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K-State Today

March 9, 2017

More efficient irrigation techniques focus of new grant

Submitted by Mary Rankin

With results from a newly awarded grant, Kansas State University researchers will take the lead in providing knowledge for whole-field irrigation decisions as well as site-specific variable-rate irrigation techniques.

A nearly $500,000 USDA-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant, administered by Ajay Sharda, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, will advance robust models for irrigation scheduling and practices for efficient on-farm water management, ensuring sustainable water is available for crop production.

The project, "Develop Canopy Sensing and Computational Systems for Real-Time Control and Feedback of Irrigation Technology," originated with and is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Cyber-Physical Systems, and co-investigator is Pavritha Prabhakar, assistant professor of computer science.

"There has been limited research to determine spatial characteristics of irrigation water use," Sharda said. "Our proposal will study canopy temperature — using a sensing suite aboard a small unmanned aircraft vehicle — on a dense spatial and temporal scale, for precision irrigation strategies and management methods for irrigators."

Spatial canopy temperature, along with meteorological parameters measured using a ground reference system, will generate spatial crop-water stress maps for irrigation water demands.

A sub-field scale evaluation of crop conditions on a real-time basis will provide valuable information on spatial and temporal plant-water stress status, and generate plant-stress-based irrigation scheduling.

"This project will also explore sensing-system design requirements for successful, all-season canopy temperature reconnaissance," Sharda said. "We will be able to develop computational algorithms to quantify, in real time, crop-water stress at critical growth stages throughout the growing season, as well small unmanned aircraft vehicle flying protocols for data collection and efficient control of irrigation systems."

Senior K-State personnel also involved with the grant are Danny Rogers, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, and William Hsu, professor of computer science. Richard Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Kansas, is a second co-investigator on the project.

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