, require little maintenance, and are usually accurate to within 2 percent.

Automated Irrigation Systems
Automated irrigation systems can take inputs like soil moisture data and crop height and adjust irrigation rates automatically. According to the University of Florida, once an automatic soil water sensor-based irrigation system is installed it can require only weekly observation and water application automatically adjusts based on plant needs and weather conditions throughout the season. A University of California experiment showed that automated irrigation system can conserve water by reducing runoff to less than 5% of applied water.

15 Interesting Facts About Drones in Farming

by admin on November 16, 2015

Drones are an exciting new technology that could change how farmers manage their irrigation and could eventually become as ubiquitous as tractors. Drones can collect data that can be used to determine if crops have enough water or find leaks in the irrigation system. Here are some interesting facts about the use of drones on farms.

droneThe Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that farms will eventually account for an 80% share of the commercial drone market.
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The FAA does not currently allow drones for commercial use but there is a proposal under review to change the law and farmers can currently apply for exemptions.
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The proposed changes to FAA regulations would require commercial drone operators to obtain a certification which includes passing an exam.
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The FAA proposed regulations would restrict flying to daytime only, require that drone operators maintain visual contact with their aircraft at all times, and limit drone altitude to 500 feet.
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Drone data can show where crops are healthy and where crops are weak so farmers can make adjustments.
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Thermal cameras on drones can be used to detect leaks and determine if crops are getting too much or too little water.
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The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that farmers could see a return on investment of agriculture drones of $12 per acre for corn and $2 to $3 per acre for soybeans and wheat.
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According to a study, corn, soybean and wheat farmers could save an estimated $1.3 billion annually by using drones to increase crop yields and reduce input costs.
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A drone can zoom down to the square inch and even count each individual plant, which would have previously been very difficult and impractical.
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Canada has allowed drone use in agriculture for years.
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Drones that could be used by farmers have a wide range of prices from below $1,000 to over $30,000, depending on whether they come with sensors that measure moisture content and plant light reflectivity.
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Sensors in drones can also evaluate drainage and track how mature crops are.
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A drone’s software can plan a flight path to maximize coverage of a farm’s cropland as well as fly itself from takeoff to landing.
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Crop imaging with a manned aircraft can cost $1,000 per hour, while a drone can be bought for less than $1,000.
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Drones can be used to survey a crop weekly or daily to create a time-series animation that shows changes or issues that can be acted on.
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5 Useful Irrigation Tools for Saving Water

by admin on November 2, 2015

As water prices have soared for farmers in drought-stricken areas of the country, farmers are considering ways to reduce their water usage and water waste. Here are five irrigation tools that farmers can use to save on their water costs.

Drip IrrigationDrip Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation is one of the most efficient methods for delivering water to crops with minimal waste. Currently, it is used on less than 2 percent of irrigated land in the world but it can reduce water use by 30 to 70 percent. Although it has a high initial cost, there are a number of advantages including reduction of evaporation, reduction of water consumed by weeds, and irrigation to an exact root depth of crops.

Water Flowmeters
Water flowmeters can accurately measure how much water is being used to irrigate so that water use can be precisely managed and unnecessary watering can be avoided. Using the flow rate from the flowmeter, the volume of water used to irrigate for a certain period of time can be calculated. Monitoring flow rate can also help farmers discover problems with the irrigation system such as costly leaks.

Soil Sensors
Measuring soil properties such as moisture can help farmers determine how much water is necessary to keep crops adequately watered. According to the University of Nebraska, the ideal precision agriculture system includes a sensor in the soil that is connected to a device that analyzes the data and changes the flow rate instantaneously. Soil sensors can help farmers understand the condition of roots to suggest when it is time to irrigate or when the plant’s thirst is quenched to prevent wasting water, washing nutrients down the soil, and developing a shallow root pattern.

Irrigation Management Mobile Apps
Mobile apps that can assist farmers with irrigation management are continuously improving. One example is FieldNET Mobile, which allows users to control and monitor irrigation equipment from their iPhone or Android device enabling farmers to quickly adjust their irrigation based on changing conditions. Smart Irrigation Apps, developed by a University of Georgia agricultural scientist, helps southeast farmers plan their irrigation based on how much water their crops need and data from local weather stations.

Drones
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that farms will eventually account for 80% of the commercial drone market. Thermal cameras on drones can be used to detect leaks and determine if crops are getting too much or too little water. Although, the FAA does not currently allow drones for commercial use, there is a proposal under review to change the law and farmers can currently apply for exemptions.

