Although water covers about two thirds of the Earth’s surface, less than 0.08% of it is available for human use. The bulk of it is too salty and much of the rest is locked up in the ice caps and glaciers. The balance arrives on Earth at the wrong time and place through monsoons and floods, or can only be found in very remote parts of the world. About 70% of the usable water available is needed for agricultural production, but according to the World Water Council, by 2020 mankind will need 17% more water than what is available if we want to continue to feed the world.
Agriculture relies heavily on irrigation to produce food and it is imperative that it takes place with due cognizance of water scarcity. Producers who irrigate must use water optimally and limit wastage if they are to ensure the long-term sustainability of global food production. The role that water plays in crop production is significant and the water application to crops determines 80% of the success of the eventual yield.
Farmsecure Agri Science (FAS)
The two principles that underpin a range of specialist services by FAS, a division of the Farmsecure Group, are: (a) optimization in every aspect of agriculture, and (b) a holistic approach to scientific farming.
FAS is a service provider and consulting company to the Farmsecure Group, independent farmers and the agricultural sector; it focusses on empowering its clients with agriculture knowledge and scientific farming skills. Currently, the company is the only agricultural technical consulting services provider offering the entire range – from soil to shelf – of crop cultivation services. This covers every aspect of the agricultural value chain, including soil technical analyses, soil preparation, orchard development, cultivars and genetics, nutrition, crop enhancement, entomology and pathology, plant physiology, pre-and post-harvest, inspections, as well as research and development.
Prominent among FAS’s activities is Farmsecure Agri Science Irrigation (FASI) that implements ground-breaking technology in the field of precision agriculture. FASI designs irrigation and pump systems, supplies and installs irrigation equipment and systems, and provides irrigation scheduling and consultation services.
This innovative state-of-the-art precision irrigation system designed by FASI reduces risks and increases yields and has earned two industry awards. It was crowned the 2012 winner of the South African Department of Water Affairs’ Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Sector Awards. It also scooped second place in the SANCID (South African National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage) Award in the Farming category. IrriCheck, a technological frontrunner, is further backed up by a team of 20 FASI irrigation experts who work closely with FAS’s soil scientists. The synergy between irrigation consultants, horticulturalists, soil scientists and agronomists ensures effective placing of probes, a process that measures the amount of available water very effectively. This optimal water consumption enables expansion to take place.
FASI experts draw up installation plans and guidelines for IrriCheck, set out the blocks, roads and pipelines, and project manage the system.
IrriCheck boasts several outstanding features. It:
• measures crop coefficient (the ratio between the water used and the evaporative demand for the same day) daily. The normal process followed during research is therefore executed on each field. In the graph below, the actual crop coefficient is the ratio before water supply becomes limiting and the ratio starts to drop.
• determines the depletion level at which crop water stress initiates. This is the maximum refill amount for the specific crop on the specific soil. This information is crucial for optimizing irrigation efficiency by minimising evaporation losses during longer irrigation frequencies with higher irrigation quantities. In the Actual Use ED (ED = Evaporative Demand) graph below, it can be seen how the ration stays constant for a few days until supply becomes limiting. After that the ratios decline, indicating stress. In the top soil graph it can be seen that this happens when the deficient exceeds 20 mm. The water use includes evaporation losses, explaining the higher losses shortly after irrigation. The data in the graph was measured without using the IrriCheck scheduling programme. The information was revealed after importing the data into the IrriCheck software. The data clearly indicates that the irrigation intervals are too long and that stress is induced by the end of each irrigation interval. These table grapes resulted in small, berry-sized fruit because of frequent stress, a phenomenon that could have been prevented with efficient scheduling.
• combines data such as weather forecasts, evaporation, water withdrawal, crop type, soil moisture and rain, to come up with a comprehensive and holistic overview of prevailing conditions impacting irrigation. This ensures accurate scheduling and optimal growth. For IrriCheck to be effective, the data needs to be utilised
correctly – this is where the scientific expertise of FASI’s irrigation consultants becomes crucial.
• measures water consumption of each block as well as scheduling right down to the last millimetre of water. This is a unique feature that saves water, increases yields and improves water consumption. It therefore makes it possible to optimally manage the irrigation process and to accurately determine the crop’s stress points.
Users of the new IrriCheck system say they no longer need to guess what’s happening beneath the ground as they have had to do in the past as a result of complicated and difficult to interpret data from other systems’ neutron moisture meters. In addition, working closely with
FASI consultants has personally involved them in scheduling. These factors make IrriCheck a highly exciting irrigation system to use.
FASI, with its ground-breaking IrriCheck system poses many benefits to farmers and the industry alike. This water-wise approach can keep farmers’ cup overflowing with profit and growth.
Visit Farmsecure at Fruit Logistica Asia Stand 2G-15