LSU AgCenter

LSU AgCenter
The LSU AgCenter addresses a variety of water issues across the state of Louisiana

Friday, March 24, 2017

Still need help with Pipe Planner? Last week of webinars!

A message from Delta Plastics Irrigation Specialist, Chris DeClerk:
The final week of the Pipe Planner webinar instructional series is next week.  Two webinars will be offered.  One on Tuesday, March 28 and another on Friday, March 31, both from 9-11 am.  If you have questions or concerns about how to process polytubing hole designs using Pipe Planner for furrow irrigated fields or levee irrigated fields, or you are a new user in need of instruction, this is an excellent method of sharpening your skills and becoming more fluent with Pipe Planner.  Simply decide on which date you would like to join and follow the Gotomeeting instructions below.
 Significant savings in water, money and labor can be attained by simply punching the correct holes in polytubing.  Please take this opportunity to learn how you can personally create these savings on your farm. 
Tue, Mar 28, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM CDT
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 646-174-845

Fri, Mar 31, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM CDT
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212
Access Code: 279-242-917

First GoToMeeting? Try a test session:

As always, please contact us if you have any questions!!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Updated Pipe Planner Webinar Log-In Info!

Warmer temperatures and less frequent rainfall so far - are we going to have an early irrigation season this year?  Do you still need help or have questions about properly selecting your hole sizes in the lay-flat tubing?  Have too much or too little water to get even and efficient irrigation applied across the field?  

All great reasons to participate in one of the educational webinars on how to use Pipe Planner.   These webinars are conducted by Delta Plastics as part of the H2O Initiative, tasked with saving 20% of water by 2020 in the MS Delta.  

Log-in information for next week's webinar:

Fri, Mar 24, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM CDT 
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. 
You can also dial in using your phone. 
United States: +1 (646) 749-3131 
Access Code: 992-133-389 
First GoToMeeting? Try a test session:

There will be two final webinars to be held during the following week, with log-in information coming soon.  Check back for that information!

Please contact us if you prefer to work on your irrigation plans in person.  We will be glad to help.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Log-in Info for Pipe Planner Webinars

If you're interested in attending a Pipe Planner webinar, keep checking this blog for updated log-in information!  Here's the webinar schedule again:

Log-in information for the upcoming webinars:

Fri, Mar 10, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM CST
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3311
Access Code: 682-154-149

Tue, Mar 14, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM CDT
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 574-535-813

Pipe Planner Webinar
Fri, Mar 17, 2017 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM CDT

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 791-557-269

First GoToMeeting? Try a test session:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Helpful Resources for learning Pipe Planner

The typical method for irrigating agronomic crops in Louisiana is to flood the furrows using disposable lay-flat tubing stretched across the top of the field.  The most efficient application of this type of system is to ensure even application across the entire field while minimizing tailwater runoff and limiting continuous runtimes of longer than 24 hours (Fig. 1).  

Figure 1. Example of bad furrow irrigation.  The rows are receiving water unevenly.

 The efficiency of the system is tied to the hydraulics - numerous factors go into it, including:
  • Flow rate from the water source (gpm)
  • Pressure within the pipe (too high or too low)
  • The speed that the water flows down the furrow (affects infiltration rate)
  • Row lengths and widths
  • Lay-flat tubing size and thickness
The most important part of using this system efficiently is selecting the correct hole sizes to punch into the disposable lay-flat tubing (Fig. 2). Their size will determine the amount of pressure released from the pipe as well as the speed that the water flows down the furrows.

Figure 2. Holes are punched in lay-flat tubing to allow water to flow down the furrows.  

In effort to help those that aren't engineers to select their hole sizes properly, computerized hole selection (CHS) software was developed by NRCS as a conservation tool. This software, called PHAUCET, has stood the test of time and is still available today. Let us know if you need a copy! There hasn't been much updating to PHAUCET other than to make it work on modern computers, so you still need to understand the software to use it.

