U.S. Water News Online
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Researchers at Kansas State University
say they're ready to start using a mobile irrigation laboratory that
can help farmers save money and water.
The beauty of the project, said irrigation engineer Danny Rogers,
is that K-State Research and Extension personnel can take the lab
where it is needed -- anywhere in Kansas. In addition to helping
farmers become more efficient irrigators, the lab will help them use
computers to make field evaluations, cut their farm's energy bills,
conduct an economic analysis, make cropping decisions, and more.
"Everybody knows energy prices are up and crop prices are still
down," Rogers said. "We really need to be sure that we make good
decisions so that producers can be productive and have an economic
return. [Kansas farmers] typically don't have any problem on the
production side, [but] we really have to help them look for those
'edges.' This is something that we think can help them."
The mobile lab essentially is a truck and trailer with a bank of
computers and software, plus equipment for in-field data collection.
"The computers can be used for hands-on training for small groups
either in the mobile irrigation lab itself or in any available room,"
Roger said. "No high-tech computer lab is required."
Rogers' main interest is a program that helps farmers set an
irrigation schedule based on field characteristics and weather, among
"We are emphasizing the irrigation scheduling part of this
program," Rogers said, "but this is also a management software that
can help farmers in making [other] decisions about irrigating their
Rogers added that the "back one-third" of the trailer is dedicated
to helping farmers conduct performance evaluations on center-pivot
sprinklers -- by far the most popular irrigation system used in
western Kansas. The computer processes information on-site and gives
an immediate analysis.
All of the software programs have been available to farmers
previously, but haven't been widely adopted because farmers have not
had the time to learn how to run them, Rogers said.
"By providing hands-on experience, we can help make farmers more
comfortable [with the technology]," Rogers said. "[A mobile unit]
greatly enhances our ability to help producers get familiar with the
technology and software that are available to them."
This is a "pilot year" for the project, Rogers said. The K-State
research group hopes to improve the mobile lab and eventually make
several labs available throughout the state.
The program was developed by K-State Research and Extension
personnel in partnership with the Kansas Water Office, using state
water plan funds.
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