How We Grow

2019 July/Aug How We Grow

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10 A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S WATER USE Irrigation Technology: Does it Make a Difference? If you're a grower, you likely come across a new irrigation technology or system at least once a month. At that rate, it's easy to ignore the various options available or become completely overwhelmed by them, begging the question, "What specific benefits does irrigation technology provide?" and "How can new technologies fill in the gaps on my operation?" For answers, the Almond Board of California (ABC) looked to two experts in the field. Tom Devol is a member of the Global Communications Committee and longtime water specialist with years of experience working with growers to help them overcome anxieties related to implementing new technologies. Jim Anshutz is the owner and founder of AgH 2 O, an irrigation technology provider with 35 years of irrigation design and engineering experience. Their expertise puts into perspective the advancements growers need to make to become even more water efficient and secure, especially as the industry seeks to achieve the Almond Orchard 2025 Goal of reducing water used to grow a pound of almonds by an additional 20%. ORCHARD MONITORING TECHNOLOGY: WHY IT MATTERS Contributed by Tom Devol, Almond Board Global Communications Committee The use of orchard monitoring technologies such as soil moisture or crop stress sensors has become commonplace among today's farming operations. However, growers' proper implementation of that technology and their ability to maximize its benefits is hardly typical. Growers are approached frequently with new technology that promises to solve a slew of problems. But once purchased, the technology's impact often lacks the desired effect, either because the grower didn't properly implement it in their orchard or because the technology simply is not a good fit for their operation. The result? The grower is left with less capital and little-to-no benefits from the product. The reality is there's a big leap from simply purchasing equipment to actually incorporating it in a way that maximizes its benefits — and maximizes water use efficiency. It's important to think through specific needs of an orchard and consider how new technology can improve an operation, ultimately helping produce a better crop with optimal yields. It is equally important that growers — when they do implement new technology — fully understand how it works and appreciate its potential value. For example, while it's a good idea to monitor your soil moisture, if monitoring is an afterthought for you today, it will continue to be an afterthought in the future. If growers do not fully understand what monitoring can do and how to operate monitoring tools, they're left with unused or ill-used equipment that has effectively burned a hole in their pocket, failing to deliver value. Why bother with monitoring? If growers are not prepared to change their orchard management habits, then they're likely not going to invest in monitoring technology. However, after spending many years in the irrigation business, I can personally attest that growers who monitor soil moisture quickly learn how effective their irrigation system is, or is not. Often, systems are not operating as well as the grower had hoped, but once they become aware of the issue they can seek a solution. Monitoring soil moisture allows growers to see how irrigation water flows through the soil profile, providing them with an opportunity to improve their irrigation by altering their runtime or scheduling more or less days between each irrigation period. Shortening a runtime by an hour, for instance, may keep water from leaching beyond the rootzone, saving on water, energy and nutrients. Pulse irrigations may also help overcome infiltration challenges in heavy, dry soils, helping drive moisture deeper into the rootzone and giving trees a larger reservoir of water to draw from. Growers should also look to more Tom Devol Member ABC Global Communication Committee

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