As a part of the H2O Initiative, Delta Plastics recreated PHAUCET and released it as Pipe Planner, an updated free CHS option for those that were intimidated by the original software.  The math behind the hydraulics is the same, but uses updated features such as Google Maps, to learn about the field conditions.  Much less inputs are required for Pipe Planner.  In addition to providing hole sizes, the software can aid in selecting the best type and size of lay-flat tubing and the estimated time required for effective irrigation.
Though Pipe Planner is much faster and easier to use than PHAUCET, it can still have a learning curve.  Additionally, a newer version was released last year that caused some confusion in its operation and use.  As a result, Delta Plastics is offering FREE educational webinars to walk people through the Pipe Planner software.  Dates and times are listed below:

Delta Plastics has free YouTube videos to help you get started.  You can find them by clicking here.  Feel free to contact us if you have questions or need more help!
  • STAMP Program-Twitter: @Geauxwater
  • Facebook: LSU AgCenter Water
  • Phone: (318) 741-7430

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Large Electric Motor Use in Agricultural Irrigation

   Large electric motors create high amperage draws on rural electrical systems, especially upon start-up. This spike can dim lights and interfere with electronic equipment usage. Local electrical suppliers must charge for the demand created by large motors as well as for the electrical energy consumption. The high demand on start-up, even though it is momentary, may generate additional charges from the electrical supplier. Electricity is in high demand in summer months for residential and business cooling. Large motor use during these months, especially in the evening, may incur additional charges.

   Because of the high amperage draw on start-up, utilities limit electric motor horsepower on a single-phase power supply. The high cost of running three-phase power to a large electric motor has caused many irrigation pumps to be located along a highway where three-phase power is usually available. Some utilities require “soft-start” controls which decrease the spike in amperage on start-up. Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) allow motors to start under load at a slow speed and build speed slowly, thus minimizing the amperage spike. This also makes it easier to use poly tubing for furrow or flood irrigation by running at low speed until the holes are punched and the tube is full of water. VFDs also allow the motor to run at an intermediate speed and to slow down rather than stopping suddenly. VFDs can be used to provide power to large motors from a single-phase power supplies. Current costs for a VFD are about $100/horsepower.  

  Most irrigation pumps in Louisiana are driven by diesel engines. The energy efficiency of an electric motor is much higher than that of a diesel engine. Since no gear box is required, the overall efficiency of an electric motor-driven well pump is even higher. Maintenance cost for an electric motor is much less than for a diesel engine.

  Following comparisons were provided by Phil Tacker, Extension Irrigation Engineer (retired), University of Arkansas: Average of observed energy efficiencies of power sources and calculated fuel energy consumption to pull a 50 HP load, where Hp-Hr is horsepower-hours, Gal is gallons, CCF is 100 cubic feet, and KWH is kilowatt-hour:

Fuel/Energy Source
Efficiency average
50 Hp Load
18.5 Hp-Hr/Gal
2.7 gal/hr
Natural Gas
10 Hp-Hr/CCF
5.0 ccf/hr
10 Hp-Hr/Gal
5.0 gal/hr
12 Hp-Hr/Gal
4.2 gal/hr
Electric Line-shaft
1.15 Hp-Hr/KWH
1.05 Hp-Hr/KWH
47.6 KWH/hr

To compare hourly costs for fuel/energy in pulling a 50 HP load, multiply your expected fuel cost/gallon (or ccf for natural gas or KWH for electricity) times the amount of fuel or energy used per hour. For example, a diesel engine burning 2.7 gallons of fuel per hour at $3 per gallon of fuel will have a fuel cost or $8.10 per hour of operation pulling a 50 HP load. The cost for routine maintenance will be 15% of the fuel cost, or $1.22, for a total operating cost of $9.32 per hour. An electric line-shaft motor pulling the same 50 HP load with electricity at $0.10 per Kwh will have an energy cost of $4.35 per hour plus a maintenance cost of $0.13 per hour for a total operating cost of $4.48 per hour. 

Source of fuel/energy
50 HP load fuel/energy  use/hour
Unit cost $/gal, $/ccf, or $/Kwh
Energy  cost per hour
Maintenance cost/hour as % of  energy cost/hour
Maint cost per hour  
Total cost per hour
2.7 gal

15 %

Natural gas
5.0 ccf

12.5 %

5.0 gal

12.5 %

4.2 gal

15 %

Elec-line shaft
43.5 Kwh

3 %

47.6 Kwh

6.5 %

                                    a             x       b          =     c             x        d                 =     e                   c+e

  Motor use in pumping water for rice irrigation occurs earlier in the year and may not interfere as much with high summer time demand for electricity, whereas cotton, corn and soybean irrigation typically occurs during hot, dry summer months. Time-of-day charges have been implemented in some parts of the United States. If irrigation can be avoided in the afternoon and early evening hours, electric rates may be reduced. Growers have to weigh the cost of potential crop yield loss if fields cannot be irrigated on time, if they are to take advantage of time-of-day rate reductions.

