Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Dec 1, 2015
Project End Date
Nov 30, 2018
Grant Year
Project Director
Evett, S. R.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
The rationale for the project lies in these facts: 1) Irrigated agriculture produces more than 40% of agricultural products on <20% of agricultural land in the nation, producing $67 billion in farm gate receipts, but uses approximately 60% of national freshwater resources, a significant portion of which is lost due to poor irrigation scheduling while unintentionally moving nutrients into streams and lakes; 2) There are >$400 million savings in water, energy and fertilizer that remain unclaimed due to the failure of ET based and soil water sensor based agricultural irrigation scheduling to gain wide adoption and the relative lack of precision of those methods when used alone; 3) The proven ability of sensor-feedback-based irrigation control systems to optimize irrigation applications and water use efficiency; 4) The fact that >70% of American irrigation systems are now pressurized (NASS, 2014) and thus are amenable to sensor-feedback control; 5) The fact that the major manufacturers of pressurized irrigation systems, both center pivot and linear move, offer variable rate irrigation (VRI) systems, and the major manufacturers of drip irrigation systems offer zone control; and 6) The fact that despite the availability of VRI and drip irrigation systems amenable to control, there is a nearly complete lack of commercial technology for writing VRI or zone control prescriptions that respond day to day to actual crop water needs and that allow site-specific optimization of water and nutrient use efficiency while stabilizing yields.This project directly addresses the need for efficient water and nutrient use in irrigation agriculture by developing new wireless sensor technology, integrating wireless sensor networks for plant and soil water status with wireless weather data acquisition into a user-friendly system for irrigation control and management, and developing new algorithms for control through software/firmware engineering. And, it specifically addresses the national needs to protect and sustain local and global food supply and security, and the sustainable use of natural resources. The project addresses the need to improve the efficiency of energy and water use by enabling engineering, computing and information systems for plant production, while refining the sustainability of agricultural systems. And, it addresses three primary challenges: Keeping American agriculture competitive while ending world hunger; Adapting agriculture to climate variability and change and mitigating their effects; and Solving critical water resource problems in rural and agricultural watersheds across the United States.The advanced sensors and irrigation control system will be applicable to most of the pressurized agricultural irrigation systems in the nation, which makes it applicable to >37 million acres of irrigated land. The project is directly aimed at developing and enabling engineering, computing and information systems for natural resource conservation and plant production, by improving efficiency of energy and water use. Success will refine the sustainability of agricultural systems and improve economic, environmental and social outcomes in water limited regions.Potential savings in pumping and fertilizer costs exceed $400 million annually due to the improvements in WUE that come with sensor-based SCADA irrigation management. When yield stabilization and improvements are added, the total improvement in farm income exceeds $1 billion. The absence of VRI prescription decision support systems in the market will be addressed by introduction of a sensor-based system for prescription generation that is made robust by combined plant, soil and weather sensing in a feed-back and mutually self-correcting system. This and the new sensors that will be developed will be manufactured and sold by at least three companies and will be completely novel in the marketplace.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Our goal is to develop a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for irrigation management using advanced engineering based on soil, biological and atmospheric sciences, and based on integration of wireless plant, soil water and weather sensing systems with computer and IT systems to produce site-specific irrigation prescriptions that may be manually or automatically applied to variable rate irrigation systems in order to optimize water and fertilizer use efficiencies. Included in the approach is development of advanced wireless sensor systems for detection of crop health, cover fraction and water stress. The SCADA system will: 1) Reduce runoff and deep percolation losses of water, nutrients and agrochemicals from fields; 2) Reduce water use; 3) Reduce energy consumed for pumping; 4) Improve profitability and sustainability of rural economies; 5) Increase production of food, fuel and fiber; and 6) Increase overall water use efficiency (use efficiency of both precipitation and irrigation).Objectives are:1) Develop wireless, multi-band, integrated computer vision and thermal infrared sensor systems for detection of plant cover fraction, plant health, and plant water stress levels;2) Develop advanced wireless soil water sensor systems;3) Develop corresponding algorithms for prescribing water application in response to these biotic and abiotic stresses;4) Develop robust, advanced simulation systems for determining site-specific crop water use (evapotranspiration, ET) based on flexible and complementary combinations of sensed weather, canopy fraction, plant stress, soil water status and weather; and5) integrate these sensing and computational systems into the SCADA system with a farmer-friendly graphical user interface, including integration with the Internet (cloud) for remote access and control.
Project Methods
This multi-year research project will combine sensor system engineering development and testing, simulation software engineering development and testing, development of irrigation decision algorithms and field testing of same, and engineering the integration of sensor subsystems and code for simulations and irrigation decisions into the SCADA system for irrigation management. During all phases, the SCADA system will continue to be tested in field cropping experiments on two variable rate center pivot irrigation systems. Sub teams will focus on individual subprojects as follows:Computer vision and multi-band sensors - these sensors will be further developed into a wireless sensor network system using firmware development tools to develop code for image classification and thermal infrared data qualification, plus needed hardware development to reduce power consumption and improve sensor function. O'Shaughnessy leads this effort with help of a postdoctoral research associate.Wireless soil water sensing systems - the TDR based soil water sensor developed under the CRADA with Acclima will be integrated into a wireless sensor system compatible with the SCADA system. Evett and O'Shaughnessy co-lead this effort. The NMR based soil water sensor system will be further developed and field tested for use with the SCADA system. Clewett leads this effort in cooperation with Evett.Weather sensing and ET simulation systems - the wireless weather sensing subsystem is already available commercially, but will be refined to reduce cost and simplify linkage with the SCADA system. Computer code will be refined from existing codes of project personnel and new algorithms developed in order to efficiently compute the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum energy and water fluxes such that root zone soil water content changes, plant ET and canopy temperature are accurately simulated. Colaizzi and Lascano will lead the two complementary efforts, one based on the TSEB with Colaizzi's improvements, and the other based on ENWATBAL with Lascano's and Evett's improvements.SCADA system integration - integration of new wireless sensor subsystems, ET and soil water simulation code, and irrigation management algorithms into the SCADA system will continuously occur as systems and code are developed and tested, but a major refresh and upgrade of the GUI is planned for fall-winter of each year. O'Shaughnessy and Evett will co-lead this effort with help of a postdoctoral research associate.SCADA system testing - testing of the updated SCADA system will occur in each cropping season in randomized, complete block trials with crops of major economic importance in the region, including corn and cotton.Analysis of yield, water use, water use efficiency and sensor calibration and testing data will be done primarily using the SAS/STAT software (SAS Institute, Gary, NC), with primarily the mixed models and general linear models procedures. Some analyses and visual representations of results are more easily done using SigmaPlot software (Systat Software, Inc., San Jose, CA). Assessment of software reliability will be accomplished during the field studies. Reliability of wireless sensor networks will be assessed by measurement of received signal strength indication (RSSI) and packet reception rate (PRR) at various outdoor ranges and with nodes removed and added. Interpretation of yield, water use and water use efficiency will be done in reference to the deficit irrigation strategies employed and the ability of the advanced SCADA system to reliably improve water use efficiency without causing important declines in yield. The results will be subjected to a first cut farm economic analysis.

