Irrigation management relies on growers taking many things into account. Timing, for example, is critical to maximise crop yield and quality. Successful managers do this well, but often need to rely on experience rather than definitive data to make their decisions. Differences in soil type, regional climate, water availability, system capacity, attitude to risk and the amount of data collected means that irrigation management has to be tailored and responsive. Decisions are often challenged when situations are considerably different from normal, such as when extreme weather events occur.
But recent improvements in wireless sensor technology and advanced data analytics enable use of plant- and soil-based sensing to continually monitor crops and soils, allowing application and a degree of precision not previously attainable on a commercial scale.
Digiscape’s WaterWise initiative focuses on providing Australian irrigators with digital strategies to confidently apply irrigation water at the right time to optimise yield, quality and water use for high-value crops.
CSIRO has already led ground-breaking research in plant-based sensing technologies (such as ‘by letting the plants do the talking’) to improve yield and water use efficiency in Australian cotton systems. The system uses proximal (single location in the field) continuous canopy temperature measurement and offers growers a simple means of identifying crop stress.
In conjunction with existing soil moisture measurements, our current system could offer significantly refined irrigation scheduling decisions in other high value crops such as almonds, potatoes, grapes and tomatoes.
So, Digiscape’s WaterWise project will develop a platform that provides irrigation decision making based on both monitored and forecast crop water stress status. It will incorporate advanced data analytics, spatial sensing systems, weather forecasts, and novel physiology research of crop biochemistry.
We aim to develop the minimum tool box (data and sensors) needed for research purposes that will quickly deliver benefits to industry. We are seeking innovative growers and industry partners that are keen in working with us to develop, apply, validate and test our irrigation toolbox on-farm.
This project is led by Dr Mike Bange and Dr Rose Brodrick.