UNR technology research aims to help Nevada alfalfa production
PhD student Uriel Cholula-Rivera and undergraduate student Jackson Zolmer connect an infrared thermometer measuring plant canopy temperature to a data logger as part of the irrigation research conducted at the experimental station from the university on Valley Road in Reno. Photo: Claudene Wharton
As smoke from wildfires continues to fill the skies and drought grips the West, farmers are trying to cope with dwindling water supplies and doing what they can to keep operations going. profitable.
Last fall, Andrade-Rodriguez and students from his Water and Irrigation Management Laboratory planted 18 alfalfa plots at the Experimental Laboratory at the Valley Road Experimentation Station in Reno. They planted two cultivars of alfalfa, one presented as drought tolerant, ladak II, and the other presented as high yielding stratica. Nine plots of each variety were planted, three plots of each using three different watering regimes: full irrigation (100%), moderate deficit irrigation (80%), and moderate deficit irrigation (60%), where 100% represents complete replenishment of soil water. depletion to field capacity during each irrigation.
The quantities of irrigation necessary for the implementation of these treatments are calculated using hourly data collected by soil moisture detection stations compatible with the “Internet of Things” (IoT), then applied with precision by a drip irrigation system.
“We will use this data to obtain an alfalfa crop growth model fitted to the conditions of northern Nevada,” said Andrade-Rodriguez. “We will then use a computer program and the alfalfa model to analyze different irrigation scenarios and identify the best scenarios for irrigation scheduling, deciding when and how much to irrigate. “
Associate Professor of Agriculture Juan Solomon, who participated in the design and implementation of the research, will also help analyze the quality and nutritional content of the samples obtained from each of the treatments.
Andrade-Rodriguez has already developed a new class for undergraduate and graduate students, Applied Programming for the Agriculture Sciences, to introduce them to the basics of programming and developing algorithms for use in agriculture.
“Computers are transforming our daily lives,” he said, “including the way we produce food and fodder. “
Andrade-Rodriguez is also interested in the differences they find between high yielding cultivars and drought tolerant cultivars. He said trial plots at the Valley Road Field Lab in Reno will continue until next year. He plans to plant a similar trial in Fallon, Nevada next year, using a sprinkler irrigation system, and also wants to trial in Diamond Valley, Nevada, using a center-pivot irrigation system.
“The goal is to have crop models that can help us provide irrigation management recommendations for our Nevada growers facing reductions in their water budgets,” he said. “The code for our computer programs will be readily available to other researchers, and then maybe others can duplicate what we’re doing here and create crop models and computer programs for other arid and semi-arid areas. -arides facing similar problems. “
Andrade-Rodriguez’s research is just a few of the work the College is doing to help Nevada forage producers.
Claudene Wharton is Senior Marketing Specialist at the University of Nevada. Go