5 Growing Trends in Farm Irrigation

by admin on October 19, 2015

The United Nations estimates that farmers will need to grow 70% more food to feed the population by 2050 while available fresh water resources will continue to shrink. Faced with multiple challenges related to water availability including drought and decreasing groundwater, here are five growing trends in farm irrigation.

farmer water conservation tools1. Drought-Resistant Seeds
Biotech companies are using advanced genomics to create seeds for crops that need less water and are more tolerant of drought conditions. For example, drought resistant crops may have deeper roots or stomata that close sooner to hold more moisture. Although results can be mixed, it is one way farmers can deal with the costly multi-year drought in the Southwest United States and the expected increase in droughts in the future.

2. Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation allows for precise control of the application of water and fertilizer, which can greatly reduce the amount of water needed for crop irrigation. Although it can cost up to $1 million to install, many farmers are seeing the appeal of saving water which can be used to plant more crops or reduce costs. As of 2010, 43% of California farmland still used some form of gravity irrigation but this is down from 70% in 1991.

3. Measuring Water Flow
Precise measurement of water usage with water flowmeters can prevent overwatering and reduce costs for farmers. As water resources become more limited and expensive it will be more important to have accurate data on how much water is being used to irrigate. Additionally, soil sensors can track soil moisture to determine how much water should be used and allow farmers to make water-saving adjustments.

4. Data Analytics
New software products that crunch large amounts of data can provide farmers with important information that they previously didn’t have access to. Using data such as local weather as well as data collected from their equipment, farmers can receive recommendations and better understand how much water is needed to optimize production while minimizing water waste.

5. Drilling More Wells
Farmers are relying more on groundwater sources for irrigation and as the water table falls due to unsustainable levels of pumping, farmers need deeper wells to continue tapping local groundwater sources. In California’s Central Valley the drilling contractors are so busy that the waiting time can be six months to install a new well at a cost of around $100,000. Some farmers are even buying their own drilling equipment to drill their own wells.

16 Interesting U.S. Farm Water Facts

by admin on October 5, 2015

Farm irrigation is one of the largest consumers of freshwater in the United States, dwarfing household use. In 2005, irrigation accounted for over 32 times more freshwater withdrawals than domestic use (128 billion gallons per day versus 4 billion gallons per day). Here are 16 interesting facts about water use by America’s farms.

Irrigation equipment on farm fieldAgriculture accounts for approximately 80 percent of the United States’ consumptive water use and over 90 percent in many Western States.
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Since 1950, irrigation has represented about 65 percent of total withdrawals, excluding those for thermoelectric power.
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Surface water withdrawals for irrigation in the United States has decreased from 77 percent of the total in 1950 to 59 percent in 2005 (due to increased groundwater use).
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In 2013, there were 229,237 farms in the United States with 55.3 million irrigated acres.
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In California, almond trees cover nearly 1 million acres and consume 1.07 trillion gallons of water per year.
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In an average year California irrigates 9.6 million acres with about 34 million acre-feet of water.
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More than 90% of pasture and cropland in the 256,000-square-mile Colorado River Basin requires irrigation.
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Irrigated agriculture currently consumes more than 70% of the water supply within the Colorado River basin.
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Four states: California, Idaho, Colorado, and Montana combined accounted for 49 percent of the total irrigation withdrawals (2005).
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More than 90 percent of the groundwater pumped from the Ogallala, the nation’s largest aquifer underlying some 250,000 square miles stretching from Texas to South Dakota, is used for agricultural irrigation.
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80% of Washington water withdrawals are for agriculture (1.8 million irrigated acres).
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43 percent of California farmland in 2010 used some form of gravity irrigation such as flood irrigation rather than more efficient methods like drip irrigation.
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Overall, 42% of California agriculture uses drip irrigation, 43% flood irrigation and 15% sprinklers.
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About half the 60 million acres of irrigated land in the United States use flood irrigation.
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California produces two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and farmers sold almost $50 billion of food in 2013.
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Over 400,000 acres in California, about 6 percent of cropland, was left unused because of the drought in 2014.
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If you have an interesting farm water fact, please share it in the comments below.

10 Excellent Infographics About Water

by admin on September 21, 2015

The following infographics about water provide interesting statistics and information about the present and future of the world’s freshwater resources.

