Water is certainly a finite resource, and the decision to utilize irrigation is a major one. In Nebraska, for example, over 5 million acres are under irrigation. It can be quite expensive to irrigate, so ensuring the water gets applied properly is essential. As The University of Nebraska Lincoln puts it:
“The objective of irrigation management is to provide supplemental water needed by the plant while maximizing the value of water.”
In order to “maximize the value of water,” the grower needs to know that the water is being applied properly. Determining if there are issues with the application of water is sometimes difficult to determine during the extremely busy growing season. One economic and efficient method to monitoring the application of water is the utilization of aerial imagery. Below is an NDVI of a field under pivot irrigation. This image was taken in the summer of 2013 and immediately showed both the agronomist and irrigation manager that nozzles were clogged and not supplying water to the field. Knowing this information enabled the expedient repair to the nozzle so the proper amount of water could then be applied.
Whether you are investigating irrigation management or currently managing irrigation, an image provides near real-time information on the application of water on a field by field basis. For further reading on irrigation management, below are a couple of links.