Dr. Michael Dukes

Irrigation

Fellow, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Fellow, Environmental and Water Institute of American Society of Civil Engineers

Michael Dukes is an irrigation specialist focusing on efficient use of water in irrigated systems. What does that mean? High quality water such as potable water in municipal systems such as at homes and businesses or water from the Floridan aquifer in the case of agriculture is often used for irrigation. According to the U. S. Geological Service, Floridians used about 6.4 billion gallons of water a day in 2012. Thirty nine percent is used for agricultural irrigation and 36% for public supply; however, it is projected that public use will exceed agricultural use in the near future. Due to the need for adequate water to produce food and satisfy domestic uses including landscape irrigation, it is important to maximize the efficient use of water. Dukes and his team are conducting research on high tech irrigation controllers that apply water based on measurements from landscapes. These so called “smart irrigation controllers” are saving millions of gallons of water each year in Florida and are being adopted across the U.S. Dukes is often consulted by utilities, decision makers, and groups such as the U.S. EPA WaterSense program for technical knowledge on this subject. Similarly, Dukes and his team are using real-time soil moisture sensor readings to linear move variable rate irrigation on corn and peanut.

In addition to the amount of water consumed, water quality is also critical especially in Florida with abundant and sensitive natural resource ecosystems. It is estimated that Florida has a higher concentration of springs than anywhere in the world (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/springs/about.htm). The springs are closely connected with the Floridan aquifer that is a primary source of water supply. Though much work has occurred to protect and resatore springs, they are still threatened by non-point source pollution. Agricultural chemicals and lawn chemicals making their way to natural water bodies are known as “non-point source” pollution. Best management practices (BMPs) are techniques and tools used by agriculture and landscape professionals that minimize or prevent the risk of non-point source pollution damaging the environment. For example, applying fertilizer at the right time and in the right amount is a simple yet effective way to minimize non-point source pollution. Dukes and his team are conducting agricultural research on row crops the optimizes the timing and amount of nitrogen fertilizer to minimize nitrogen loss. They are monitoring the water quality to determine the most efficient practices and then communicating those practices to the agricultural industry.

Dukes’ team regularly publishes in top journals in the field (http://abe.ufl.edu/faculty/mdukes/publications/) as well as a variety of industry trade outlets. They also publish peer-reviewed extension publications in the UF-IFAS Electronic Document Information System (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_a63769910). They have shown that properly implemented smart controllers can reduce over-irrigation of real-world landscapes by nearly 50%.

Dukes is also the Director of the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology. He leads a multidisciplinary group of faculty whose mission is to conduct interdisciplinary research and provide science-based education on urban landscape practices to protect and conserve Florida's natural resources.

Research

  • Water conservation potential of smart irrigation controllers in Orange County, FL
  • Assessment of irrigation conservation program effectiveness in Orange County, FL
  • Development of irrigation conservation programs in Southwest Florida
  • Influence of irrigation and fertility Best Management Practices on nitrogen leaching on sandy soils
  • Education on efficient irrigation and water conservation potential of smart irrigation controllers

Michael Dukes, P.E. - Professor