Convergence of technologies for irrigation management

Convergence of technologies for irrigation management


Australia: Dr John Hornbuckle and his colleagues at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Land and Water combined remote sensing technology and information delivery through SMS, developed a system, IrriSATSMS.

The system has been trialled for three seasons in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) in New South Wales, Australia. This season, it will help manage more than 100 gigalitres of water across eight irrigation regions in the Murray–Darling Basin.

The remote sensing is done via NASA’s Landsat satellite, with images updated every few days. The images are analysed using a normalised difference vegetation index – based on how green crops are, and their amount of biomass – to track crop growth in real time. The satellite data provides a picture of crop performance that can be gathered down to a scale of 30 × 30 m, and combined with data from on-ground weather station networks to determine crop water use. The combined information is then delivered to irrigators via SMS.

Irrigators use various methods to determine when to water their crops, such as a fixed schedule (eg irrigate every seven days), soil moisture probes, or simply testing the soil with a shovel. “IrriSAT tries to fill the gap: to get the 90–95 per cent of people who aren’t using soil moisture probes on to a quantifiable technique,” said Dr Hornbuckle.

CSIRO is now working with a commercial partner and hopes to commercialise the IrriSATSMS service over the next 12 months. According to Dr Hornbuckle, one of the benefits of the technology is its relatively low cost compared with some of the other services already in the market.

Around the world, other SMS messaging services have been developed for farmers, such as a pest warning system in the Philippines, and an information service on market prices in Cambodia. But, Dr Hornbuckle believes the combination of SMS with satellite information makes IrriSAT unique.

Source: Science Alert