Progress 12/01/16 to 11/30/17

Target Audience:A major center pivot irrigation system manufacturer was our main target audience as we work with them through a CRADA to commercialize the Irrigation Scheduling Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (ISSCADA) system as an add-on package to provide a decision support system to their variable rate irrigation system offering. Other target audiences include producers and extension personnel who were reached through presentations at water district, irrigation association, trade show and other public meetings, and the scientific and engineering community who were reached through technical/scientific meetings. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?Project personnel, including a research associate and a student, attended several professional and technical meetings that provided training and professional development: 28th Annual Central Plains Irrigation Conf., Burlington, Colorado, February 2017. ASABE International Meeting, Spokane, Washington, July 2017 2017 ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual International Meetings, Tampa, Florida, October 2017 2017 Irrigation Association Trade Show and Technical Conference, Orlando, Florida, November 2017. Texas Agricultural Irrigation Association meeting, Amarillo, Texas, November 2017. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?The previous response to a similar question is relevant here. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?We plan to continue beta testing at the four locations previously used (Texas, South Carolina, Missouri and Mississippi), and to do beta testing in a fifth location in semi-arid Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Additionally, targeted studies of advanced algorithms linking plant canopy temperature to soil water status and to evapotranspiration using crop water uptake and energy balance models will be undertaken to improve and add to algorithms in the ISSCADA system. Our agency (ARS) is pursuing licensing of the ISSCADA patent to a major center pivot irrigation system manufacturer. We plan to improve wireless communications to soil water sensors using the LoRa radio transmission protocol. And we plan to publish more reports on our work as it matures into a commerical system. Presentations are planned for several venues, including ILSI 2018 Meeting, Bermuda; Central Plains Irrigation Conference, Kansas; ASABE International Meeting, Detroit; and ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meetings, Baltimore.

