Soil Moisture Sensors
Social Science Impacts of Soil Moisture Sensors in Cotton and Peanuts
Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication
Working with the UGA AgWET team, the social science subgroup, which includes myself, Abigail Borron, Adam Rabinowitz, and Amanda Smith, has worked this year to evaluate farmers and Extension agents' perceptions and implementation of soil moisture sensors into cotton and peanut fields in south Georgia.
In response to the Florida/Georgia water legislation, the University of Georgia established a team of researchers to examine the benefits, barriers, and perceptions of farmers, consultants, and extension agents in implementing irrigation scheduling technology into their farming decisions. Soil moisture sensors and its accompanying smart technology have the ability to help farmers make responsible irrigating decisions to use water efficiently for maximum crop yield. The AgWET team is comprised of the technical, social science, and education and outreach. The social science team has been tasked with evaluating the impact of utilizing soil moisture sensors in cotton and peanut fields in south Georgia. Using surveys and interviews, the team has worked with farmers, consultants and extension agents to better understand farmers adoption of technology to make efficient irrigation scheduling decisions.
To address the topic of farmer integration of technology into irrigation scheduling decisions, the team has identified methods of assessing barriers and impact of technology adoption. Through surveys at farm shows and in-depth interviews on the farms, the researchers are working to determine best practices and future implementation of technology in meaningful and useful ways for farmers. From understanding the economic benefit and cost of technology implementation, to the day-to-day operation issues farmers face, this team is working to make the research and technology developed in the lab setting practical and meaningful to farmers for adoption in the field. If we can truly understand and listen to the needs of farmers, we can create impactful and long-term solutions to utilizing water in the coming years - truly making every drop count.
The team is still collecting data to evaluate the long-term use of soil moisture technology in peanut and cotton fields irrigation scheduling. The data from the surveys indicated farmers were most likely to respond to online and mobile-friendly surveys, rather than paper or text message surveys. The data also indicated farmers are conscientious of their use of water in their irrigation scheduling decisions. Most interestingly, farmers indicate water use is of great importance, but do not believe it is a direct issue on their farm. Farmers recognize the use of water is a national or state issue, but not on their farm or in their county. The interviews are still being analyzed and focus groups with the farmers and agents will be conducted in January.
In the next year, research will be conducted to better understand farmers' adoption of technology. The research will address barriers of adoption and attitudes toward technology integration in farming practices to utilize water and natural resources efficiently. The results from this research will be used to provide farmers, agents, and consultants with accessible technology to meet their needs and efficiently use Georgia water.
Sustainability, Conservation, and the Environment