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Variable Rate Irrigation

How can this technology work for you?

Advanced technology continues to push the limits and allow growers to optimize every resource. With variable rate programs, for example, growers have the opportunity to use crop data and focus resources to maximize plant health , ensuring efficient use of  inputs. Variable rate programs include  fertilization, seeding, and weed control, as well as the application of water to your fields.

Variable Rate Irrigation

A traditional center pivot irrigation system will apply a steady and uniform stream of water to a field. Within a single field, however, there are often many different variables that influence irrigation needs, such as soil type, topography, the shape of the field, and different types of crops.

Variable rate irrigation systems will take into account the variations in a field and apply water accordingly. With data gathered to classify and map zones on the field, GPS technology positions nozzles according to the management zone. Working from the existing retrofitted center pivot system, nozzles will turn on over drier areas and shut off over already wet areas.

The travel speed is also adjusted to account for variations in the field.


The benefits of variable rate irrigation have been widespread. With VRI technology, farmers have seen an increase in yield and quality of crops. By identifying more fertile areas in the field, VRI can focus more water in that area to allow for additional production. Also, wetter areas in the field are not drowned while applying additional water to drier areas.

Growers have also seen a reduction in runoff from irrigation since they can avoid watering steep slopes and areas with no crops. A reduction in irrigated runoff improves the condition of the soil and reduces stream sediment pollution.

In addition, center pivot overlap is essentially eliminated. If you have overlapping areas, non-crop areas, different soil types within the same field, or soggy or extremely dry areas, variable rate irrigation might be the solution you are looking for.


Variable rate systems have been used for row crops as well as other types of crops, with successful results achieved for both.

Technology continues to advance to make VRI even more efficient. For instance, Clemson University has designed a lateral VRI system to apply water based on the actual soil moisture content or pan evaporation data obtained through sensors in the field that transmit information wirelessly.

As more parts of the U.S. become concerned with optimizing available water supplies, the importance of water conservation continues to increase. Variable rate irrigation could be the resource-saving tool you need. For more information on variable rate irrigation, consult

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