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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Irrigation management program soon to hit fields

NEWARK, Del. — This growing season, Delaware corn and soybean farmers will be able to use an irrigation scheduling program tailor-made for their state.
The Delaware Irrigation Management System, a web-based tool, is expected to be available by the end of February, according to Kevin Brinson, systems manager at the University of Delaware’s Delaware Environmental Observing System.
Development of the DIMS tool began in late 2010, Brinson said, working with Delaware Cooperative Extension staffers Cory Whaley and James Adkins.
Last year was “testing time” for the system and this year Brinson said it’s ready for growers to use on fields planted in corn or soybeans.
“There was nothing really for Delaware that did this. We were basically borrowing something from somewhere else and trying to adapt it to what we had here,” Brinson said. “This tool is actually specifically geared toward Delaware.”
To use the system, growers will first need to “set up” or register the fields they plan to track through the season, Brinson said, by entering a name for the field, its planting date, crop (corn or soybeans) and location.
From there, the system follows a “checkbook method” common in other irrigation scheduling programs — updating the soil moisture profile after rainfall or irrigation event entered by the grower.
For rainfall, the system uses data from the DEOS weather stations around the state or a grower can enter his own rainfall data from a specific field.
Data on soil type from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and any irrigation data is added by the grower to chart the soil moisture in the field to help the grower decide when to irrigate next.
Brinson said the tool won’t make recommendations on when an irrigation will be needed, but should give a good picture as to what’s been going on in the field.
“It gives (growers) a glimpse as to how they’re doing and from there it’s up to them,” he said.
The genesis of developing DIMS came out of helping growers avoid unnecessary irrigations while still maximizing crop production though an environmental benefit has attracted attention from state and federal agencies.
“Their hopes are if (farmers) are putting on the correct amount of water, they’re utilizing all the nutrients in the crop” and keeping more nutrients from getting into waterways, Brinson said.
When it’s ready for full use, the scheduling system will be accessible at the DEOS website, Brinson said outreach efforts through Delaware NRCS offices will begin as well to promote using system

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