If you’re a farmer or crop consultant, you may have wondered at some point: what are the benefits of using technology to manage crops’ water needs?
In this article, we present four main reasons why you should adopt an AgTech solution to irrigate with more precision.
1. Water savings
The most obvious potential benefit is saving water. Farmers often irrigate excessively – and that costs money (both in water and energy costs), it can hurt the crops’ health, and it has a negative environmental impact.
There are several case studies that prove that the use of AgTech can lead to water savings. In a study carried out by the EU, a Spanish lemon farm was able to cut their irrigation water consumption by 25% after adopting an AgTech solution. That is roughly equivalent to saving 24$ per acre (or 44€ per hectare).
A case study that analyzed a potato field in Portugal concluded that adopting soil and air sensors plus monitoring software resulted in water savings of 32%.
2. Energy, money and labor savings
In most farms, irrigation systems require energy (either electricity or fuel) to work. Sometimes, there’s also some expenditure associated with transporting water to the farm. Once again, we refer to the potato case study, which concluded that the use of technology to manage irrigation led to an economy in energy costs of 32%.
Labor and time are two other areas where AgTech can increase efficiency. With the right technology, the farmer (or crop consultant) doesn’t have to go to the field to check if the irrigation system is performing correctly since they can keep track of the irrigation’s status from their phone or computer.
3. Increase in yields
When irrigation is efficient and adapted to the needs of a crop, it will probably lead to an increase in yields.
A study by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) that included 55 farmers found that using technology that monitors data such as soil temperature and moisture led to an average yield increase of 8%.
The aforementioned potato case study obtained similar results. Using data gathered by an IoT solution, the farmer decided to reduce the amount of water he used for irrigation. At the end of the season, he observed that there was an increase in net yields – without scraps – of 12.6%. A smaller percentage of scraps means a higher return on investment.
If you irrigate in excess, you can cause root asphyxiation. This, in turn, may lead to root rot or even plant death. Needless to say, either situation means lower yields.
4. Healthier crops, higher-quality yields
One more conclusion from the potato case study was that the potatoes that were monitored with the IoT solution had higher quality than the potatoes grown without the aid of technology.
The potatoes from the monitored plot had better-looking skin and their sizes, as a whole, were more uniform. (See image above.)
Different variables factor in when we’re talking about other types of crops – like fruit. In this case, irrigating excessively leads to fruits with a lower Brix value, which means they’ll be less sweet. Monitoring crops’ water needs help to avoid this negative outcome.
Want to keep reading?