Thursday, June 30, 2016

Valve controller box with 12 valves. Note the 8 risers at the head of each row 
Today I attended a field demonstration of "Variable Rate Drip Irrigation". VRDI is being developed by an Israeli company (Netafim) who are major suppliers of drip irrigation equipment around the world. They have been collaborating with E.&J. Gallo Winery to test the technology in vineyards. Our interest was to determine if this would be applicable to growing almonds.

Bundle of tubing along vine row.

 The concept is to irrigate small management areas, as small as 30 X 30 meters. Satellite imagery and ET (EvapoTranspiration) data are used to determine the appropriate amount of water to apply to each area. Soil moisture sensors and leaf stem water potential (aka pressure bomb) readings provide backup assurance that correct amounts are being applied.
The most challenging aspect is integrating the data collected and using the software to determine amounts to apply and then controlling the valve system.

In just one season, the vineyard managers were able to achieve much greater uniformity of canopy growth and uniformity of yields and juice quality. The results are very encouraging to pursue the application of this new approach to irrigation. I can see that major changes are coming to how we manage water. As dramatic as the changes over the last recent decades have been with the move to micro irrigation, I think the changes will be just as significant in the coming years.