Water Supply and Demand Calls for Increased Vigilance, New Service
Recent years of drought had some growers’ water allocations plummeting. As rainfall and melting snowpack begins to replenish this massively important and dwindling resource, growers may be facing altogether different yet familiar challenges. A Grow West service is arming growers with the tools and knowledge to overcome them.
What WaterLabs provides growers
WaterLabs helps growers optimize irrigation with a suite of services that enable them to apply just the right amount of water to their crops. A combination of soil moisture probes, pressure bombing and a mobile application that provides real-time crop water data enables WaterLabs to help growers hit the water bullseye in their orchards.
Founded by Grow West PCA Nathan Azevedo, WaterLabs is equipping growers with precise crop water data — both quantity and quality — that’s integral to informed irrigation scheduling and water management decisions. Today, Azevedo and Grow West PCA Rachael Wilson manage WaterLabs and its services for growers.
The potential for increasing water challenges prompted Azevedo’s initial exploration six years ago into what would become WaterLabs, now part of Grow West. Azevedo, Wilson and the WaterLabs team now offer irrigation consulting, technology and practical know-how for growers facing moisture extremes. It’s a toolset that provides new ROI through precise orchard irrigation management.
Overcoming past, present and future water challenges in orchards
Whether the yield-limiting factor is too little, too much or simply poor-quality water, the WaterLabs system provides growers the data they need to optimize growing conditions.
Now, the issue is starting to transition to excess moisture that’s created altogether different hurdles like high humidity that makes the perfect environment for pests and disease. Azevedo, Wilson and their team will be watching for those latter challenges throughout this growing season, especially as irrigation water becomes more available than it has in the last two years. Water quality will also be an issue throughout 2023.
“We’re running into quality issues like high bicarbonates and calcium that contribute to poor water penetration,” Wilson said. “So even when a grower can irrigate, the water may just sit on top of the soil because of poor quality.”
How pressure bombing helps
Pressure bombing can enable a grower to see a clear picture of the water stress a tree’s experiencing, whether too much, too little or because of a quality issue. It enables growers to make management changes to help overcome the water challenges they face, which may be altogether different than in the last few years. The WaterLabs service contributes to consistent, reliable water management service for Grow West customers. It’s connecting water with the other pieces of the crop production puzzle growers assemble every season.
“We’re seeing situations where there’s high humidity in the canopy and it’s causing issues like rot,” added Grow West PCA Steven Perry. “Without the right irrigation and timing, the fertilizer you’re putting on gets wasted and trees aren’t taking up water or nutrients. We’re seeing trees starting to become more susceptible to pests too. Pressure bombing is a good first step in resolving these types of issues.”