b"Probing for RainSimplot potato growers in Manitoba are using soil moisture probes in order to make more informed irrigation choices. BY: ASHLEY ROBINSONWHEN DO YOU turn on the pivots? Its a question potato growers are always asking. Should I wait and see if it rains, or do I do it now and risk it raining soon after? At J.R. Simplot Company, theyve been asking the same question too.Irrigation start up after rain events offer complexity to irrigation scheduling and decision-making in Manitoba where rain events can occur frequently, Scott Graham, agronomy raw development manager with Simplot, says in a Microsoft Teams interview. You might think that an inch or inch and a half of rain buys five to seven days when really, in the middle of the growing season, it's only good for two or three days. Then youve got to start the pivot up. To assist growers with watering decisions, Simplot has started using soil moisture probes with its potato growers in Manitoba. While soil moisture probes have been around for decades, recent technology advancements have helped them to provide more timely and better detailed information. Simplots soil moisture probes are distributed through their smart agriculture Scott Graham, agronomy raw development manager with J.R. Simplot Company, stands next division, Simplot SmartFarm, to growersto a soil moisture probe. The probes are 60 cm in length.PHOTO: SCOTT GRAHAMacross the United States for a variety of crops from corn to cotton. In Canada, Simplot has only circulated them amongstWhen placed in the soil, the probe hasscheduling on your farm. So, it would help their Manitoba potato growers so far. to be calibrated. This is done following athe growers manage their employees or If the irrigation management practicesrainfall by spinning the pivot to get watertheir labour the rain bucket will always are not optimal, we may waste water, ordown to it. The probe should be placed intell what the rain events were. So, it can give fertilizer, which has other environmentala uniform spot in the field following theyou an indication on where you have to go concerns. On the other side of that coin,final pass in mid-June. It will then remainto irrigate after a rainfall, Graham explains.we may not water enough and wontthere for the growing season sending dataSimplot introduced the soil moisture optimize production; soil moisture probesto a phone/computer application. Thereprobes to its Manitoba growers following can help reduce those risks, Mark Davis,is also a rain gauge on top of it in orderthe expansion of their Portage la Prairie, platform manager for Simplot SmartFarm,to measure water amounts. The probeMan. plant. The plant was expanded from says in a phone interview. is removed from the field a week or two180,000 to 460,000 square feetmore The probes are 60 cm in length withbefore harvest. than doubling its potato requirement. sensors at every 10 cm. It measures soilThe whole idea of this app is youManitoba growers have ramped up potato moisture, temperature, and salinity.can plan your work and your irrigationacres to fulfill needs. 16SPUDSMART.COM Summer 2021"