Ag News

Smart Irrigation Month highlights ways farmers conserve water

by Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Jul 12, 2023 at 0:00 AM

By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Irrigation plays a vital part in helping Georgia farmers grow their crops. About 50% of Georgia’s cropland is irrigated according to UGA research.

During July the Flint River Soil & Water Conservation District is celebrating Smart Irrigation Month to highlight the many ways farmers use technology and management practices to efficiently use water to grow our food and fiber.

UGA Extension research is helping Georgia farmers use smart irrigation technology, such as soil moisture sensors, plant sensors and evapotranspiration tools in conjunction with smartphone irrigation apps, to schedule irrigation based on when a crop needs water and how much it needs to conserve water.  Management practices like no-till or strip-till planting also help conserve water.

The benefit of smart irrigation and irrigation scheduling for farmers is knowing what the water requirement is for their crops and meeting that need with irrigation, if needed, to maintain yield potential. Smart irrigation helps increase irrigation water use efficiency by applying the right amount of water at the right time.

A 2020 UGA report by Dr. Wesley Porter shows smart irrigation can increase peanut crop yields by 20% and reduce irrigation water use by 60% in extremely wet years. The report shows smart irrigation practices can increase cotton crop yields by 10% and reduce irrigation water use by 75% in extremely wet years.

These stats are important because studies have shown both cotton and peanut crops that are produced without smart irrigation practices have shown yield reductions due to over irrigation in wet years.

UGA research shows that using smart irrigation practices has the potential to save Georgia peanut farmers $100 million and Georgia cotton farmers $120 million in irrigation costs in a very dry year.

For peanuts, the potential irrigation savings is based on estimated electrical energy costs for pumping irrigation water (@$7/ac-in) which translates to an estimated savings of about $250/acre applied to 50% of Georgia’s average 800,000 peanut acres.

For cotton, potential irrigation savings in a dry year is estimated to be around $200/acre savings applied to 50% of Georgia’s average 1.2-million-acre cotton crop.

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Most of UGA’s irrigation research is done at the C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park (SIRP) in western Mitchell County. The SIRP, initiated in 2000, includes 130 acres approximately three miles from the Flint River. The park facilitates research on soils and weather representative of the southwest corner of Georgia. It has an exceptional irrigation research infrastructure that includes five center pivot systems and four linear-move systems with high quality water provided by three Floridan aquifer and one Claiborne aquifer deep wells. Crops being studied at SIRP include cotton, corn, peanut, sweet corn, and soybean.

The SIRP will host its Biennial Research Park Field Day on Aug. 3 from 8:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The event will feature field tours of research at the SIRP via trams, keynote speakers and a sponsored lunch. The activities begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. RSVP by July 28 to Candace Gray (SIRP Administrative Associate) at or call 229-522-3623.

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