Farm irrigation systems are critical tools that let you achieve high crop yields by controlling the amount of water your plants receive. Yet they are useless without the right controllers. Irrigation controllers are one of the most critical irrigation system parts necessary to ensure your ag irrigation system works efficiently. With the right controller, your system can deliver just enough water to promote plant growth without wasting water or damaging plants by overwatering.
What Do Irrigation System Controllers Do?
Controllers are part of the irrigation system that regulate the timing, frequency, and amount of water delivered to crops through various farm irrigation systems. There are different varieties, from simple mechanical units to complex computerized ones.
Essentially, the controller is what automates a system so you do not have to turn it on and off yourself or attempt to manually calculate how much water is being delivered.
Different Types of Ag Irrigation System Controllers
There are two main types of controllers for ag irrigation systems. Each of these controllers works in different ways and provides different levels of control:
- Timer Controls - Timer controls for farm irrigation systems are devices that turn the system on and off according to set times. They are available as either electromechanical timers that use an electrical current to drive the mechanical parts or electronic timers that rely completely on electricity to run the circuitry. They include a clock timer, calendar, and switch. They can be set to turn on and off like most other device-controlling timers.
- Computerized Controls - Computerized controls are more complex parts of an irrigation system that require more effort to set up and use; however, they offer a greater level of system control. These controllers consist of a hardware device activated by programmed software. They can be controlled remotely off-site, include sensors that can determine when watering is required, and let you deliver fertilizer through the system as needed.
Open and Closed Control Loop Irrigating Strategies
There are two basic control strategies you can use to keep ag irrigation systems watering as required: open loop and closed loop. An open loop control strategy is one where the controller requires input from you to set necessary activation. You must calculate how much water should be delivered and when. You must also program the system to turn on and off. All timer controls are open loop controllers that require manual setting.
Closed loop control strategies are those that require you to set up computerized controllers to detect specific conditions, then react accordingly. The controller needs no external intervention for the system to continually calculate irrigation needs and function as needed. Only computerized controllers have closed loop capabilities; however, they can also be used in an open loop strategy.
When choosing a critical irrigation system part like a controller, you must understand how each type works and what type of input is required to allow it to function as necessary. Uncomplicated timer controllers for ag irrigation systems are less expensive and easier to use; however, they offer less actual control with wider windows for error that could affect crop growth. Computerized controllers for farm irrigation systems are more expensive and detailed; yet they are also more accurate and automated. Choose the right one based on your needs and allowed budget for the crops you are growing!