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Irrigation Research


 Content Editor


Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
This Gibson County soybean field gets a much-appreciated summer shower. But here the moisture is provided by man and machine, and not nature. It’s a thirst-quenching drink courtesy of a pivot irrigation system.

Dr. Shawn Hawkins (UT Extension)

“Water is a resource that needs to be managed wisely and this technology allows us to use it as efficiently as possible.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Dr. Shawn Hawkins and colleagues with the UT Institute of Agriculture explore how to make irrigation systems pump just the right amount of water into a field, and to reduce the costs of irrigation. UT Agresearchers are focusing now on VRI systems, which stands for Variable Rate Irrigation. Here soil types and the lay of the land determines how much water a field needs. Using VRI technology, farmers can control the rate of water application by changing the speed of the pivot – as well as the number of nozzles that are on at different positions in the field. That’s what UT AgResearcher Chris Bridges calculates here in his office – and then starts the process in the field. He’s broken down this 63 acre plot into more than one thousand different zones where he can put down different amounts of moisture.

Chris Bridges (UT AgResearch)
“Soil and site conditions vary a lot within a single field, and so with the increased amount of irrigated crop land in West Tennessee, there’s an increased demand for research-based information on how we can best manage water across different parts of the field.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Farmers like the sound of that, knowing what parts of a field need more irrigation, and where they can save in other areas.

Jason Luckey (Gibson County Producer)

“I’m just beginning to explore it a little bit, but you know variable rate – it’s probably the next step in making our farming operations more efficient.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

For the most part statewide, farmers have had a decent year of rainfall. But sometimes it takes additional moisture to keep crops healthy, and we must find ways to get water where it’s needed.

OF NOTE: UT AgResearchers also do work with “drip” or “sub” irrigation systems – where water is transported to plants underground.