Precision Alfalfa Management (PAM)

 

PAM begins with the engineering design and installation of a subsurface drip irrigation system (SDI).  The parcel SDI is the vehicle through which optimal results can be achieved through PAM.  The PAM program applied to the parcel will address specific issues such as water sources, cost and water quality, soil characteristics and plant health, hot-spot mitigation, and a gopher control plan.

PAM has boots and eyes on the ground and from the air to evaluate and adjust programs to current and future conditions including continual soil moisture and crop monitoring and reporting as well as irrigation scheduling – amount, frequency, and duration.

Crop yield response to water applied determines the water use efficacy of a crop.  For alfalfa, this metric is the number of acre-inches of water that yields one ton of alfalfa.  The California State monthly average of 5.0 acre-inches per ton is consistent with traditional results but is more than double the 2.4 acre-inches to produce each ton measured on the 1,100 acres using PAM.

 

Water use efficiency and conservation are critically important.  Applied irrigation water does not wet the plant or the soil surface.  All of the irrigation water and nutrients are deposited uniformly in the root zone.  The top of the soil remains dry with a hydraulic conductivity near zero.  Many crop stress factors are mitigated or eliminated.  Nitrates and other salt concentrations due to free water evaporation are eliminated.

Implementing PAM requires both an SDI irrigation system and precision farming technology.  Capital expenses for PAM are not always a top priority given competing capital expense needs on the farm. Therefore, PAM is working with California Impact Architects to provide the capital financing needed in order to implement PAM on a broader scale.  

 
 Photo by seanfboggs/iStock / Getty Images
 

Precision Alfalfa Management.  New efficient techniques for water and crop management that can be passed down to the next generation of farmers.