Efforts towards a better understanding of proper irrigation management in humid regions of the United States: Findings, pitfalls, and recommendations for where to go next
Mr. Robert L. Vick, Jr.
North Carolina State University
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Candidate for VT/BSE Faculty Position
Simply browse the headlines of your news provider of choice, and you will quickly be reminded of the real and present challenges of drought in the United States. Water management decisions have significant economic and environmental implications across the entire country, including the humid Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Population growth in urban centers coupled with a desire for high value, visually appealing landscapes has substantially strained municipal water supplies, with landscape irrigation accounting for nearly one-third of all residential water use nationwide. At the same time, climate variability, extreme weather events, and volatile commodity prices have led to increased interest and investment in agricultural irrigation in parts of the US where dryland production has been the norm. Unfortunately, there is a common misunderstanding of how to properly manage such systems. Producers in humid regions may not depend on irrigation to the same degree as those in semi-arid to arid regions, but they do face different challenges to proper irrigation scheduling, namely rainfall. The issue in humid regions is not typically the quantity of annual rainfall, but rather the timing of it.
This presentation will highlight research on improving both landscape and agricultural irrigation. The beginning will cover research conducted in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin in North and South Carolina on the water conservation potential of smart irrigation technologies, particularly highlighting the difficulties of implementing new control technologies on existing irrigation systems and strategies for overcoming them. Next, the focus will shift to two studies on scheduling and controlling irrigation of two of North Carolina's most important agricultural crops, sweet potatoes and field corn. Both studies relied upon the use of remotely monitored soil-moisture sensors (accessible via the internet) for irrigation scheduling, with the latter incorporating crop growth stage predictions and short-term weather forecasts into the irrigation decision process. Concluding remarks will highlight major findings and suggestions for further research in optimizing the use of our finite water resources.
A mock extension presentation will follow on the fundamentals of irrigation scheduling in humid regions.