precision irrigation
  • Agricultural practices

Precision Irrigation Methods And Their Management

Artificial watering is the only condition of crop production under insufficient natural precipitation, and precision irrigation is the optimal solution in this case. With precision irrigation technology, farmers can not only ensure healthy plant growth in semi-arid regions but avoid water and fuel overuse. Installation of precise watering systems also helps to protect agribusiness from yield losses due to climate uncertainties like abnormal droughts.

Edgy innovations facilitate growers’ efforts and farm management. Let’s consider how remote sensing and precision satellite irrigation can make a change.

What Is Precision Irrigation

Precision irrigation delivers moisture directly to crops in small amounts when required, accurately supporting crop needs. This method also provides plants with nutrients when watering is combined with fertilization (fertigation).

Thanks to irrigation precision, farming enterprises can reduce the use of water and chemical resources, which is beneficial to both business and nature. Being a sparing approach, precise moisture supply also contributes to sustainable farming.

precision irrigation technology

Benefits Of Precision Irrigation

Precise water distribution is both the key technique and goal of precision irrigation, which makes the technology a fundamental precision agriculture constituent. Switching to this method, agriculturalists can enjoy the following agronomic and economic benefits:

  • easy installation of precision irrigation systems and the possibility of automated control;
  • more effective weed management because the soil is watered only around the plant, and unwanted vegetation doesn’t get enough moisture;
  • optimal support of plant water needs with direct delivery to the plant;
  • simplified farm management with precision irrigation software;
  • reduced agricultural water use and its accurate distribution;
  • versatile deployment options for mobile sprinklers and drip lines;
  • better field productivity and increased yields.

Precision Irrigation Methods

Each method suggests watering the soil to support plant growth but it is implemented differently in every case. The basic method options are surface, sprinkler, and trickle, or drip moisture supply. Their specific features and benefits are discussed below.

Precision Surface Irrigation

Water flows naturally and spreads on the field in compliance with the law of gravity. It does not employ any advanced agriculture technologies but requires huge water volumes, so it is justified when soil infiltration is low. This precision irrigation method is suitable for clay soils but will be difficult to implement in sandy ones.

furrow irrigation technique

The surface method is performed in the following ways:

  • The basin technique limits the area with bunds and floods it. The water stays there for a long time. This is typical for growing rice and can be also used for wheat. The method is applied on flat lands with additional leveling if needed.
  • The furrow technique involves building furrows – long trenches filled with water. Furrows are located higher than the crop rows, and the water runs down naturally because of gravity or through siphon tubes or gates.
  • The border technique supplies water in-between strips of land. Like the previous type, it also utilizes siphons or gates.
sprinkler irrigation system

Precision Sprinkler Irrigation

Water is sprayed through machinery or manually operated tools that can be installed either temporarily or permanently, and move forward or rotate. Sprinklers differ in pressure and size of droplets depending on their guns and nozzles.

This precision irrigation method is not suitable for all crops as big drops and high pressure damage them. It would destroy flowers in blooming plants and eradicate pollination. Furthermore, the equipment will be out of service with any insoluble particles stuck inside the system. Another issue is that moisture distribution is highly affected by winds.

Precision overhead irrigation is also based on the sprinkling technique but water droplets are distributed above the crops .
precision drip irrigation

Precision Trickle (Drip) Watering System

In precision drip irrigation, moisture is delivered with tiny pipes placed in lines, so this type is also known as drip tape, or drip line watering. The droplets are directed to the crop proper at low pressure, and a lack of water nearby hinders the development of weeds. Thus, it not only prevents plant starvation due to weeds but greatly reduces the volume of necessary water, which is among the major benefits of drip watering systems.

However, drip tapes are sensitive to machinery and easily damaged or blocked with insoluble particles. On the contrary, soluble substances allow combining water supply with fertilizing.

In Precision Mobile Drip Irrigation systems (PMDI) , drip lines are connected to moving pivot or linear equipment. Water is supplied to the soil surface through drip nozzles (instead of traditional ones), which enhances delivery accuracy and reduces mist shifts due to winds.

EOSDA Crop Monitoring

Fields analytics tool with access to high-resolution satellite images for remote problem areas identification!

Precision Underground (Subsurface) Drip Irrigation

This precision irrigation system is similar to the drip one in low water consumption. Plant roots are watered inside the soil via pipes and drippers. What is more, since soil moisture is supplied underground, it does not evaporate. Nevertheless, the underground drip line is not only highly vulnerable to insoluble particles but also to root hairs, machinery, and tilling.

underground drip irrigation

Precision Irrigation Management With EOSDA Crop Monitoring

Rational and justified planning of precision irrigation events requires accurate and reliable information about the current field condition and a precipitation forecast that will show the need for additional soil moisture supply. Because any watering activity involves additional costs, and excessive moisture can do more harm than good, it is advisable to practice precise irrigation, i.e., to water crops only when necessary.

