Based on yield variability in orchards, it is evident that many trees receive too much or too little water and fertilizer under uniform management. Optimizing water and nutrient management based on the demand of individual trees could result in improved yield and environmental quality. A microsprinkler sensor and control system was developed to provide spatially variable delivery of water and fertilizer, and a prototype was installed in a nectarine orchard. Fifty individually addressable microsprinkler nodes, one located at every tree, each contained control circuitry and a valve. A drip line controller stored the irrigation schedule and issued commands to each node. Pressure sensors connected to some of the nodes provided lateral line pressure feedback. The system was programmed to irrigate individual trees for specific durations or to apply a specific volume of water at each tree. Time scheduled irrigation demonstrated the ability to provide microsprinkler control at individual trees, but also showed variation in discharge because of pressure differences between laterals. Volume scheduled irrigation used water pressure feedback to control the volume applied by individual microsprinklers more precisely, and the average error in application volume was 3.7%. Fault detection was used to check for damaged drip lines and clogged or damaged emitters. A pressure monitoring routine automatically logged errors and turned off the microsprinklers when drip line breaks and perforations caused pressure loss. Emitter diagnosis routines correctly identified clogged and damaged microsprinkler emitters in 359 of 366 observations. Irrigation control at the individual tree level has many useful features and should be explored further to characterize fully the benefits or disadvantages for orchard management.
Precision Agriculture – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 7, 2006
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