Scott shares highlight’s from Hatcher Land and Cattle water tech farm during the on-site field day in August 2018.
Scott Schechter, of Eagle Precision Ag, LLC, is a certified agronomist and consultant who has worked with multiple water technology farms since their establishment. For many farmers, agronomists and crop consultants make life easier by providing recommendations and advice based on their assessments of fields. We appreciate getting Scott’s assessment of the work being done with the water technology farms and the way technology is changing the role of agronomists in the area.
“Some of the trends we’ve seen over the last 3 years at T&O Farms and Hatcher Land and Cattle are that first of all rain is a good thing and we’ve had a good amount of rain. The second thing we’ve learned is the installation of the technology is very important, we want to make sure we are installing each piece consistently and that everything is lined up and stays that way throughout the growing season. We also learned that as a general rule, one soil moisture probe per field just isn’t enough. Yes, we’ve had rain each year since these technology farms started, but hopefully we can keep this project going for 10-15 more years. The technology is going to evolve as we go, the soil moisture probe technology has already evolved over the last three years. Some of this technology wasn’t even available when we started this project and it’s here now.”
Scott explains that another lesson learned through the water tech farms has involved the relationship between the speed of the sprinkler and the soil type of the field.
“The thing that you have to remember is that not all soils are created equally, so you might be able to go really slow on some fields but then speed it up on other fields depending on runoff and the amount of water that soil type can take at one time. So what we did at T&O Farms is look at the soil type and then figure out how much we could push that pivot. You can also see a difference with finding the right speed based on your sprinkler nozzles or if you’re using a mobile drip system. You don’t want to push water too deep in certain soils because you’ll leach nitrogen but by the same token you don’t want to go out there and just wet the top 2-4 inches where doesn’t do any good.”
We also asked the tough question; which is better, soil moisture probes or hand probing?
“The biggest thing to remember there is that agronomists are human, more than likely we’re going to play it safe. When I’m hand probing a field I’m a lot more apt to tell a grower, why don’t you go one more round with the sprinkler to play it safe or tell them we should start that sprinkler a couple days earlier. But the soil moisture probe is in the soil and reading the moisture trends, in that field. If it’s the middle of the season and we get a big rain event, I know from what I’ve learned from the probes that I can wait until I see root activity at a certain depth before I resume with irrigation. Otherwise I’d just be guessing. As far as reading the moisture content in the soil, the agronomist is still really good at that. The probe is really good at showing the trend of what’s happening in the soil, what the plants are doing and how they are reacting to the water that went in.”
Scott adds that these soil moisture probes are also equipped to help with more than just water related decisions that farmers have to make.
“I have one guy that this year that actually put the probe in for the sole purpose of reading the EC value, which is the salt movements in the soil. We were able to save him from leaching too much nitrogen through how we irrigated because of the data collected from the probe. We sped the pivot up at certain times so he didn’t leach nitrogen too deep and we were able to tell him, hey we leached pretty bad this time, you need to go apply 20 more lbs. What this technology has done is given the agronomists more confidence to be more efficient our recommendations for water usage because we have more information so we know the right times to irrigate. We save water because we know the right times and don’t over water just because we are playing it safe.”
Excerpts from interview given in August 2018.