Pecan irrigation goes high-tech

Published: Sep. 20, 2013 at 8:47 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:51 PM EDT
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Al Wheaton of Flow Tech & Wireless Remote Telemetry
Al Wheaton of Flow Tech & Wireless Remote Telemetry

LEE CO., GA (WALB) - Irrigation is a major expense for South Georgia farmers. It's also somewhat of a guessing game, Figuring out how much to water where. That's why high-tech wireless irrigation tools are growing in popularity on south Georgia farms.

The process of when to irrigate now as precise as the outer space satellites that control one piece of equipment. "There's a satellite antennae right there," said Al Wheaton, of Flow Tech & Wireless Remote Telemetry. "Just looking out here you don't know how much moisture is in the ground for that tree to pour water from."

The device he's installed in this Lee County pecan grove is a McCrometer Wireless Irrigation & Crop manager. The McCrometer is not your granddad's weather system. The bells and whistles on top collect weather data. And four feet in the ground is a tool monitoring soil moisture. That data is fed back to your tablet or mobile device.

"We're keeping a daily record and as much as an hourly record of what is happening out here in the field. In some cases it can predict when a crop is ready to harvest, when a bug is about to infest a field, they can predict when a weed is going to germinate," said Wheaton.

With looming restriction on water usage and Mother Nature's unpredictability, the data on how much or how little to irrigate can be essential to a crop and has proven cost effective.

"We've had them on a turf farm down in south Florida. He said it saved him between 20-25% of his water use. It saved him between 30-35% on his pesticide and fertilizer bill." It's not matter of if, but when tools like this will be on all farms.

It's the wave of the future though today. A wireless irrigation tool can cost about $3,000 to purchase and install, but grants are available to offset the costs.

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