Posted 31 October 2016. PMN Crop News.
UF/IFAS Avocado Irrigation App Should Save Money, Water
Source: University of Florida Press Release. www.ifas.ufl.edu
Gainesville, Florida (October 17, 2016)--Avocado growers now know that a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences mobile irrigation app works well to save money while maintaining crop yields. This data, reported in a new study, is critical for an industry that has a $100 million a year economic impact on Florida.
It’s also important because agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s water, the study’s authors say. Feeding the world’s population may require 50 percent more water than was needed in 2012, according to the World Water Assessment Program’s report to the United Nations. Thus, scientists are concerned about meeting the world’s food demand. Conserving agricultural water use through efficient irrigation scheduling would alleviate some of the burden of the increased demand.
To get the best irrigation results, many scientists use a combination of weather data and rates of evapotranspiration, a measure of how much water leaves the plant and its surrounding soil. UF/IFAS scientists tested data for average evapotranspiration for different periods of days. They also compared wet seasons versus dry seasons, said Kati Migliaccio, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and lead author on the study.
Almost all of Florida’s avocados are grown in Miami-Dade County. Thus, researchers conducted this study in an avocado grove at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. In the study, scientists simulated drainage, water in the soil, runoff and how much water was in the plants. They wanted to find data from an optimal number of previous days’ average evapotranspiration needed to estimate an app irrigation schedule.
They concluded that the five-day schedule already on the app works best, Migliaccio said.
UF/IFAS researchers put out on app last year that avocado growers can use to reduce water use. The app indicates optimal times to irrigate, based on a five-day average of evapotranspiration.
“The app offers industry and crop specific features to accommodate different varieties and management styles,” Migliaccio said, adding that she hopes more growers start using it. “Using the irrigation rate in the study, we can reduce the amount of water, and thus energy used to irrigate avocado, while not influencing crop yield.”
The study is published in the journal Agricultural Water Management.