Bringing Earth's
Resources to Life

Tree & Vine Crops

Precision Techniques Help Tree and Vine Crops Thrive Despite Water Shortages

By carefully managing moisture and nutrients, Simplot SmartFarmSM is helping this Yakima Valley farm improve yields despite dwindling water supplies.

Carpenter Farms has stayed a true family-run business for more than 140 years and through seven generations. In fact, it was in 1868 that Charles Carpenter planted the first hop rootstock in the Yakima Valley after bringing it from his father’s farm in New York.

Today, hops are still part of the farm’s output, along with other crops such as wine grapes, apples, and cherries.


Water can be in short supply in this region, and the problem has become more severe over the last few years. In addition to water scarcity, growers in this area must cope with a high variability in soil pH, which can lead to patchy and inconsistent crop development.


Doug Oliva, a Simplot crop consultant with over 20 years of experience, helped Carpenter Farms get more out of their soil using SmartFarm precision agriculture techniques.

“Precision agriculture is increasingly important for growers like Carpenter Farms. Being able to stretch scarce water resources further can mean the difference between a bad year and a profitable one.”
— Doug Oliva, Simplot Crop Advisor

Oliva began by using a Veris cart to capture electro-conductivity (EC) readings for each field. By sending electrical pulses into the ground, he was able to measure differences in soil quality, which provided insight into the pH levels and water retention capabilities of different areas of each yield. Based on the EC results, physical soil samples were extracted and sent to a lab for further analysis and confirmation.


Oliva used aerial imagery of the fields to determine land elevations and other characteristics that could affect water distribution and retention.


Oliva used visual, EC, and lab data to create a zoned map of the field. Each zone identified a specific pH and moisture profile that required a unique combination of water and nutrients.


After inserting Sentek moisture probes into key areas of each field, Oliva was able to closely monitor moisture levels in the soil. Water was administered variably so that each area received exactly what it needed, with no water wasted and no crops stunted by lack of water.


Different amounts of sulfur, potassium, gypsum, and phosphorus were prescribed and applied to each zone. By varying the application, each soil type was brought into closer alignment, resulting in a more uniform crop growth across different areas of each field.


Carpenter Farms have now been using SmartFarm’s precision agriculture solutions for more than 12 years. One of the first growers to use Sentek moisture probes for their hops, they can now support profitable crop yields even in years where water is scarce.

SmartFarm solutions have helped their other crops too, improving the size and coloring for apples, and the yield and sugar content for grapes. Better crop consistency has also helped them streamline the harvesting process, allowing them to harvest entire fields at one time instead of spot picking to manage uneven ripeness.

Download PDF