Volume 14 Issue 5 May NE

Fine-Tuning Your Fertigation From Space

By Kris Polly

It may sound impossibly high tech, but irrigated farmers can now base their fertigation regimens on photos taken from space. Nebraska-based Sentinel Fertigation uses an ingenious technique to discern the effects of fertilizer from satellite imagery and then translates that information in to application prescriptions that are compatible with most existing fertigation systems. As Founder and CEO Jackson Stansell tells us, that stands to save farmers fertilizer and money and to reduce the leaching of nitrogen and other nutrients.

Next, we take a multifaceted look at canal safety. Nevada- based Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID) has experienced a major canal breach in 2008 and challenges caused by uncommonly high precipitation in 2017 and 2023. In response to all this, as we hear from General Manager Ben Shawcroft,TCID is undertaking a major canal-lining project and considering other system upgrades. We also speak with Roy McClinton, the technical sales director at HUESKER Inc., which is providing the geocomposite material that TCID will use to line its canal. He also tells us about other products of interest to irrigation districts.

Next, we speak with Jeremy Ryf, the safety officer and building maintenance manager at central Washington’s Quincy–Columbia Basin Irrigation District, about infrastructure upgrades, safety railings, employee trainings, personal flotation devices, and other district safety initiatives.

The foundation of canal safety is safely constructed canals, and ensuring that canals are structurally sound and durable is something the Bureau of Reclamation’s Concrete & Structural Laboratory works on every day. Katie Bartojay, the lab’s manager, tells us about the impressive research the lab carries out and its unique facilities and equipment, including the 5-million-pound testing machine.

Automated gate manufacturer Rubicon Water started in Australia and is now active worldwide. An article from Jorge Ramírez Contreras, who handles marketing, strategy, and communication for Rubicon throughout Latin America, focuses on some recent successful projects in Chile and Argentina.

In California water politics, the Sierra Nevada is often thought of simply as a source of water, but the mountain counties have water interests and water rights of their own. We speak with Mountain Counties Water Resources Association Executive Director Justin Caporusso to learn more.

Many will remember the 2020 catastrophic failure of drop 5 on Montana’s Milk River Project. With heroic efforts from the project’s stakeholders, the structure was replaced within 22 weeks. However, more major projects remain to be done, including the replacement of the St. Mary Diversion Dam and two large steel siphons. We speak with Milk River Joint Board of Control Program Manager Jennifer Patrick about all this and more.

Finally, we sit down with Hervé Plusquellec, a French-born irrigation engineer with an incredible 60-year career that has included experience all over the world, including in a government agency, an international consulting firm, the World Bank, and as a private consultant. Our conversation is fascinating on both the personal and professional levels—it’s a must-read.

Materials science, assiduous maintenance, farsighted planning, and careful safety programs all have a role in ensuring that canals are safe for irrigation district employees, members of the public, and local communities. We salute the irrigation professionals working to ensure that canals across our nation are and remain safe.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.