Irrigation Advances Are Transforming How We Farm

Posted June 29th, 2015

Madera County almond farmer Tom Rogers reviews his irrigation data on his tablet, next to a device measuring temperature and humidity. A soil moisture sensor, seen near bottom of photo, left, transmits data as well. Drip irrigation is controlled remotely. Photo credit: Fresno BeeOn this blog and elsewhere, we have often talked about having improved water efficiency as an industry by 33% over the last 20 years1 for more “crop per drop.” Have you been wondering how individual farmers have been implementing such water-conserving systems?

This story by the Fresno Bee highlights what farmers do to be more efficient with the water they use on the crops they grow. Some almond farmers, like Madera County’s Tom Rogers, have installed “sophisticated sensors” to measure soil moisture and irrigation gates for increased efficiency. For Rogers, this means a 25% savings in water.

On managing the California drought, Rogers says:

“In a way, it is like we have had to re-learn everything we knew about irrigation,” Rogers said. “But we feel real confident that we are doing the right things.”

Almond farmers are among the leaders of water-conserving systems adoption. As the article notes,

Almonds are one of the state’s largest and most valuable crops, and growers of the nut have been quick to adopt drip irrigation. In 2013, 70% of the industry was using drip irrigation, according to the Department of Water Resources… Overall, 42% of California agriculture uses drip irrigation, 43% flood irrigation and 15% sprinklers.

For a glimpse inside water conservation efforts from the perspective of one almond farmer and at the challenges California agriculture faces, this Fresno Bee story is worth your time.


1 University 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.


In the Orchard , Water