In addition the center pivot has an on-site weather monitor that helps to determine water requirements for each crop.

“It’s a matter of convenience and cost-savings. In operations where there might be hundreds of miles between machines, this system can result in significant water and fuel savings, as well as a reduction in management overhead,” says Mills.

That computer in the farm manager’s office is linked through the Internet to a mobile website that is viewable through a smartphone.

“From that smartphone, you can do many operations, including stopping and starting the machine and getting status information. While the farmer is doing in-field operations around the machine, such as tillage, he can control the center pivot.

“Whenever those pivots have a change in status, the telemetry system sends the grower a text message, eliminating a significant amount of time and effort.”

The Expo farm also has been fitted this year with a sub-surface drip irrigation project installed by B.B. Hobbs Company of Darlington, S.C. Will Young, a representative of Hobbs, says the system consists of one tape watering two rows of plants and buried about 8 inches deep.

The expected life of the tape is about 10 years, says Young.

“Filtration is very important in these systems. You’ve got to have filtration, whether you’re watering from a well or a pond. If it’s a pond or surface water, you’ve got to have even more sophisticated filtration.”

The system installed at the Expo site includes a water meter that monitors the system and allows researchers to communicate with the controller.

“We also have a fertilizer meter that puts out the material proportionately. We’ve installed several hundred acres around the Southeast, and we’re definitely outperforming dryland acreage. Going up against center pivots, we’re at least matching yields, and we’re doing it with less water,” says Young.

With a drip irrigation system, a grower typically sees a reduction in water use of at least 30 percent, he says, and in some cases, water use is reduced by 40 to 50 percent, depending on the situation.

“It’s more costly than center pivots in certain fields,” says Young. “In an odd-shaped field, it might be a better fit than a center pivot. Materials will be about $700 to $1,200 per acre. But if all you do is to switch from a center pivot to a drip, you won’t see a big jump in yield until you start fully utilizing fertigation.”

phollis@farmpress.com