Reason Farms – Improving Precision Irrigation by Monitoring Soil Moisture

Tom Devol,
February 27, 2018

“Monitoring soil moisture and having the JAIN Monitoring and Control in our operation has improved the general health of our orchards which has lead to more coincident and higher yielding crops.” – Bob Amarel, Reason Farms


  • Growers – Bob and John Amarel
  • Location – Yuba City CA
  • Crops Grown – Almonds, Prunes & Walnuts
  • Planted Acreage – 1450
  • Using JAIN Monitoring & Control Since – 2008
  • Local Dealer & Service Provider – Irrigate.Net of Chico CA

Reason Farms is a third-generation farming operation started in 1945 in Northern California, initially growing rice before making the change to exclusively tree crops. Today Bob and his son John manage 1450 acres located around the Sutter Buttes to the south in Yuba City.

In 2008 Bob reached out to Puresense (Acquired by JAIN in 2015) as part of a new prune planting he was developing that used a VRI (Variable Rate Irrigation) design that allowed managing water applications to the soil types in different regions of a field. He wanted to have a way to monitor the soil moisture in each of his three blocks within the VRI design to assure that he was getting the water the trees needed while not over-irrigating.

Installing monitoring systems at planting helps the Amarel’s meet a big goal of starting their trees off right, Bob thinks of it like raising good kids. The soil moisture monitoring stations inform them of soil moisture conditions with a reading every 4″ from ground level to a depth of 5 feet. Using this information they can provide the tree what it needs, when it needs it. Especially with their walnuts, understanding soil moisture conditions keep the trees from having “wet feet”, which can lead to irreversible damage to a young tree.

Another critical feature within the JAIN Logic application is the infiltration tool which provides insight into the effectiveness of irrigations by showing how water moves through the soil profile, helping with timing nutrient applications and preventing leaching nutrients outside of the active root zone.

Beyond monitoring soil moisture, Bob and John have weather stations installed in each of their climate areas and are starting to install flow meter monitoring stations at pump sites to document and report water use. Using the weather stations for wind speed and direction information have helped when applying sprays in the orchards while keeping historical data at their fingertips if a spray application is ever questioned.

With their latest 300 acres of prunes planted this winter the Amarel’s looked to Jain to provide a complete irrigation system starting at the pump to the tree, beginning with a battery of sand media filters to double line drip tubing using the Jain Aqualine product. For monitoring, they are going into new territory by adding in the ability to pull information from their VFD (variable frequency drive), control the pump and block valves and read salinity at their soil moisture sites.

Key Takeaways

  1. Focusing on growing a great tree from the start has long-term payoffs.
  2. It’s not always about saving water but the best crop efficiency.
  3. Have had no major disease issue since they started using the system to monitor their orchards.
  4. Make sure tree is always healthy.