What was accomplished under these goals? A second year of beta-test field trials was accomplished using variable rate center pivot irrigation systems at four locations: Bushland, Texas Florence, South Carolina Portageville, Missouri Stoneville, Mississippi The ISSCADA client server software was improved to include soil water sensor data, and advanced time domain reflectometry (TDR) based soil water sensors were installed at each location and linked wirelessly to the ISSCADA software. The soil water sensors are available commericially and are being rapidly adopted by the research community and end users, including producers and ecosystem and agroecosystem research networks. Several improvements to the user interface and utility of the client server software were introduced and used in field tests (Andrade et al., 2017a,b). The wireless infrared thermometer entered its second year of commerical production and was used at all beta test locations, revealing needed improvements in weather tightness that have been pursued by the manufacturer. A canopy temperature based evapotranspiration (ET) simulation system was proven in the field and results published (Colaizzi et al., 2017). The ISSCADA irrigation management approach was again shown to provide yield and water use efficiency results as good as or better than those achieveable using time consuming manual weekly neutron probe measurements (O'Shauhgnessy et al., 2017).


  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Published Year Published: 2017 Citation: Evett, S.R., S.A. O'Shaughnessy and M.A. Andrade. 2017. Precision Agriculture and Irrigation  Current U.S. perspectives. In Proc. 2017 Irrigation Association Technical Conf., Nov. 6-10, 2017, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida. Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Published Year Published: 2017 Citation: Andrade, M.A., S.A. O'Shaughnessy and S.R. Evett. 2017. Site specific irrigation management of a center pivot irrigation system using a sensor based decision support system. In Proc. 2017 Irrigation Association Technical Conf., Nov. 6-10, 2017, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida. Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Published Year Published: 2017 Citation: Andrade, M.A., S.A. O'Shaughnessy and S.R. Evett. 2017. ARSPIVOT, A sensor based decision support tool for the integrated irrigation management of VRI irrigation systems. Pp. 5-14 In Proc. 28th Annual Central Plains Irrigation Conf., Burlington, CO, February 21-22, 2017.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2017 Citation: O'Shaughnessy, S.A., M.A. Andrade and S.R. Evett. 2017. Using an integrated crop water stress index for irrigation scheduling of two corn hybrids in a semi-arid region. Irrig. Sci. 35(5):451-467.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2017 Citation: Colaizzi, P.D., S.A. O'Shaughnessy, S.R. Evett and R.B. Mounce. 2017. Crop evapotranspiration calculation using infrared thermometers aboard center pivots. Agric. Water Manage. 187:173-189.
  • Type: Other Status: Published Year Published: 2017 Citation: Evett, S.R. 2017. Soil Moisture Sensing: Comparing the Technologies. Pp. 14-15 In Irrigation Today, Vol 1, Issue 3, January 2017, Irrigation Association, 8280 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22031-4511 USA

Progress 12/01/15 to 11/30/16

Target Audience:The target audience consisted of a moving irrigation system manufacturer,two manufacturers of agricultural sensors, scientists and engineers involved in related research and development efforts, agricultural producers using irrigation, equipment dealers,and underground water conservation district managers and board members. Changes/Problems:Remote telemtry access to one of the five center pivot irrigation systems was not achieved due to local infrastructure and personnel lacunae. This delayed troubleshooting and required hands on operation, which prevented a full test of the decision support system on that center pivot. If this problem cannot be overcome we will move the equipment from this location to one of those we are looking at for additional beta test sites, likely the one in the Texas Panhandle. The 2016 growing season was characterized by plentiful rainfal at three of the four test sites, which resulted in only one irrigation required at one of those sites and only two irrigation required at the other two sites. This somewhat limited what could be learned from the beta tests, but the test were considered very successul, despite that happenstance, because the team learned a great deal about how to install and configure the equipment and software systems at remote sites, which is already helping with writing of user guides. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?The post doctoral research associate attended the ASABE summer meeting and presented his work on the ARSmartPivot client-server software. Working conferences were held with beta test partners, including Valmont, bytelephone and in personat Valley Nebraska and San Diego, CA (Irrigation Association meeting). The Co-PIs presented at several scientific and engineering conferences and field days attended by producers and local and regional water conservation professionals. Presentations were made at the Central Plains Irrigation Conference in Colby, KS; at the 2016 Irrigated Crop Production Update Conference, 19-20 January 2016, Lethbridge, Alberta; at the Water Saving Technologies Flagship Project Technical Conference: Modern Irrigation based on Web+, August 20, 2016, Wuhan, China; and at irrigation workshops in Boise City, OK; Dalhart, TX; and Amarillo, TX. The undergraduate student in computer sciences completed his degree work. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?The co-PIs and beta test partners frequently speak at field days to the public and stakeholders, including irrigation industry representatives. One PI presented the research program and results to wide audiences, including urbanaudiences,during the ARS National Program 211 - Water Availability and Watershed Management retrospective review, and during two technology transfer workshops in the water sphere conducted in Washington, DC. One patent,six referreed journal articles andtwo proceeding articles were published for the engineering, science and irrigation industry communities. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?We will continue beta tests on five center pivot irrigation systems at the four locations. We are investigating three additional beta test locations, including one on a farmer's field in the Texas Panhandle, one in Alberta, Canada, and one in Washington State. We will continue developement of the client server software system and its user interface with additional tools and easier access to often-used features, including better integration and display of soil water sensing data. We will continue development of evapotranspiration and canopy temperature simulation systems and development of a system for mapping soil water status based on a few soil water sensors and plentiful canopy temperature data. As they are developed, these will be integrated into the software system. We plan to hire the second post doctoral research associate in the coming year to help with development of the computer vision based thermometric and plant canopy sensing system. We will continue to work with our commercial partner in development of a low cost, long range wireless system for soil water sensors.

