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Amarillo Water Management Team Honored, March 18, 2021

A group of water researchers (“Amarillo Water Management Team”) was recently honored with the Agricultural Blue Legacy Award for their innovative work in developing a center pivot automation and control system (CPACS).

 Team members include:

  • Dr. Jiang Hu, co-director of graduate programs in the Texas A&M Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at College Station.
  • Dr. Gary Marek, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service agricultural engineer at Bushland.
  • Thomas Marek, AgriLife Research senior research engineer at Amarillo; 
  • Dr. Dana Porter,  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program leader in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Lubbock; and
  • Dr. Qingwu Xue, AgriLife Research crop stress physiologist at Amarillo.

 The Center Pivot Automation and Control System (CPACS) integrates three important components:

 1)      Center Pivot Control System: High accuracy GPS data guides the center pivot speed and location controls.

 2)      Weather, Crop, and Soil Moisture Data: This data allows the computer software to best prescribe the right amount of water at the right time. It integrates real-time soil moisture monitoring, near real-time and short-term evapotranspiration rates, and precipitation forecasting. Crop models with crop type and growth stage also help the system know how much water the plants need at different times during the growing season.

 3)      Soil Moisture Sensor Placement: Though soil moisture sensing is not a new technique in the agricultural world, the technology has not always been optimized on a location-specific basis. This methodology recommends sensor placement based on local soil conditions, crop root zone depth, as well as sensor and communications reliability. This assists in balancing data reliability and cost effectiveness.

 The Amarillo Water Management Team has demonstrated the effectiveness of water saving technologies and found ways to optimize equipment that is already on the market. The team has U.S. and International patents pending, and they are ready to work with the irrigation industry to license the CPACS.

 Blue Legacy Awards were created as a way to honor groups whose practices enhance water conservation while maintaining or improving profitability. There are three award categories: Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Municipal. The award is sponsored by the Water Conservation Advisory Council.

 The award was presented during a March 18 virtual ceremony that will be aired in conjunction with the Texas Section American Water Works Association’s Texas Water™ 2021 Conference, March 29-April 1. Dr. Porter accepted the award on behalf of the research team.

“HPWD congratulates the Amarillo Water Management Team on this honor.  Individuals on this team have made many advancements in agricultural water conservation through their own research. However, this collaborative effort has created a new system and methodology. It is a cost-effective means of making current center pivot technology more water efficient through automation and machine-learning techniques,” said Jason Coleman, HPWD General Manager.

Other Blue Legacy Award winners include:

  • North Plains Groundwater Conservation District (Agriculture Non-Producer)
  • City of Horseshoe Bay (Municipal with <10,000 population)
  • Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District (Municipal with 10,000-50,000 population)
  • McAllen Public Utilities (Municipal with 100,000-500,000 population)
  • Tarrant Regional Water District (River Authority/Regional Water District).
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