Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 10, Issue 1 - June, 2017


An Extension Educator’s Guide to Increasing Utilization of Irrigation Scheduler Mobile

McMoran, D. W., Agriculture And Natural Resources Extension Faculty-County Director, Washington State University


Washington State University (WSU) Extension personnel implemented a series of irrigation educational talks in northwestern Washington to receive feedback from area growers regarding their irrigation scheduling needs.This information was vital to the creation of a new irrigation scheduling tool referred to as Irrigation Scheduler Mobile (ISM). More teaching efforts were required to encourage growers to utilize the new system. Northwestern Washington leads the state per capita in utilizing the new ISM system, and farm gate values are expected to increase.


Supplemental irrigation is becoming a standard practice for crop growers in northwestern Washington due to a shift from grass-based diaries to high-value crops like potatoes, vegetable seed, berries and corn. Between 2006 and 2015, irrigation in the county doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 crop acres (McMoran, n.d.). Despite an increase in irrigated acreage, few new irrigation technologies are being utilized in Skagit County.

While evaluating various irrigation systems in northwestern Washington as part of efforts to improve irrigation efficiency in the area, Washington State University (WSU) personnel observed a lack of understanding of the importance of irrigation scheduling at the farm level. Many farmers were waiting for signs from the plants indicating a need for irrigation. Often this need was identified after the plant had passed the Management Allowed Depletion (MAD), when the crops were exhibiting visible signs of water stress and resultant yield losses. Other farmers were disregarding high rainfall events and differing soil types causing them to overwater their crops resulting in significant water losses to deep percolation and unnecessarily wasting money (Bathke et al., 2007).


Methods and Results

Identifying the Problem

In an effort to educate area growers about the importance of irrigation scheduling we began a series of educational talks in 2008 at the Western Washington (W. WA.) Potato Workshop, the W. WA. Small Fruit workshop and W. WA. Puget Sound Seed Growers Meeting to inform area producers of the importance of good irrigation practices. These presentations focused on new irrigation tools available to area growers that included tensiometers, Watermark© sensors, and an electronic tool from Kansas State University called Kansched (Clark et al., n.d.).

Many of the producers had used tensiometers and Watermark sensors in the past but felt that they were unreliable due to the required maintenance and the lack of connectivity with the soil. The producers showed interest in the use of a computerized tool that would tell them how much to irrigate and when. Although Kansched performs this function, it also requires inputs from the user. As a result, the producers did not adopt use of Kansched because they did not have the time or the resources to manually enter evapotranspiration (ET; crop water use) and rainfall data to get an accurate prediction for how much and when much they should irrigate. 

Introduction of Irrigation Scheduler Mobile

Troy Peters, with WSU, created an evaporation transpiration program called Irrigation Scheduler Mobile (ISM). Similar to Kansched, ISM is also a computerized tool that tells its users how much to irrigate and when. However, instead of requiring the user to input the rainfall data, the program records this data from existing AgWeatherNet weather stations ( It is also able to function on both smartphones and computers. Technology that can be used on the farm is recognized as an asset by many farmers (Doering, 2013), and smartphone use among farmers has been rising approximately ten percent per year since 2009 when it was at 14%. This number is expected to reach 87% by 2016 (Potter, 2016).

ISM was introduced in 2012 and was primarily used by researchers and Extension staff. Initially, the farmers for whom the program was intended did not use it, and crops in northwestern Washington were continuing to suffer due to poor irrigation scheduling. An extension study from Kansas State University found that when Kansched was introduced, there was an increase in participant willingness to use the sample form once they had experience with inputting the information (Johnson and McCornack, 2016). On the basis of these findings, we created the Western Washington Irrigation Workshop.

The Western Washington Irrigation Workshop was held in July of 2013 and 25 people attended. The main objective of the workshop was specifically to inform area growers how to sign up for and use ISM. Training videos for ISM can be found here and here (Neibling & Peters, 2015 a and b). The 3-hour workshop addressed the following topics:

  1. History of irrigation
  2. Different means of applying irrigation
  3. Irrigation scheduling (how, when, and why to apply irrigation water) using ISM


Each participant had the opportunity to log on to and navigate ISM during the workshop. At the end of the workshop each participant completed a survey about the workshop.

The survey prompted the participants to identify one or two of the most important things accomplished by the workshop. Seventy-one percent of participants indicated that the most important part of the workshop was the ISM training.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said that of the three topics, the irrigation scheduling portion of the workshop was most important to their farm. When asked what information from the workshop might benefit them most, 53% of respondents said that ISM would most benefit them, whereas 20% said that learning about AgWeatherNet would most benefit them. There was a 100% program satisfaction rate amongst the survey participants.

Each year after, the same information was presented at different conferences throughout the region. In July of 2016 a follow-up survey was sent out to the agricultural community regarding ISM via email and social media to which 12 individuals responded. From the survey results, 33% of the respondents were familiar with ISM. Sixty-seven percent of ISM users found the program to be user friendly. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents claimed that they were interested in attending an ISM training. 

Skagit County experienced a drought during the 2015 growing season, and 91% of respondents claimed that irrigation had increased the total value of their crop. Respondents shared that they use irrigation scheduling tools such as tensiometers and the kick-the-dirt method. Twenty percent of respondents claimed that they irrigate regardless of the weather. Irrigation systems are diverse in Skagit County (Table 1).


Table 1: Survey respondents were asked to share what type(s) or irrigation systems they are currently using.


Irrigation System


Big Gun






Center Pivot






Educational outreach efforts by WSU Extension personnel have resulted in northwestern Washington’s leading the state per capita in use of ISM. We found from AgWeatherNet meteorologist Nic Loyd (personal communication, July, 11, 2016) that between 2012 and 2016, 48 growers have used ISM on over 100 fields in northwestern Washington. Crop farm gate value in Washington State increased 9.6% from 2011 to 2012, when ISM was first introduced (Mertz et al., 2013). Skagit County alone increased in farm gate value by over $10,000,000 from 2010 to 2014 (McMoran, 2014). Our hope is that knowledge of ISM can be expanded to farms across the nation to optimize plant growth and best utilize our natural resources.


Literature Cited

Bathke, D., Demouche, L., & Doesken, N. (2007). Master Gardeners’ Role in Encouraging Water Conservation Using a Rain Gauge. Journal of Extension, 45(4). Retrieved from

Clark, G.A., Rogers, D.H., & Briggman, S. (n.d.). KanSched an ET-Based Irrigation Scheduling Tool for Kansas Summer Annual Crops, 120-129. Retrieved from:

Doering, C. (2013). Farmers Growing Comfortable With Mobile Devices. USA Today. Retrieved from

Johnson, W., & McCornack, B. (2016). Getting Growers to Go Digital: The Power of a Positive User Experience. Journal of Extension, 54(4). Retrieved from

McMoran, D. (n.d.). Agriculture. Retrieved from

McMoran, D. (2014). Skagit County Agricultural Statistics. Retrieved from

Mertz, C., Koong, D., & Anderson, S. (2013). 2013 Washington Annual Agriculture Bulletin. Retrieved from

Neibling, H. & Peters T.  (2015a). Irrigation Scheduler Mobile Application Part 1. Retrieved from

Neibling, H. & Peters T.  (2015b). Irrigation Scheduler Mobile Application Part 2. Retrieved from

Potter, B. (2016). 87% of Farmers Will Own a Smartphone by 2016. AG Web Powered by Farm Journal.  Retrieved from