What was accomplished under these goals? The client-server software system that embodies the Irrigation Scheduling Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (ISSCADA) based decision support system was improved by addition of wireless soil water sensing, variogram/kriging based contour mapping of plant canopy temperature and water stress index, ability to read in and integrate a user-produced variable rate irrigation presciption file, and improvement of the user interface. A five-band (NDVI plus thermometric infrared) sensor design and algorithm for qualification of canopy temperature data was patented. Beta tests of the ISSCADA decision support system software and hardware systems were completed on five variable rate center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems, two at Bushland, Texas, and one each at Florence, SC; Portageville, MO; and Stoneville, MS. Wireless soil water sensing was achieved with four of the five center pivot systems. Wireless plant canopy temperature sensing was achieved on all five systems. Beta tests included comparison with irrigation management based on common practice at each location. Yield data are not yet available. Progress on simulation systems for evapotranspiration was made and reported in scientific publications.


  • Type: Other Status: Accepted Year Published: 2016 Citation: OShaughnessy, S.A., S.R. Evett, M.A. Hebel and P.D. Colaizzi. Multi-Band Photodiode Sensor. US Patent No. 9,451,745 B1. Issued Sept. 27, 2016.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Accepted Year Published: 2016 Citation: Schwartz, R.C., S.R. Evett, S. Anderson and D. Anderson. Evaluation of a direct-coupled TDR for determination of soil water content and bulk electrical conductivity. Vadose Zone J. 15(1)2016. doi: 10.2136/vzj2015.08.0115. 2016
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Accepted Year Published: 2016 Citation: Colaizzi, P.D., N. Agam, J.A. Tolk, S.R. Evett, T.A. Howell, Sr., S.A. OShaughnessy, P.H. Gowda, W.P. Kustas and M.C. Anderson. Advances in a two-source energy balance model: Partitioning of evaporation and transpiration for cotton. Trans. ASABE 59(1):181-197. DOI 10.13031/trans.59.11215. 2016.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Accepted Year Published: 2016 Citation: OShaughnessy, S.A., S.R. Evett, A. Andrade, F. Workneh and C.M. Rush. Site-specific variable rate irrigation as a means to enhance water use efficiency. Trans. ASABE 59(1):239-249. DOI 10.13031/trans.59.11165. 2016.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Under Review Year Published: 2017 Citation: OShaughnessy, S.A., S.R. Evett and P.D. Colaizzi. Review Article: Advances in Wireless Infrared Thermometry for Crop Water Management.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Under Review Year Published: 2017 Citation: Colaizzi, P.D., S.R. Evett, D.K. Brauer, T.A. Howell, J.A. Tolk, K.S. Copeland. Allometric Method to Estimate Leaf Area Index for Row Crops. Submitted to Agron. J. on 31 August 2016.
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Under Review Year Published: 2017 Citation: Colaizzi, P.D., S.A. O'Shaughnessy, S.R. Evett and R.B. Mounce. Crop evapotranspiration calculation using infrared thermometers aboard center pivots. Submitted to Agric. Water Manage. September 19, 2016.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Accepted Year Published: 2015 Citation: Evett, S.R., S.A. OShaughnessy, A. Andrade, D.K. Brauer, P.D. Colaizzi and R.C. Schwartz. Strategies to Improve Productivity in a Water-Stressed Future. Pp. 15-28 In Proceedings 2015 Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium, Reno, Nevada, December 2-4, 2015. UC Cooperative Extension, Plant Sciences Department, University of California, Davis, CA 95616. 2015.
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Accepted Year Published: 2016 Citation: Andrade, M.A., S.A. O'Shaughnessy and S.R. Evett. A GIS-based Decision Support Tool for Center Pivot Irrigation Systems. Paper Number: 2461449, presented at the 2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting, Orlando, Florida, July 17-20, 2016.