Use irrigation scheduling tools to quickly check your soil water balance and weather data to make decisions about how much and when to irrigate. Several free irrigation scheduling tools are now available as smartphone apps as well as for desktop use.

Irrigation scheduling from a smart phone Image

Why use irrigation scheduling tools?

✅ They are cost-​effective and convenient

✅ Reduce risk of over- or underwatering

✅ Hit target yield goals

✅ Increase water conservation

✅ Improve your bottom line

Fewer than 15% of farms in Ogallala region states report using the following methods to decide when to irrigate:

  • commercial or government irrigation scheduling services
  • soil moisture sensing devices
  • daily crop evapotranspiration (ET) reports to make irrigation management decisions

(Source: 2013 USDA-​NASS FRIS Survey)

What tools are available?


The Ogallala Water CAP team is actively working to improve four irrigation scheduling tools that:

  • are free to use and are similar to commercial tools requiring a paid subscription
  • are available for use with smart phones and/​or desktop computers
  • keep all information confidential; your data is not collected or stored for other purposes beyond your personal use.

Consider trying one of these tools this growing season! 

Highlights

✔ Region & Crops: Developed for Colorado crops with access to Colorado online weather data through Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network (CoAgMET) and Northern Water.

✔ Easily map fields, download soil properties from NRCS database, and access weather data from nearby weather stations. Input crop and irrigation system characteristics. Enter irrigation events throughout the season.

✔ Schedule irrigation using daily soil water balance, calculated evapotranspiration (ET), and weather data. 

✔Track irrigation requirements using a mobile app.

✔WISE can be used as irrigation record keeping tool with a variety of reporting functions.

Testimonial, corn producer from Yuma, CO: “WISE allows me to see what stage growth the corn is in and how much water it should be using for the next two or three days so I can appropriately decide whether I can get by with shutting the sprinkler off or keep it running.”

Highlights

✔ Region & Crops: Developed for Kansas crops and region with broad application to other regions and crops.

✔ ET-​based water balance irrigation scheduling.

✔ Easily enter crop and growth stage information, soil layer and root information, maximum allowed deficit, irrigation system efficiency, and rainfall discount.

Highlights 

✔Region and Crops: Developed for Texas High Plains cotton. Additional crops being added.

✔Forecasts season-​long, field-​specific irrigation schedules optimized for projected rainfall and irrigation availability.

✔Provides automatic access to local, near real-​time weather data.

✔Accounts for differences in evaporation and available soil water due to the irrigation method used.

✔Accounts for differences in evaporation and available soil water due to the irrigation method used.

✔Ability to evaluate “what-​if” scenarios using historic weather, irrigation capacity, and/​or other management parameters.

Learn more in this article: “Improving the DIEM Irrigation Scheduler

Testimonial, cotton producer from the TX High Plains: “With the current rate of water table decline, all producers need to learn how to use tools like this.”

Highlights

Region and crops: Currently optimized to work in Kansas and California for corn, sorghum, alfalfa, wheat, cotton, tomatoes, trees, and vines with application to other regions.

✔ Takes a systems approach to crop water management by evaluating the interactions between genetics, environment, and management using powerful crop simulation models.

✔ iCrop knows what has been done and learns from it as the season progresses. By providing in-​season yield predictions, the grower can adjust irrigation schedules to optimize production goals.

✔ Allows for site-​specific management.

✔ Can be linked to public and private soil and weather databases. 

“A producer who controls irrigation using a smartphone. A spreadsheet that uses weather data to predict when to water crops. Sensors that read how much water is in the soil. While some technologies may seem farfetched, especially in an agricultural context, they have been an integral, yet underused, part of water management for years.”

From “Twenty-​first century irrigation: researchers develop irrigation scheduling tools to help producers manage water.” (Fall, 2018 TXH2O magazine)

Concepts Underlying Irrigation Scheduling


Daily Water Soil Balance

Keep track of the soil water deficit and need to irrigate by accounting for all water additions and subtractions from the soil root zone and monitoring evapotranspiration (ET).

Available Water Capacity (AWC) or Plant Available Water

The soil root zone can be compared to a conceptual “bucket of water,” in which field capacity (FC) represents a full bucket and permanent wilting point (PWP) an empty bucket. The difference between FC and PWP is available water capacity (AWC), a.k.a. plant available water. 

The irrigation scheduling tools set a management allowed depletion (MAD) that determines the next irrigation well before the soil reaches “empty” (permanent wilting point). Typically for grain crops, that irrigation recommendations will be triggered at a point that is halfway between field capacity and permanent wilting point.

Irrigation Scheduling Tools for Improved Irrigation Management and Water Use Efficiency

This one-​hour webinar covers the basic concepts of irrigation scheduling and a presentation of how the DIEM, WISE, and KanSched tools can help improve water use efficiency.

Visit the Irrigation Innovation Consortium website to access a list of other irrigation management tools, such as crop water allocators, economic comparison tools, and crop yield prediction tools.