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Evaluation of Smart Irrigation Controllers: Initial Bench Testing Results

C. Swanson, G. Fipps

A smart controller testing facility has been established by the Irrigation Technology Center at Texas A&M University in College Station. Six manufacturers donated controllers for initial laboratory set-up and evaluation. For evaluation purposes, the controllers were programed for College Station, Texas using the virtual landscape as defined in the IA (Irrigation Association) SWAT (Smart Water Applicator Technologies) 7th draft testing protocol. However, the controllers could not be programmed with all the parameters required to defined these virtual landscapes.

The controllers were then run over an eight-week period. The results are compared to the actual ETo during the test periods and to the irrigation recommendations of the TexasET Network. The irrigation amounts produced by the controllers varied significantly, even for the same zone. In addition, all exceeded the irrigation recommendations of TexasET. Four of the controllers produced irrigation amounts that were higher than the ETo (potential evapotranspiration) that occurred during the test period. Such high irrigation amounts may be related to the source and values for the ETo used by the controllers and/or in the methodologies used to account for rainfall. The results will be used to establish protocols for further testing.

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