A new irrigation calculator tool may help almond growers who want to maximize irrigation efficiency to conserve water, a vital resource during one of the worst droughts on record.
The Irrigation Calculator, supported by the Almond Board of California, was designed by University of California irrigation experts and consulting firm SureHarvest. It allows growers to put input specific details about their orchards, and then uses local weather patterns to determine optimal irrigation strategy.
Growers enter information about row and tree spacing, orchard age, and percent of canopy cover, with the option of adding data about soil texture and rooting depth. They can also add information about their irrigation system, including whether it is a drip, microsprinkler, or solid-set sprinkler system; average gallons-per-hour rate; and distribution uniformity.
The tool uses zip codes to locate nearby California Irrigation Management Information System weather stations to pull data about an orchard’s recent temperatures, precipitation, and other weather-related variables to calculate water lost due to evapotranspiration.
The Irrigation Calculator provides information on how much to irrigate and run times based on the type of irrigation system.
“The beauty of the Irrigation Calculator is that growers can enter all the basic information from their orchard in one place, and the tool will calculate how much irrigation water is needed based on those specific conditions using the seasonally relevant almond crop coefficient,” says Gabriele Ludwig, director of sustainability and environmental affairs at Almond Board of California. “The goal is to make some rather lengthy calculations simple in order to obtain a basic calculation of irrigation demand specific to characteristics of the orchard.”
The data entered by growers can also be copied so those growers can simply modify portions to fit other blocks that may be irrigated differently.