Three breakfast workshops on wireless sensors for irrigation will be held in Missouri on Jan. 18, 19 and 20. According to Joe Henggeler, irrigation specialist at the Delta Center, in Portageville, Mo., “the cost for wireless sensor systems has decreased a lot in the past few years and can now be as little as $3 per acre annually. It doesn’t take much of a yield increase to recover your investment costs.”

In Missouri, only about 1 percent of irrigators use soil moisture sensors, according to Henggeler. “However, those few that do are making some of the highest yields reported in the annual Bootheel Irrigation Surveys.”

Henggeler, who has studied wireless soil moisture sensors for three years, says data from the last ten years show that irrigators who use sensors or computer programs make higher yields than irrigators who do not use either tool. The yield increase can be as high as 13 bushels for corn, 7 bushels for soybeans, and 100 pounds for cotton.

Soil sensor technology has been studied extensively in Nebraska, where research indicates that on average, Cornhusker irrigators reduced their pumped water by 2 inches by using sensors.

However, Mizzou specialists have one-upped the Nebraska method by adding in the benefit of wirelessly gathering data from the sensors, according to Henggeler.

“Instead of having to go out on a weekly basis and manually reading the sensors, readings from the sensors are wirelessly transmitted to their computer. Some even have systems that text-message them when the sensors determine it’s time to irrigate.”

Workshops start at 7 a.m. with breakfast and a brief background. Then each company will speak briefly about its products followed with time to interact one-on-one with dealers. The workshops will end at 10 a.m.

Workshops will be held Tuesday, Jan. 18, at the American Legion Building in Kennett, Mo.; Wednesday, Jan. 19, at the Clinton Building, in Sikeston, Mo.,; and Thursday, Jan. 20, at MU Bradford Farm, in Columbia, Mo.

Henggeler said the future could be very bright for this type of technology. “Hopefully, they’ll be as common as garage door openers in the Bootheel in a few years.”

Pre-registration is possible at: http://agebb.missouri.edu/irrigate/bhconf/2011/prereg.htm.