NDMI Vegetation Index And Precision Irrigation Technologies

EOSDA Crop Monitoring is a GIS platform with several vegetation indices generated with satellite imagery analytics. The Normalized difference moisture index (NDMI) is particularly useful in precision irrigation control. NDMI can detect if the crops in the field lack moisture. The index helps quickly identify moisture deficiency problems and respond to them before water stress gets out of control to prevent yield loss. In addition, NDMI allows pinpointing under-irrigated areas to increase field productivity or identify waterlogging to avoid crop decay. NDMI can also be used for precision variable rate irrigation, which saves resources by watering only those plants that lack moisture.

With index-based vegetation maps on our platform, it is possible to divide the field into zones with different crop water needs and schedule additional precision irrigation events wherever needed. The users can also download the obtained vegetation map and send it to irrigation equipment dashboards for VRT application of water and other irrigation-related resources.

Vegetation map based on NDMI index
NDMI based vegetation map for precision irrigation planning.

Soil Moisture Data For Precision Irrigation Control

Soil moisture data can be obtained in several ways: with sensors in the field or satellite images. Sensor deployment entails repeated maintenance costs and requires constant equipment control. On the other hand, satellite imagery is a reliable tool that provides information on soil moisture, regardless of cloud cover.

EOSDA Crop Monitoring includes information on surface soil moisture and root zone moisture derived from satellite spectral sensors. You can check current and historical soil moisture data on any field around the world – just add it to your account. Precipitation data and NDVI index graphs will allow tracking of the correlation between rainfall and moisture levels in the field.

precipitation and soil moisture graphs
Soil moisture and precipitation monitoring graphs in EOSDA Crop Monitoring.

Use Of Historical Weather Analytics In Precision Irrigation Management

Satellite technologies solve a lot of issues related to precision irrigation, including the lack of field data on water supply and its proper planning. Besides, agri-holdings, agricultural cooperatives, and agri-consultants often own multiple fields that may be scattered over a large territory. To get weather data for their farmlands, large agribusinesses have to analyze a large number of sources.

Among other functionalities, EOSDA Crop Monitoring contains precipitation and weather graphs. Checking historical accumulated precipitation values, the user can analyze seasonal weather and precipitation patterns and plan precision agriculture irrigation strategies depending on the trends of previous seasons. This method helps to avoid excessive watering or vice versa, facilitating the development and implementation of precision irrigation maps for your fields.

field precipitation and temperature dynamics
Precipitation and temperature monitoring in EOSDA Crop Monitoring.

Weather Forecast And Precision Irrigation Planning

Alongside historical precipitation and temperature data, EOSDA Crop Monitoring also provides a weather forecast for each field during the next 14 days. Reliable weather forecasts in agriculture help to decide on the need for watering activities to ensure proper soil moisture for the crops. Aware of the upcoming downpours, farmers will save their resources by postponing watering events. Weather forecast data is available on both the desktop version and the mobile app, giving you the ability to track changes at your convenience.

mobile app for weather forecast
Weather prognose in EOSDA Crop Monitoring mobile application.

EOSDA Crop Monitoring also sends automatic alerts for changes in your field, including changes in the vegetation indices or upcoming weather anomalies (cold and heat stress). The automatic alerts help not to miss a critical moment by performing timely activities in the field.

Precision Irrigation Technology For Wise Decision-Making

Water supply is a crucial factor for plant development, alongside sunlight, available nutrients, and suitable soil temperature. Fields in areas with frequent rains get sufficient rainfall. In other places, additional watering is the main way to provide crop growth and maximize yields. Precision irrigation is the optimal and cost-effective method to deliver required water to plants, and satellite technologies considerably facilitate the decision-making process.

By assigning field monitoring tasks to our platform, you hire a diligent employee that always stays alert to immediately notify you of any detected issue. Contact our sales department for details at

About the author:

Kateryna Sergieieva Senior Scientist at EOS Data Analytics

Kateryna Sergieieva joined EOS Data Analytics in 2016. She has a Ph.D. in information technologies and a 15-year experience in remote sensing.

Kateryna is a Senior Scientist at EOSDA. Her specialty is the development of technologies for satellite monitoring of natural and artificial landscapes and surface feature change detection. Kateryna is an expert in the analysis of the state of mining areas, agricultural lands, water objects, and other features based on multi-layer spatial data.

Kateryna is an Associate Professor conducting research at the Dnipro University of Technology. She is the author of over 60 scientific papers.

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