An innovative effort would embed sensors in agricultural fields in a bid to cut down on irrigation–saving farmers money and preserving water for endangered species.
By June 15 gasoline-powered augers will have drilled 100 holes in the corn, cotton and peanut fields of the Lower Flint River Basin in southwest Georgia. Into the holes, scientists from the University of Georgia (U.G.A.) will slip half-meter-long PVC pipes filled with sensors for soil moisture and temperature topped with a flexible antenna that can be run over by a tractor and spring back into place. Over the course of the next two years, these sensors will continuously relay soil conditions from 20, 40 and 60 centimeters deep to a computer. Combined with more accurate weather forecasts, the data will help farmers decide where and when to use their irrigation systems.
“The biggest problem we’ve got with irrigation is we just don’t know—we use old wives’ tales to decide when to irrigate,” says farmer Marty Tabb, who will host the probes in a field at his 1,050-hectare Bushwater Farm near Colquitt, Ga., to help him irrigate corn, cotton and peanut crops. In addition to saving water (agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of human water use globally), the technology can also help produce more crop per drop. “Using the simplest soil monitor and a computer program, my peanut yields jumped 20 percent,” Tabb reports. “I know, just from that, that if we learn how to water corn, cotton, wheat, we can save water because we tend to overwater.”
via Scientific American – David Biello
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