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USDA researchers in Greeley are using technology to maximize water use for farmers

Posted at 5:22 PM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 08:02:22-04

GREELEY, Colo. -- Researchers in Greeley are using drones to help farmers conserve water when growing their crops.

Working as an agricultural engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kendall DeJonge says their research is aimed at maximizing the water farmers use in order for them to save water and profit.

“We’re kind of trying to look at crop per drop, so if you can maximize your yield when you have less water, that’s sort of what we’re exploring here," DeJonge said.

To get the most “crop per drop,” the team flies drones over their fields. Equipped with special cameras, they pinpoint which areas need more water and which places can go without.

They also use temperature and moisture sensors to see how little water a plant can take while still yielding a harvest.

“Really, the goal at the end of the day is to make money, so if we can optimize the grain yield for the water they have available so they can be profitable, then that’s what we’re really talking about,” said DeJonge.

A local farmer in the area, Randy Knutson, says people sometimes take for granted how food gets on their tables and forget what it takes to harvest acres of land.

"I think a lot of people are not cognizant of what it takes to grow the commodities that are necessary to stock the grocery shelves,” Knutson said.

He says although the technology the USDA is testing will not be ready for everyone to use for at least a few years, it begins to give them an idea of what is needed to save water and money.