NRCS Encourages Use of the Delaware Irrigation Management System: Local Irrigators are Needed to Use and Test the System

State Conservationist Russell Morgan, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), encourages Delaware irrigators to use the recently released Delaware Irrigation Management System (DIMS). DIMS is an online tool designed to provide members of the Delaware agricultural community access to irrigation scheduling software that is streamlined and tailored to Delaware.

This system, which utilizes input from the user, input from existing DEOS weather stations, and physical data from the environment, is designed for several irrigated crops in Delaware: corn, soybean, sweet corn, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, lima beans, and peas. Developed by staff at the University of Delaware’s Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), the project was funded by grants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

“Growers using DIMS will be able to manage their irrigation water more efficiently, which has a multiplying effect on an operation,” said Morgan. “Results include increased yields which lead to higher profits; there’s improved water quality resulting from efficient utilization of nutrients; and also water conservation, which reduces water waste and can lower operating costs.”

Irrigation scheduling software is nothing new; however, this software was written specifically for Delaware. Also, many software applications often require the manual entering of weather data. DIMS is the only current software for Delaware that is automatically updated with weather data.

DIMS uses an irrigation scheduling method based on a basic water balance. The amount of water lost from the soil surface (evaporation) plus the amount of water used by the crop (transpiration) is calculated and tracked and compared to inputs from rainfall, soil moisture measurements, and irrigation to determine the amount of water available in the soil to a particular crop. Through this method, which is generally referred to as the “checkbook” method, a user hopes to optimize the amount of soil water available to the crop, thus reducing crop stress, improving crop yield, and maximizing nutrient uptake by the crop.

DIMS is streamlined and tailored to Delaware and was created to reduce the amount of effort required of the user both before and during the growing season. DIMS provides a straightforward, online interface that allows users to quickly determine if a field has adequate soil moisture to satisfy the crop’s water requirements and make immediate irrigation decisions.

“By automatically integrating weather and climate data and soil property data, DIMS takes existing irrigation tools up a notch,” according to Kevin Brinson, DEOS Systems Manager.

A more thorough explanation of the system and how to use it is available on line: http://www.deos.udel.edu/docs/DIMS_User_Guide.pdf.

The USDA NRCS has financial assistance available for Irrigation Water Management.

For more information regarding DIMS contact Kevin Brinson, DEOS Systems Manager, at kbrinson@udel.edu or by phone at 302-831-6906. For more information on NRCS programs and services in Delaware, visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local USDA Service Center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990 x 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600 x 3; in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100 x 3.

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