By Ofelia F. Domingo

When irrigation water is scarce, especially in times of drought, conserving water is more than just a necessity. It is even wiser to plan, schedule, and implement management strategies to optimize water input and maximize crop yield at the same time.

Now there’s a way to help farmers practice smart irrigation management. With Water Advisory for Irrigation Scheduling System or WAISS, farmers can apply the right amount of water to crops at the right time and in the right place.

WAISS is a technology developed at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) through project SARAI or Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines. This project is ongoing under the funding support of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD). WAISS is just one of the many technologies and systems developed during the first phase of the project.

WAISS can warn or notify farmers if the soil moisture content in his farm is nearing critical level. It can advise farmers on when to start irrigating crops, how long it will be done, when to stop, and when to start again.

According to Dr. Roger A. Luyun Jr., UPLB’s project leader, WAISS is composed of a field unit and computer software. The field unit comprises three equipment: a set of soil moisture sensors, a transmitting data logger, and a 5-volt solar panel. “The sensors are installed underground where crops are planted and are connected to the transmitting data logger, which sends the measurement to the software via text message.”

Furthermore, Dr. Luyun said that in the software, “the real time monitoring of the soil moisture status of the farm is shown. If the moisture content is within the green area, the soil moisture condition is at optimum. If in the yellow area, plant experiences stress, while if the moisture reaches the red area, plant is under extreme stress. Negative effects may be irreversible and productivity is highly affected. WAISS will send irrigation alerts once the moisture reaches the yellow area. WAISS will continue to send daily irrigation alerts until the farm has been irrigated.”

The farmer, wherever he is, can know if his farm needs irrigation. Aside from receiving daily irrigation advisories, he can text WAISS for the status of his farm and the system will respond accordingly.

WAISS software and server is currently stationed in UPLB. Dr. Luyun and his team have identified demo farm sites where the WAISS set up will be deployed. Meters and sensors that the project produce will eventually be deployed to farmers’ field after the project has gone thorough tests, calibrations, reliability assessments, and field demonstrations.

For more information, visit Project SARAI.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s June 2019 issue.