U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Proceedings of the 24th Annual Central Plains Irrigation Conference, Colby, Kansas, February 21-22, 2012 Available from CPIA, 760 N. Thompson, Colby, Kansas


U.S. government work.


Remotely sensed plant canopy temperature has long been recognized as having potential as a tool for irrigation management. However, a number of barriers have prevented its routine use in practice, such as the spatial and temporal resolution of remote sensing platforms, limitations in computing capacity and algorithm accuracy, and the cost and ruggedness of sensors and related components that can transmit and receive data wirelessly. Recent advances in all of these areas have made remote sensing more feasible in providing real-time feedback of field conditions. This can potentially reduce management time, maintain crop yield and crop water productivity, and detect unusual conditions such as equipment malfunctions or biotic stress sooner. Center pivots equipped with wireless infrared thermometers (IRTs) have been found to be suitable as a remote sensing platform. Canopy temperature-based algorithms have successfully automated drip and center pivot irrigation schedules where crop yield, water use efficiency, seasonal water use, and irrigation amounts applied were comparable to irrigations scheduled manually with a field-calibrated neutron probe. Even without automation, these algorithms can provide timely and valuable information on plant and soil water status, which can improve the management of irrigated crops.