Crops Ask For and Receive Water

One of the most vital parts of farming is giving your crops just the right amount of water, at just the right times. Usually, the best way to determine crop thirst is by checking the soil's moisture. However, a more accurate test would be checking the plant itself.

Scientists from the University of Credit: AgriHouseCredit: AgriHouseColorado have invented a tiny sensor (less than a square centimeter) that is harmlessly attached to a plant's leaf. The sensor could likely be used on corn, potatoes, wheat, beans, cowpea, and more. When the leaf loses a certain amount of water, the RFID sensor can measure the decrease in leaf thickness and the water deficiency.

Then the sensor wirelessly transmits this data to the farmer. Better yet, it can transmit the data to computers hooked up to irrigation devices, which automatically begin watering the plants. The sensor would not only give farmers peace of mind, but also cut costs due to watering at opportune times and not excessively watering.

The researchers estimated that the system could cut the number of watering days by a day or two each week, saving both water and energy. Considering that agriculture accounts for about 40% of US freshwater use, this efficiency could save millions of dollars per year.

For Colorado and Nebraska farmers in particular, this invention comes at a much needed time. Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas share fresh water from the Arkansas and Republican Rivers, which is limited according to an agreement. But farmers in Colorado and Nebraska have been overusing their share, leading to a $30 million lawsuit for Colorado and a threat to shut down Colorado wells if solutions for reducing irrigation were not found.

Fortunately, UC's Hans-Dieter Seelig, the researcher, has done just that. His invention has been optioned to AgriHouse, Inc., a high-tech company in Berthoud, Colorado, for commercial development. In the future, the technology might also be applied to monitor and water large public parks.

Via: Innovations Report

Lisa Zyga
Science Blogger

Jul 28, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

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