This infographic by UN Water explains how water is required to provide adequate energy for the world. Energy production accounts for 15% of global water withdrawals.

FINAL

Another infographic by the UN displays stats on water availability and sustainability for the future.

sustain-water

This infographic nicely displays the water footprint of different goods.

savewater

According to the following infographic, a typical suburban lawn uses 10,000 gallons per year in addition to rainwater.

Water_infographic_web

The Nature Conservancy explains the hidden water footprint of Americans, estimated at 751,777 gallons per year.

water-footprint

Take Part outlines water challenges faced by the United States including the $1 trillion estimated price tag to upgrade America’s water infrastructure over the next 25 years.

take-part

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations displays a map of the parts of the world facing the most water scarcity.

Water-scarcity

Water Use it Wisely provides great visualizations about water conservation including a breakdown of household water use.

water-use-it-wisely

Weather Underground describes the consequences when water supplies are reduced by drought.

drought

Our infographic about farm water conservation shares interesting facts about the water consumed by U.S. agriculture.

agriculture

Do you have an excellent infographic about water to share? Leave it in the comments below.

The ongoing changes to the Earth’s climate will have far reaching effects on the future availability of freshwater resources. Here are five ways climate change will affect the world’s freshwater resources.

Rising Sea Level
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, rising sea levels can turn coastal aquifers into saltwater and cause problems for the local water infrastructure (this is known as saltwater intrusion). An example is the Biscayne aquifer that supplies water to the Florida Keys. Rising sea levels would add saltwater to the Biscayne aquifer, making it saline.

Increasing Droughts
According to NASA climate modeling, the increasing temperature will make a megadrought highly likely in the Southwest before the end of the century. The researchers estimate a 80% chance that there will be a drought spanning multiple decades in the Southwestern United States which would cause devastating shortages in freshwater supplies.

Changes in Snowfall/Rainfall
Increased temperatures result in decreased snowfall in the mountains which lead to less freshwater flow to rivers. The California snow pack is already at the lowest levels on record and this has put significant stress on the state’s reservoirs. Higher temperatures also lead to increased evaporation which means more water in the atmosphere and less rainfall in some areas. Climate models predict a strengthening of existing precipitation patterns, meaning dry areas will get drier.

Extreme Rainfall
Climate change is projected to increase major storms and flooding especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Flooding can damage the water infrastructure that treats and distributes freshwater. It can also overflow sewer systems and cause rivers to come in contact with pollutants, both which can contaminate freshwater resources.

Melting Glaciers
Since glaciers provide a major source of freshwater, shrinking glaciers will reduce the availability to accessible freshwater. Scientists at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union said that glaciers in parts of the Canadian Rockies will shrink to 5 to 20 percent of their current size. Glaciers are like reservoirs that store water in the winter and release it in the summer. They currently store about 69% of the world’s freshwater. More than one-sixth of the world population relies on glaciers and seasonal snow packs for water resources. If all land ice melted, the sea level would rise 230 feet globally.

11 Interesting Facts About Megadroughts

by admin on August 24, 2015

A megadrought is a prolonged drought that spans multiple decades, causing widespread shortages in freshwater resources. The following facts and statistics provide insight into this long-term natural disaster that results a significant impact on water supplies and agriculture.

NASA scientists predict that there is an 80 percent chance of a megadrought in the Southwest United States before the end of the century.
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If emissions are reduced, the probability of a megadrought in the Great Plains by the end of the century will drop to an estimated 60-70%.
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A once thriving settlement by the Pueblo peoples in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico was abandoned in the 13th century due to a 60-year megadrought.
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In the past 1,200 years California has experienced two megadroughts that lasted up to 200 years.
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California’s climate was unusually wet in the 20th century compared to previous centuries.
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If carbon emissions don’t start declining by 2050, the risk of a decade-long drought in the Southwest and Central Plains doubles in the second half of the century.
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NASA scientists predict that a megadrought could occur as early as 2050.
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A single El Niño weather pattern in the West could interrupt periods of prolonged drought.
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The African Sahel region has experienced a megadrought every every 30 to 60 years with an extended megadrought from 1400 to 1750.
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A 300-year drought starting about 4,200 years ago was linked to the collapse of the Akkadians in Mesopotamia, the world’s first great empire.
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For comparison, the 1930s Dust Bowl in the Midwest, considered America’s worst drought in the 20th century, lasted just four to eight years in some areas.
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