The objective of the project was to produce a proof of concept for an Irrigation Scheduling Tool (IST) that can facilitate the practice irrigation management and precision irrigation techniques in the Tasmanian farming industry as well as minimising water wastage for optimal irrigation practices where water requirements of plants are met 100% with no resulting yield loss. The IST will also be able to facilitate deficit irrigation. Deficit irrigation is where plants are watered under the optimal amount of water required resulting in a reduction in yield. The use of deficit irrigation management is used where some reductions in yield are justified because of the shortage of water.
Current irrigation scheduling employed by most modern day farmers is performed on a set-scheduled basis. It is set to ensure that plants will not get stressed in a certain interval, such as every 3-4 days. However, the current irrigation scheduling doesn’t consider rainfall factor, and how quickly the soil is drying out which is dependent on different weather and stages of crops development. As a result, large inefficiencies occur through runoff because of too much refill whilst on the other hand the non-calculation of evaporation may lead to loss of product caused by plant stress.
As water resources become more and more limited, there is an imperative to minimize the water usage by improving the irrigation scheduling that can increase efficiency of water usage within Tasmanian agriculture industry. A core goal of the project is to gain an accurate understanding of how the plant is using water over the irrigation season and therefore how to more accurately respond. Savings in water come from wiser irrigation practices founded on the derived information the system provides.
The CSIRO will host a series of web services that will allow the data input information to be obtainable. Another key part of the system is to provide the farmer/user with an easy to use web based graphical user interface. This will allow data readings to be viewed in a simple way by the end user. Readings from the sensors could be displayed in a table like format. Graphs would also be used to visualize data readings over time. For example the user could view the soil moisture level recorded from a sensor of the past couple of days. The Irrigation Scheduling Tool (IST) ultimately combines many of the irrigation aiding technologies available to the market today, taking the burden away from the end user of collating, sorting and organizing irrigation aiding information.
It is hoped that the proof of concept will provide the foundation for the creation of a commercially viable product/service that could be developed by an entity for market in the future.
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