Monday, January 26, 2015

Cynthia Barnett and the Craft of Environmental Journalism

If you have water on the brain 24/7 like us here at IrriGator you know very well that renowned author/journalist Cynthia Barnett joined UF’s College of Journalism and Communications this year as a Hearst Visiting Professional. Author of the water-focused classics Mirage and Blue Revolution, Ms. Barnett is teaching two Environmental Journalism courses this semester and, as chance would have it, we’re enrolled in both.

Cynthia Barnett and Mackenzie Boyer: listen to the interview below 
Learning from the Pros
I should clarify. Graduate student Mackenzie Boyer is enrolled in both courses. I’m only taking part in the hour-long survey course. Nevertheless, our objective is the same: dive into sundry works of environmental journalism with an expert guide to learn about effective communication techniques.

The Interview
Recently, Cynthia Barnett was kind enough to grant IrriGator a short interview. We were interested in Ms. Barnett’s thoughts on and approach to this new teaching venture as well as her highly anticipated new book, and she more than satisfied our curiosity. Special thanks to Mackenzie Boyer who put on her reporter’s hat to capture this audio.

Hot tip: if you live in North Florida, clear your calendar for April 26th. This is when the book release celebration for Cynthia Barnett’s Rain: A Natural and Cultural History takes place in Gainesville. Listen above for further details.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Apps in Agriculture: Perfecting the New Avocado Smart Irrigation App

One of the newest additions among the SmartIrrigation Apps to be released by UF IFAS is for avocado. Commercial production of avocados in Florida is primarily centered in Miami-Dade County - approximately 7,400 acres (Fig. 1). Read more about avocados in this EDIS article.

Bells and whistles
The avocado smart irrigation app has some special features to accommodate for the different varieties and needs of avocado growers in Florida. One unique feature is an emailed output with irrigation scheduling information (Fig. 2).

Irrigation type
Irrigation days
Irrigation time (hours)
Irrigation time (minutes)
Irrigation amount (in)
Last 7 days rainfall (in)
Trec Grove
Micro sprinkler
Monday Wednesday Friday
Fig. 2. Example of output emailed from the app to the user

Further, the app can be used with overhead solid set and microsprinkler irrigation systems. Microsprinklers provide targeted irrigation which is more efficient than solid set (Fig. 3). However, many growers use solid set not only for irrigation but also for cold protection (Fig. 4).

Fig. 3. Microsprinkler irrigation in an avocado orchard.
Fig. 4. Overhead solid-set irrigation in action.
The app uses real-time FAWN data for determining the irrigation schedules (Fig. 5). 

Fig 5. Screenshot of the avocado app's generated irrigation schedule.
In trial phase
We are currently testing the app at the UF IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center and on a local grower’s field in Homestead, FL. Anyone interested in being an app tester should contact Dr. Kati Migliaccio ( The app is slated for release in April 2015.

Fig. 6. Deanroy, Armando, and Tina working to install the field study in an avocado orchard in Homestead, FL (January 2015).
This project is being conducted by Dr. Migliaccio’s group. Mr. Deanroy Mbabazi is leading this effort as part of his MS research.

About the author:
Mr. Mbabazi is a graduate student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. His research interests are in irrigation, hydrological systems modeling, water quality, water conservation, surface-vadose zone- groundwater hydrology, and solute and contaminant transport.