Variable rate irrigation reduces water use

By Tom Lollis

irrigation systemFor many South Carolina farmers the center-pivot irrigation system is a reliable tool to ensure good yields on row crops, vegetables or sod.
       
However, this traditional irrigation system distributes the same amount of water everywhere, whether it’s needed or not. Boggy areas get the same amount of water as sandy areas. Roads and waterways get watered, and areas where pivots overlap can get irrigated twice. Computer-controlled variable rate irrigation uses sensors and computer controls to solve those problems, based on soil type and terrain.
       
“Variable rate irrigation also means less energy is used for pumping, less water runs off the field, and less pollution reaches streams,” said Ahmad Khalilian, agricultural engineer at Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville.
       
Under a $500,000 grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, he has installed three on-farm test systems. One is at New Life Turf, Inc., in Norway; one is at Drake and Moss Perrow’s farm in Cameron; and the third is at Edwin Dargan’s farm in Darlington County. Two more systems will be installed in 2006.
       
Khalilian expects these tests to show water savings of 1.4 million to 2.8 million gallons per year, similar to test installations in Georgia.
      
For more information: Ahmad Khalilian, 803-284-3343, ext. 230, akhlln@clemson.edu, or Will Henderson, 803-284-3343, ext. 244, whende2@clemson.edu.