Studies conducted through satellite images from the region of MATOPIBA, Brazil (Landay et al 2014) identified 1,401 center pivots, which occupy an irrigated area of approximately 138 thousand ha. Most of them are established in the Cerrado, a savannah climate subtype, and have an average size of around 100 ha. The territory has sub regions from the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, and is among the most important irrigated agricultural frontier for the country. Although the studies involve the four states, nearly 90% of the identified center pivots are located in western Bahia. The municipality of Luís Eduardo Magalhães (Figure 1) that was chosen as the placement for the center pivot pilot is located in the heart of the region. The city is known as the capital of Brazilian agribusiness. It has the most increasing population in the Bahia state, having jumped from 21,454 inhabitants in 2004 to 44,265 in 2007 and to 79,162 in 2015. In addition to hosting Brazilian farmers from the South and Southeast regions, the city has become the home of an important international community of Young farmers and Employees of agricultural companies, most from the US and Europe. The largest soybean processing plant in Brazil is nowadays located in Luis Eduardo Magalhães.

Photo by Roberta Silveira -

Figure 1. Center-pivot irrigation pilot. Left) Location: Luis Eduardo Magalhães municipality, state of Bahia, Brazil, Right: Irrigated soybean production in MATOPIBA region, Brazil

The soybean production in the region reached about 5.5 million tons in 2016 and the total cultivated area was about 1.52 million hectares. Despite those significant numbers, this production was a lot less than the 7.5 million tons obtained during the 2011/12 season. Farmers estimate 40% crop losses due to drought occurred during the 2015/16 season. The production from many properties was only 30 sacks per hectare, while an average of 58 sacks were expected. With irrigation and investments in soil fertility, the expectation of some producers is that this number can reach 80 sacks. Although irrigation is an alternative, its expansion depends on technologies that improve operating costs and promote sustainability. For example, a red flag was lifted in 2015/16 and imposed double charges to the energy used in irrigation. The increase represents a cost of seven sacks per hectare against three and half sacks with a normal energy charging.

The positive impact of irrigated agriculture growing in the region is evident. However, it has fundamental importance the use of smart irrigation systems that consider availability, quality and conflicts of use of water, coming mainly from the São Francisco river basin. The precise location of the farm to deploy the pilot is not yet defined. It will be an area advised by the Fundação Bahia technical staff, an Embrapa partner nearby Luis Eduardo Magalhães. The main MATOPIBA pilot objective is to implement and evaluate a smart irrigation system based on Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) for centre pivots in soybean production at the MATOPIBA region. However, alternate crops like corn and cotton are also usual, including during the same season.

Conventional centre pivot irrigation systems help to provide a reliable supply of water, increase yields, and provide double cropping potential. The proposed smart irrigation will help the crop in the same way while making a rational use of water and energy. The practice of VRI is expected to provide a reduction from 20 to 60% in water and energy consumption while maintaining or improving the overall production. It is also expected that the SWAMP IoT based platform can be adapted to conventional existing centre pivots, not only in MATOPIBA region and not only for soybean production, but also in all other Brazilian states and other crops based on centre pivot irrigation system.