Small-scale sugarcane farmers in South Africa are using cellphone-based technology to decide when to irrigate their crops. A pilot scheme launched by the South African Sugar Association at Pongola in Mpumalanga Province and Makhathini in KwaZulu Natal has shown the high-tech system can help boost production and save water, a precious commodity in these dry regions. Indications are that the mobile-based initiative can reduce farmers' irrigation costs by €200/ha.
The system, called My Canesim, uses automatic weather stations, the Internet and cellular technology to produce up-to-date information about when to irrigate crops. Extrapolating information from field and real-time weather data, My Canesim estimates the recent, current and future water balance, as well as the crop status and projected yield of a given plot. It then automatically generates and distributes simple irrigation advice by SMS to farmers' mobile phones.