By Sandra M. Guzmán
Efficient irrigation management is crucial in optimizing tree growth and promoting sustainable management practices in modern agriculture. This article introduces IrrigMonitor, an Internet of Things data visualization platform developed at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) Smart Irrigation and Hydrology Lab. IrrigMonitor is a centralized system that offers real-time insights into soil-moisture levels and can be adjusted based on specific soil conditions. This article presents an overview of IrrigMonitor’s interface, explores its functionality and discusses its potential applications in citrus water and nutrient management.
SIMPLIFYING IRRIGATION SCHEDULING
Irrigation scheduling can be a challenging process, especially when dealing with uncertainties related to weather and field-management conditions. Real-time data collection and assessment are necessary to optimize yields, reduce energy use and minimize nutrient losses. This data is typically collected through various sources, including soil-moisture sensors, weather stations and weather forecasts. Nowadays, users can access this information through software platforms or dashboards that provide real-time data in the form of graphs or instantaneous readings.
IrrigMonitor centralizes data from various sensor-manufacturing companies and data providers. IrrigMonitor empowers users with comprehensive insights into soil moisture, evapotranspiration and a spectrum of weather variables in a single display. This platform lets users tailor and manage their weekly irrigation schedules per their requirements. Users can visualize data from multiple providers, which can facilitate the development of practical irrigation management strategies. Additionally, IrrigMonitor shares information about rain and other essential weather. The key advantage of IrrigMonitor is its user-friendly interface which allows users to make informed decisions through a single, streamlined display.
UNDERSTANDING THE DISPLAYS
IrrigMonitor provides real-time information on the water needs of each orchard. The software has four displays that can be personalized based on the specific soil conditions of each orchard. In the context of citrus water management, the circular color-based displays on the left side of Figure 1 indicate soil-moisture levels. Green means good water availability, yellow suggests it might be time to water, and anything below yellow means soil is too dry. Blue and purple values mean soil is too wet.
In Figure 1, the two circular displays show data from two sensors — one placed in the top soil layer and the other in the bottom layer. The top sensor, situated around 7 inches deep, corresponds to the primary root zone, while the lower sensor is close to 16 inches below the root zone. It is important to note that the depth of sensor installation depends on the location of the orchard, irrigation system and the selected sensor. See here for more information about sensor installation and management.
Users often wonder why the sensor in the bottom layer shows saturation conditions while the upper layer indicates water needs or good water availability. When the bottom display turns blue or indicates saturation it could be due to the water-table elevation or water movement from the top soil to the bottom soil. However, if both the upper and lower sensors are blue after an irrigation event, overirrigation has occurred. In other words, too much water has been applied to the soil, and both layers are saturated.
The right side of the display is a conventional graphical representation, typically spanning a month. The upper graph illustrates soil moisture content trends. Green represents the top sensor, and yellow represents the bottom sensor. It is possible to introduce high-frequency low-volume irrigation schedules automatically by making decisions with the top layer. This type of irrigation is especially recommended to reduce stress in trees with citrus greening disease.
The lower graph shows a summary of electrical conductivity (EC) data throughout the month. EC trends can provide an indication of the movement of nutrients within the soil when fertigation is used. Fertigation is the application of fertilizers through irrigation. The lower graph specifically helps users understand whether nutrients are staying within the root system or leaching away. If you notice a peak in the EC reading on the top sensor but not on the lower sensor, the applied nutrients are staying within the root system. On the other hand, if there are peaks in the graphs for both the top and the bottom sensors, applied nutrients may be moving out of the root system.
If there are no spikes in the soil water content or no recent irrigation events, but there are still noticeable peaks in EC, it might not necessarily indicate nutrient movement. These spikes could be related to other ions present in the soil. It is essential to consider the broader context when interpreting EC data.
IrrigMonitor is a versatile tool available to citrus irrigation managers for trial and is designed to cater to various users’ needs. Whether you have sensors in the field (without telemetry systems), seek personalized irrigation scheduling or wish to receive tailored recommendations based on your field’s conditions and preferences, IrrigMonitor is available to assist you. Additionally, if you manage multiple data displays and are in search of a centralized platform to streamline data visualization, or if you require technical assistance in understanding and optimizing irrigation schedules based on data, IrrigMonitor is an all-in-one solution.
Sandra M. Guzmán is an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS IRREC in Fort Pierce.
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