The Flint River Partnership and IBM recently announced a collaboration to deploy innovative conservation measures to enhance agricultural efficiency by up to 20 percent.
The Flint River Partnership (which includes the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and The Nature Conservancy) together with the University of Georgia and IBM will support farmers in the Lower Flint River Basin of Georgia in making more informed irrigation scheduling decisions to conserve water, improve crop yields and mitigate the impact of future droughts.
The Lower Flint River Basin is one of the most diverse and ecologically rich river systems in the southeastern United States. The area is also the epicenter of agriculture in Georgia with its 27 counties contributing more than $2 billion in farm-based revenue annually to the region’s economy. Irrigation is central to production and because of the area’s unique hydrogeology, maximizing water conservation helps support sensitive habitat systems.
Building upon a successful irrigation model and other water conservation measures already in place, the Flint River Partnership is using IBM’s Deep Thunder precision weather forecasting to help farmers conserve water and improve crop yields. Because the forecasts will be available on mobile devices, farmers will have 24-hour access to critical weather information in conjunction with other relevant field data. The Partnership is also leveraging IBM Softlayer to manage data flows and automate irrigation recommendations, allowing farmers to determine how much water a specific crop needs at various stages of its life cycle.
Our job is to help farmers conserve water. Irrigation scheduling based on highly accurate weather forecasts and real-time field data will optimize decision making and consequently reduce resource use,” said Marty McLendon, chairman of the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District. “Having access to such forecasts and field data on a mobile platform makes the data relevant, so that we can make proactive irrigation scheduling decisions on the fly.”
The integration of complex data streams generated by GPS-enabled farm equipment and in-field sensors with IBM’s Deep Thunder weather forecasting technology delivered to mobile devices will provide 72-hours advance notice of weather in the Flint region, allowing farmers to be more prepared to make decisions on when to irrigate, plant, fertilize, and deploy labor resources.
Farming operations are highly sensitive to weather. In the US, that sensitivity is about $15 billion per year. For example, the USDA estimates that 90 percent of crop losses are due to weather. In addition, improving efficiency in irrigation will reduce the impact in areas with limited water supplies. By better understanding and then predicting these weather effects, we can help mitigate these impacts,” said Lloyd Treinish, Distinguished Engineer & Chief Scientist, IBM Research. “Innovators like the Flint River Partnership are showing how they can leverage IBM’s advanced modeling and analytics to increase crop yields. When we consider the need to increase food availability to a growing population, their leadership is helping to create a more sustainable approach to agriculture.”
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