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Irrigation scheduling and crop management system

P. Cull and T. Finch

Neutron Probe Services Pty Ltd, PO Box 486, Narrabri NSW 2390
Research Services New England,151 Johnston Street, Annandale NSW 2036

The Integrated Irrigation Scheduling and Crop Management System uses direct measurement of the crop and soil using a neutron probe and other crop sensors to predict future water-use behaviour, rather than a mathematical model. A major additional benefit of the system is that it gives growers and agronomists an insight into the actual behaviour of the soil profile, enabling the detection of problems such as soil compaction (Fig. 1), through-drainage and surface run- off; and allows calculation of irrigation efficiency and crop rooting depths. It also allows correlations to be drawn between various parameters of crop growth. Continuous detailed records of commercial crops are now available, allowing growers to analyse and monitor crop performance. The system allows growers and agronomists to use techniques usually thought of as appropriate only for researchers or agricultural extension officers, giving an understanding of what is actually happening in the soil profile.

Figure 1.Soil moisture profiles at two dates.

Data for the Integrated Irrigation Scheduling and Crop Management System are entered either through automatic field data loggers, hand-held recorders, or directly at the microcomputer keyboard. The data are analysed, displayed and graphed on MS DOS or Macintosh microcomputers, with output to printers, plotters or graphic editors. As well as being used to schedule irrigations and to allow growers to study the sub-soil behaviour of growing crops, it is also being used to validate models of crop behaviour. The System is in use in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe, being used with a wide range of crops, soils and irrigation systems.

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