Delta test marries agriculture, technology to save water, raise crop yields

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Technology has often proven better than human know-how in many career fields.

A recent agricultural test on a farmer’s field in the Mississippi Delta proves technology can improve agriculture, too.

Results of an agricultural proof of concept test recently released showed automated irrigation techniques not only saved millions of gallons of water, but also dramatically improved corn and soybean yields per acre.

“We’ve cracked the code on how to increase yields, save water and help farmers achieve higher profits,” said Nick King, president of Yazoo City-based PrecisionKing

King’s firm partnered with Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology firm C Spire and JF Phillips Farm to test the technology in a 130-acre test of fully automated, furrow-style irrigation on farmland in Tchula and Louise, Mississippi. The system used moisture sensors monitored from a computer, smartphone or tablet using wireless data networks to relative performance data.

The test showed yields rose and net revenue per acre for soybeans jumped by $94.90 and by $24.92 per acre for corn while water usage declined by up to 27 percent for soybeans and up to 55 percent for corn, King said.

The test was part of C Spire’s Tech Movement initiative, launched in 2017, to use its technology know-how to expand its business and help Mississippi move forward at the same time.

“We have the resources, partnerships and professional expertise to help farmers be successful as they transition from a labor-intensive, high-risk, low-reward industry to one that relies on 21st century technology to feed the world and conserve our precious natural resources,” said C Spire President Stephen Bye. “Automation and analytics are the key factors that will help us deliver on that promise.”

Farmer Jack Phillips said the test results were promising.

“We’re really encouraged by the results that showed a dramatic decrease in water usage – about 15 million gallons – with increased yields and profits,” said Phillips, owner of JF Phillips Farms. “There are a lot of variables in growing these crops, but this solution controls risk and manages the resources to produce great results.”

PrecisionKing plans a commercial introduction of the service in time for the 2019 growing season, King said, noting that an optimal watering schedule helps retain nitrogen content in the soil, boosting yields and dramatically reducing water usage.

Agriculture is Mississippi’s leading industry sector with more than 36,300 farms working 10.7 million acres, much of it in the Delta.

Agriculture’s reliance on water, particularly in the farm-rich Delta region, has led to declining groundwater levels and worries about depletion of its deep groundwater alluvial aquifers. Gov. Phil Bryant and other state leaders and federal agencies formed a task force in 2014 to address the problem and develop solutions.

The industry sector employs 29 percent of the state’s workers and generates over $6.7 billion annually for the state’s economy.

To learn more about the C Spire Tech Movement, visit http://www.cspire.com/cms/wireless/tech-movement/.