The Expo also is working with different companies to test soil moisture sensors, he says.

“We tie those back into the pivots, using a service like WagNet, which allows you to remotely control and monitor third-party devices.  There’s a monitoring device on the pivot that can be monitored from my phone. It coordinates with the soil moisture sensors, and I can look at it all on the same app on my smart phone.  I can call up the water level in the soil, and if the moisture sensor indicates that the soil is dry, I can start the pivots and watch them from the same application on the phone.”

A recent upgrade to the Expo’s irrigation system is a propane-powered pumping unit that was donated by PERC — the Propane Education 7 Research Council.

“It replaced an outdated diesel engine that was uneconomical and inefficient,” says Chafin. “PERC is working to convert gasoline engines to propane. Their research has shown that propane pumps are cheaper to run than diesel and are competitive with electricity. We’ll be conducting some extensive testing starting next year.

“We were planning to do it this year, but conditions haven’t been ideal for irrigation testing. We’ll be running some head-to-head comparisons between the diesel, propane and electric systems through the same pivot on the same crop, and we’ll come up with some hard data on what it costs to run the same unit under the same conditions using different sources of power.”

Other improvements include new booster pumps donated by Cornell Pump Company.

“Cornell is donating booster pumps for all of our pivots to replace our existing booster pumps. We’ve had to replace pumps in the past few years that were worn out. These are the booster pumps on the end of the pivots that help to power the end guns.”

In southwest Georgia, where the Expo site is located, irrigation has expanded significantly, from about 25 percent of all cropland 20 years ago to anywhere from 55 to 60 percent today. So for the Expo to mirror what growers in the region are doing, irrigation is a must, and proper, updated irrigation is even better, says Chafin.

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