Current practices by growers reveal a distinct interest in using technology to solve irrigation efficiency issues and to make energy‐conserving improvements. However, industry professionals who are involved with technology products for soil monitoring and control are aware of the misuse and the poor performance that some growers are receiving from the technology’s implementation.
Challenges impeding SMS utilization that must be addressed in order to overcome the performance shortfalls are:
1) More intensive education for growers and irrigators in the proper use of irrigation water as it relates to the water balance for plant and soil is needed. In fact, growers have resisted technology with the complaint of the complexity of analyzing data and the time required. A critical factor in reducing the complexity lies in a better understanding of the basics of soils and plant requirements as they relate to amount and frequency of scheduled irrigations. A utility company could become more proactive in supporting this educational need for growers through E‐Learning and audit programs verifying irrigation system performance similar to those provided for residential and commercial.
2) A better understanding of water movement in various soil types and the effects of salts. Again, developing E‐Learning opportunities to help irrigators gain knowledge of water movement in various soil types is recommended.
3) Growers must learn that even water distribution uniformity through their irrigation system is essential to system optimization. They must learn how to maintain their system’s operation at peak performance. This can also be addressed via E‐Learning and/or workshops and would include filter maintenance, the use of water meters and pressure gauges, and proper cleaning procedures for driplines.
4) The development of more comprehensive design and training for irrigation system designers to focus on system lifecycle costs, rather than first cost. This should include design standards including best practices. System design proposals should include estimates of operational and annual ownership costs. Growers are typically only given the installed system costs, which may break down into parts and installation labor. The estimate should use good faith estimates of total water applied and if the system is able to provide “ALL” necessary irrigation water during off‐peak energy times. The irrigation systems Total Dynamic Head (TDH) and design tolerance should also be provided to compare to competing or other options. Finally, two measurements for growers to fully understand prior to system purchase are Return On Investment (ROI) and Total Cost of Operation (TCO). A complete appreciation of these measurements would likely improve growers selecting more water‐ and energy‐efficient systems. This would provide long term benefits to the growers as well as the utility company.
5) Increasing the information on the benefits of SmartMeters information should be considered. Most growers do not know what is available from SmartMeters and how they could use this information to reduce their energy costs. Manufacturers of moisture and control systems are generally unfamiliar with SmartMeter data and how it may be incorporated into their information analysis for improved system operation.