Reprinted from Crop Watch
May 13, 2015
With spring planting well underway, it’s time for irrigators to begin thinking about this summer’s irrigation management. While parts of the state are experiencing flooding, other areas are unfortunately experiencing drought conditions. Hopefully irrigators across the state will receive adequate rainfall to delay irrigation until July or even later, but in Nebraska you just never know.
That’s one reason why more producers and crop consultants are utilizing soil moisture monitoring equipment to effectively manage their irrigation.
Whether you use watermark or capacitance soil water sensors, ETgages (atmometers), flow meters, or other types of equipment or services, each can provide valuable information to help you make informed irrigation management decisions. An old quote is very appropriate, “If you don’t monitor it, how can you manage it?”
One option for producers and crop consultants is to participate in the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network (NAWMN). Since starting in 2005 with 15 growers in the Upper Big Blue NRD, the NAWMN has grown to over 1,229 participants statewide. The NAWMN has been promoting the use of two tools: Watermark soil water sensors and ETgages. More information and videos about installing and using these two tools are available at http://water.unl.edu/cropswater/awmdnvideos.
Surveys of producers using soil moisture sensors and ETgages typically report reduced pumping of 1-2 inches of water annually, as well as associated fuel savings. With lower grain prices this year, it is important to reduce input costs wherever possible.
Many Nebraska Natural Resource Districts are encouraging the use of soil water sensors, ET gages, or flow meters by offering cost-share programs. In a quick check of Natural Resource Districts across the state, 19 of Nebraska’s 23 NRDs offer some type of cost share for these types of equipment. Table 1 includes a list of NRDs, the type of cost-share available, and a web address and phone number for producers to contact for more information. Programs vary widely between NRDs, so it’s important to check with them or your area NRCS field office for more information about cost share opportunities.
As a reminder, producers and consultants who have ETgages are encouraged to post their weekly ETgage readings on the interactive website. In addition, producers wanting evapotranspiration or ET data for growing crops can use the site to get daily estimates from Nebraska weather stations based on crop growth stage. This website is currently being updated, so look for changes soon.
As a general rule, even without cost-share, these tools can help producers make timely science-based decisions that are economically and environmental sound.
UNL Extension Educators
|Table 1. Nebraska Natural Resource District (NRD) cost-share programs available for soil moisture monitoring equipment.|
|NRD||Cost Share||Phone Number|
|Central Platte NRD, Grand Island||Web-based soil water sensing equipment only||308-385-6282|
|Lewis & Clark NRD, Hartington||Flow meters||402-254-6758|
|Little Blue NRD, Davenport||ETgages & Watermark Sensors||402-364-2145|
|Lower Big Blue NRD, Beatrice||ETgages & Watermark Sensors; order due by March 31 annually||402-228-3402|
|Lower Elkhorn NRD, Norfolk||Flow meters and soil moisture sensors||402-371-7313|
|Lower Loup NRD, Ord||No cost-share at this time, but they highly recommend using sensors and ETgages||308-728-3221|
|Lower Niobrara NRD, Butte||No cost-share at this time||402-775-2343|
|Lower Platte North NRD, Wahoo||ETgages & Watermark Sensors||402-443-4675|
|Lower Platte South NRD, Lincoln||Flow meters||402-476-2729|
|Lower Republican NRD, Alma||Soil moisture sensors||308-928-2182|
|Middle Niobrara NRD, Valentine||Soil moisture sensors||402-376-3241|
|Middle Republication NRD, Curtis||Soil moisture sensors||308-367-4281|
|Nemaha NRD, Tecumseh||Watermark sensors||402-335-3325|
|North Platte NRD, Scottsbluff||Soil moisture sensors||308-632-2749|
|Papio Missouri River NRD, Omaha||No cost-share at this time||402- 444-6222|
|South Platte NRD, Sidney||ETgages & Watermark Sensors||308-254-2377|
|Tri-Basin NRD, Holdrege||Soil moisture sensors & rainfall shutoff devices||308-995-6992|
|Twin Platte NRD, North Platte||Soil moisture sensors||308-535-8080|
|Upper Big Blue NRD, York||Watermark sensors and ETgages||402-362-6601|
|Upper Elkhorn NRD, O’Neill||No cost-share at this time||402-336-3867|
|Upper Loup NRD, Thedford||Flow meters exisitng wells and soil sensor equipment for producers to try||308-645-2250|
|Upper Niobrara-White NRD, Chadron||Watermark sensors and ETgages purchased from the NRD||308-432-6190|
|Upper Republican NRD, Imperial||Soil moisture sensors||308-882-5173|