  When considering installing a large electric motor or converting from a diesel engine to an electric motor, be sure to spend time with your electricity supplier. Find out which rate schedule will be used for charges. Is three-phase power available? If not, what is the cost for getting a three-phase supply? Does the supplier offer a long-term contract to spread the initial cost out over several years? Does the supplier require a soft start or a variable frequency drive? What are the charges for transformers? Are there extra charges for use in summer months? Are there time-of-day charges? Talk to your electrical contractor, motor supplier or well driller. How much horsepower does your irrigation supplier recommend? The HP required for an electric motor will usually be less than for a diesel engine. How can you fit the motor into the electrical supplier’s rate schedules? What adjustments can be made to insure reasonable initial and operating costs?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My experience working as a summer research farm-hand for the Red River Research Station


We have a few main crops including corn, soybeans, and cotton.

   During my time here at the Red River Research Station, I have learned to use several tools, most of which I had never known existed. These include polypipe, flow meters, and blue gates, which all work together to deliver specific amounts of irrigation water. The blue sliding gates allow for changes to be made in water delivery rates, and can be used to apply skip row irrigation and other water treatment configurations. The flow meters then keep track of how much water is used in each of these irrigations.
This is my first time using a desk… I like to think I’ve come a long way.

   Volumetric water content sensors are capacitive soil moisture sensors that are used with brand-specific data loggers. To install them, we first drilled a hole 35 inches deep and 10 inches wide with an auger. The sensors were then inserted into the side of the hole facing the crops. Up to five sensors can be used with each data logger, and must be spaced five inches apart. These particular sensors performed well in sandy soils; however, they can become inaccurate in clay soils, which crack upon drying and lose contact with the soil.  

This is the first time I used an auger to dig the hole for the installation of the volumetric water content sensors.

Volumetric water content sensors were installed for monitoring soil moisture. The data logger transmitted the information wireless to our office.

  Watermark soil moisture sensors, on the other hand, are a granular matrix sensor that work by absorbing water from the surrounding soil. These sensors perform very well in clay-type soils.

We installed soil matrix potential sensors for monitoring soil moisture, also.

The work
   My typical day at the research station involves both field and office work. Field work mostly involves sensor installation and data downloads around the station and at all our on-farm demonstration locations. I also spend time cutting grass, killing weeds, and assisting Crystal Riley and Maureen Theissen . In the office, I’m often analyzing data, working on side projects, and communicating with farmers regarding logger performance and site visits.  

These blue gates were installed in the wall of the lay-flat tubing to control the flow rate of irrigation water. We also created an instructional video on gate installation that can be viewed here.

"How to apply Slide Gates to lay-flat tubing"

Our crew installed flow meters at an on-farm demonstration.

White lay-flat tubing was used to deliver irrigation water to individual furrows.

The crew
    Dr. Stacia Davis is the leader of our research team. She is in charge of designing experiments, attending meetings, organizing events, and interpreting soil moisture data in light of weather fluctuations to make recommendations to our farmers.

     Crystal Riley is the Project Coordinator, who assists with research along with the event planning. She is also in charge of all the social media for our research group, including our blog and website, as well as a YouTube channel, which can be viewed here. LSU AgCenter Water STAMP

This is Crystal Riley learning how to check the rain gauges.       
    Maureen Theissen is a PhD. student in Biological and Agricultural Engineering at LSU in Baton Rouge. She spent this summer working with our research group at the station to learn about soil moisture sensors and irrigation research as she prepares to formulate her own research experiments as part of her degree program.

We took this picture for the Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month #smartselfie project to raise awareness about water conservation.
         In addition to our irrigation team, there are many other people working hard here at the Red River Research Station. Everyone has his/her own unique skill set and job. Some are more outspoken, some are more reserved, but we all get along and do meaningful work to benefit Louisiana agriculture.

You’ve picked me too soon! I have not had a chance to fix my HAIR!                       

A special thanks to Maureen and Crystal for helping me with the editing on this blog, and also just for being very kind coworkers. You two and a few others have made this place a positive experience in my life. Thanks Y'all!