NMSU professor developing watering app for farmers

11/22/2012 9:45 AM
By Associated Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — An engineering professor at New Mexico State University is working on a digital application that could help farmers determine when and how often they should water their crops.

Farmers will be able to use Zohrab Samani's iFarm app — short for Intelligence Farm — on their cellphones and computers.

The app aims to help farmers set up more efficient irrigation schedules by taking into consideration multiple factors, such as wind and humidity levels.

"The goal is to conserve water and increase yield and profit," Samani said. "The program has the potential to serve thousands of farms, based on their unique soil, crop and watering practices."

Much of New Mexico has been struggling with drought for the past two years. Dismal winter and spring runoff along with dropping reservoir levels have forced thousands of farmers along the Rio Grande and Pecos rivers to pump more groundwater to irrigate their crops.

State and federal water managers announced earlier this week that New Mexico's reservoirs are at historic lows, and without any winter moisture, the state will enter next year's irrigation season in bad shape.

NMSU researchers say that's why it's more important than ever to conserve water.

Samani said farmers came to him with the idea and he began working on it during the summer of 2011.

"Due to the recent adjudication regulations, each farmer had a fixed amount of water right and cannot exceed that," he said. "Farmers are trying to find the best time to irrigate so that they don't end up wasting the limited water right they have."

Vien Tran, an NMSU student who designed the software code, said the challenge with iFarm is extending the calculations to incorporate real-time climate data. Plans also call for using satellite imagery to monitor crop progress and adjust watering scheduled accordingly.

The app, which is currently specialized for pecan orchards, has been tested on a few local farms. Samani said he would like to expand it to alfalfa, cotton and corn.


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