(UPDATED COVERAGE, Oct. 28) A three-way partnership among Golden Valley, Minn.-based Syngenta Seeds Inc., the California Department of Water Resources and the Santa Clara Valley Water District has resulted in a sophisticated monitoring system, known as a California Irrigation Management Information System — or CIMIS – station.

The station, located on Syngenta property southeast of Gilroy, Calif., provides accurate water usage data, which helps the agricultural and landscaping communities conduct drought research and manage crop irrigation, said Joe Benson, Syngenta’s site manager for the station.

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Benson declined to reveal the cost of the station, saying that all “partners bring something to the table, so it wasn’t just all on Syngenta to provide all of the capital resources.”

The solar-powered CIMIS station gathers data on solar radiation, wind speed and direction, humidity and air and soil temperatures — all critical information for growers who are struggling through the state’s third consecutive year of drought. The station’s data is available free at the CIMIS Web site, Benson said.

The number of commodities produced in the southern Santa Clara Valley, once known primarily for garlic, is growing.

“This is a strategic site for flowers, but it’s also a good site for growing vegetables,” Benson said. “In the last 7 or 8 years, the area’s romaine lettuce, spinach and broccoli acreage has been growing in addition to cherries, berries and sweet corn.”

Syngenta’s Gilroy-area operation grows field corn, 35 vegetables and 200 species of flowers.

Syngenta’s research has shown use of the CIMIS station will conserve water, but the research findings are proprietary, he said.

“If you put that station into use, you’re definitely going to be moving toward more precise use of your irrigation water,” Benson said.

The data from the CIMIS station is downloaded via a telephone line to the Department of Water Resources, which in turn puts the information on the CIMIS website. The data is reliable at least as far as 10 miles from the station, Benson said.

The data can also help golf course managers and landscapers to help them plan for efficient irrigation, Benson said, and may be used by homeowners, too.

“For people who understand the data, it would be a fun hobby for them and somewhere down the line it might be something they have to do.”