Precision irrigation

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
As part of the case study presented in the 'Precision Agriculture' integrated laboratory, the course aims to provide the student with the knowledge needed to deal with issues related to the on-farm precision irrigation management. This objective is pursued by analyzing the variability of the soil-crop system at the field scale, developing irrigation prescription maps, designing and managing (also with the support of sensor networks) pressurized irrigation systems, in order to improve the water use efficiency and the quality of agricultural products.
Expected learning outcomes
The student will acquire the ability to process site-specific data related to the state of the soil-crop system in order to obtain irrigation prescription maps, identify precision irrigation solutions for the implementation of the prescription maps, plan a precision management of the implemented solutions. The student will acquire skills related to the use of calculation, statistical analysis and GIS tools, as well as to the use of sensors for monitoring the soil and crop water status. Finally, the student will acquire technical and scientific language skills and ability to interact with other professional figures in team activities.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
The teaching method may vary depending on the state of the COVID-19 health emergency during the 1st semester. At the moment it is planned that only frontal lectures (2.5 CFU) will be conducted with remote teaching methods (through MS Teams), while activities to be conducted in the computer and soil physics/hydrology laboratories and in the field (2.5 CFU) will be carried out in presence. The course lecturer will be responsible for informing students promptly in the event of any changes imposed by UNIMI following a worsening of the COVID-19 emergency.
Course syllabus
2.5 CFU - Frontal lectures [20 hours]
Introduction to the course: educational objectives, contents, examination methods, available material.
The key steps of a precision irrigation approach: acquisition of georeferenced data of the soil-crop-atmosphere system, zonation in homogeneous areas and creation of irrigation prescription maps, implementation of VR irrigation (irrigation systems and their management).
Georeferenced data acquisition: drones and geophysical sensors.
Creation of irrigation prescription maps using multivariate analysis and data-fusion techniques.
Implementation of VR irrigation: drip irrigation systems and VR irrigation machines.
Implementation of VR irrigation: irrigation management through sensors and decision support systems.
1.5 CFU - Field activities and soil physics-hydrology laboratory [24 hours]
Topographic survey of the pilot field with a differential GPS. Data acquisition in the field on bare soil with an EMI sensor. Design of the soil sampling campaign after delineating homogeneous zones based on EMI data. Collection of disturbed and undisturbed soil samples at different depths, which will be analysed in the soil physics-hydrology laboratory.
1 CFU - Computer lab [16 hours]
Field zoning map based on EMI sensor acquisition. Processing of VIS-NIR and TIR data acquired by drone in July 2020. Application of data-fusion techniques to obtain a definitive homogeneous zone map, used to obtain the irrigation prescription map. Application of a soil-crop-atmosphere model to compute the irrigation efficiency for the standard irrigation management carried out by the farmer and to program a VR irrigation management, thus evaluating the increase in irrigation efficiency.
Prerequisites for admission
In order to successfully follow the course, students should meet the following requirements:
- good theoretical basis of hydrology and hydraulics;
- a good familiarity with personal computers (Windows environment, word processing and calculation programs).
Teaching methods
The course is divided into 2.5 CFU of frontal lectures (20 hours), 1 CFU of practicals in computer lab (16 hours) and 1.5 CFU of activities in the field and in the soil physics-hydrology lab (24 hours). The main calculation software used during the practical in the computer lab are the following: Excel (spreadsheets with calculation procedures implemented), QGIS, statistical and geostatistical processing software, drone image processing software, hydrological balance models for the soil-crop-atmosphere system. The CFU in the field is aimed at the direct acquisition of georeferenced data of the soil-crop-atmosphere system investigated in the case study (including soil samples to be analysed in the soil physics-hydrology laboratory).
The attendance at lectures and practicals is strongly recommended. Missed lessons can be substituted by self-study using the reference material indicated by the course lecturer.
Teaching Resources
The material for the course is available on the ARIEL site, and consists of the slides shown during the lectures and of supplementary material, such as reference to book chapters, text of laws, scientific and technical papers, websites. The course lecturer will provide indications to students on how to use the different supporting materials.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Course is concluded by an exam. The exam consists of an oral test, focussing on the following aspects: (a) discussion of a written report describing the technical and experimental activities carried out for a pilot field during the course (the report must be delivered to the course lecturer by the exam registration date, and can be carried out by a single student or in groups of 2-3 students); (b) discussion of a scientific article provided by the course lecturer during the course or chosen by the student because of his/her interest and subsequently approved by the course lecturer, which illustrates precision irrigation techniques and methods; (c) questions on theoretical parts of the course not covered by the written report. The three issues will constitute respectively the 40%, 30% and 30% of the final grade. During the oral exam the student will be allowed to consult both the written report and the selected scientific article.
The following aspects will be assessed during the oral exam: acquired knowledge, level of understanding, reasoning and connection skills, communication skills using appropriate sector terminology, ability to organize a detailed and effective technical document.
Field activity: 24 hours
Computer room practicals: 16 hours
Lessons: 20 hours
Professor: Facchi Arianna
Educational website(s)