New Irrigation Tool Increases Efficiency, Helps Growers Streamline Decision-making

Posted June 15th, 2016

Water efficiency is a priority for California almond growers, who know first-hand how vital, and at times scarce, this resource can be. That’s why Almond Board of California (ABC) developed an Irrigation Calculator which automatically calculates the best timing and amount of irrigation water for growers to apply in their orchards. Based on local conditions, the irrigation scheduling information provided by this tool aims to meet the trees’ needs and support the growing crop without irrigating more than is necessary.

The Irrigation Calculator, available to growers on the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) website, supports the Water Management and Efficiency initiative of the Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) program. The AIM program represents a coordinated effort make the almond industry even more efficient and sustainable.1

To use the Irrigation Calculator, growers enter information about their orchard, including spacing between the trees, soil characteristics, tree root depth and basic information about their irrigation system setup. Once this information is entered, the tool calculates, based on local growing conditions, the amount of water needed by the orchard each week and how growers can best apply it. The system also saves information that the growers enter which allows easy updates for changing factors and saves the grower time and ensures accuracy.

In addition to local conditions input from the grower, the calculator integrates data from the California Irrigation Management System (CIMIS), a network of weather stations throughout the state that measure not only weather conditions, but also how plants under those weather conditions use each week and lose to the atmosphere. Growers select which weather station is closest to their operation and the scheduling tool integrates the most up to date information.

By using the Irrigation Calculator, growers can eliminate many of the calculations they would have previously done by hand or in computerized spreadsheets. Growers simply enter all the basic information about their orchard into one place, and the tool will calculate how much water the trees need.

Through resources like the Irrigation Calculator, ABC is translating decades of industry-funded irrigation research into grower-friendly, easy-to-use decision support tools that help improve how we grow almonds. And through the Water Management and Efficiency AIM initiative mentioned above, the Almond Board is working with the California almond community to accelerate grower adoption and transition of irrigation practices that will increase the almond crop per drop of water. This builds on the 33% reduction in water used to grow each pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years.2

1Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
2University of California. UC Drought Management. Feb. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 66 – Crop yield in response to water. 2012. Almond Board of California. Almond Almanac 1990-94, 2000-14.