As the 2011 growing season is underway, we hope that irrigation is a long ways away, but if you are a part of the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network (NAWMN), you will need to get those watermark sensors out and start soaking and drying them to determine if they are reading as they should be. Check that ET gage canvas cover and the ceramic plate to be sure it works. If you are not a part of this excellent program which saves not only water but money you might be wondering what these tools are and what the NAWMN program is all about. The network which started in 2005 with only a few producers has grown to over 500 producers across Nebraska and will gain even more this growing season.
The tools used and mentioned above are the ETgage® or Atmometer which mimics crop evapotranspiration or ET rates and the Watermark soil matrix sensors which measure soil matric potential. This information along with crop stage of growth can help determine when to irrigate. These two tools have worked well and have made irrigation management much easier than gut feelings. The more information you have the better decisions you can make! As soon as the crops grow it will be time to install Watermark sensors to monitor soil water status. It’s important to soak and dry them a couple of times before installing them each year. They should read 5 or less when completely wet.
For more information or installation tips, check out this web site. At this site you can check out the videos and publications. While at the site, also check out the on-line ETgage site. Participants the past few years have reported saving 2 inches of water/acre for both corn and soybeans with little or no effect on yields. Two inches represents a water savings of about 7 million gallons of water for a typical 130 acre center pivot. With today’s fuel prices these energy savings are significant! These tools are not costly and check with the NRDs if cost share funds are still available. I’d be happy to work with you this season and can be contacted at the office at 402-759-3712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.