Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of Colorado invention may allow thirsty crops to signal farmers

18.06.2007
High-tech leaf sensors measuring leaf thickness, water deficiency communicate wirelessly with computers, crop tenders

Corn and potato crops may soon provide information to farmers about when they need water and how much should be delivered, thanks to a University of Colorado at Boulder invention optioned to AgriHouse Inc., a Berthoud, Colo., high-tech company.

The technology includes a tiny sensor that can be clipped to plant leaves charting their thickness, a key measure of water deficiency and accompanying stress, said Research Associate Hans-Dieter Seelig of CU-Boulder's BioServe Space Technology Center. Data from the leaves could be sent wirelessly over the Internet to computers linked to irrigation equipment, ensuring timely watering, cutting down on excessive water and energy use and potentially saving farmers in Colorado millions of dollars per year, he said.

"We think this is an exciting technology, and the implications for the agriculture industry are enormous," said Seelig. Based in large part on Seelig's 2005 CU-Boulder doctoral thesis in aerospace engineering sciences, the technology was optioned to AgriHouse in March by the University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office, giving AgriHouse the exclusive right to negotiate a license with CU within 12 months.

Richard Stoner, AgriHouse founder and president, said existing technology like soil moisture sensors used to assess a crop's water needs do not always provide an accurate picture of existing plant and field conditions. "What we are developing is a non-intrusive device that gently rests on the plants and lets them interface with the digital world," he said. "Basically, this is a device that will allow plants to talk to humans and communicate their needs, like when to water and apply fertilizer."

Stoner is the principal investigator on a $150,000 Small Business Technology Transfer research grant awarded in May by the National Science Foundation to AgriHouse to develop the new technology. Seelig is an institutional investigator on the effort. In 2006, Seelig was awarded a $10,000 proof-of-concept grant for his research from CU's Technology Transfer Office.

Less than one-tenth the size of a postage stamp, the sensor consists of an integrated-circuit chip that clips to individual plant leaves and collects and stores information, said Seelig. When the leaves lose enough water to contract to a critical width, the sensor can wirelessly signal computers.

The computers, for example, could instruct individual pivot irrigation systems used widely on Colorado's eastern plains to dispense set amounts of water to particular crops, automatically turning the motors that drive them on-and-off and conserving water and energy in the process, he said.

"Farmers today rely on standard practices that include a good eye and a green thumb," said Stoner. "But this new system can tell a farmer precisely when a plant's water uptake potential is at its peak, which could conceivably decrease the number of watering days for certain crops by up to a day or two each week."

Economists estimate that agricultural activity accounts for about 40 percent of the total freshwater use in the United States. About 60 percent of all crops in the United States are irrigated using water from lakes, reservoirs, wells and rivers.

Stoner likened the plant communication aspect of the invention to a scene in the 1986 comedy musical film, "Little Shop of Horrors," when a giant carnivorous plant tells humans to "feed me." "This technology allows plants to say, 'water me,' " he said.

High eastern plains water-use has led to lawsuits against Colorado for violations of interstate water compacts, including a recent $30 million payment to Kansas for overuse of the Arkansas River, said Seelig. A recent U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit against Colorado and Nebraska for overuse of Republican River water threatened to shut down all Colorado wells impacting the river if solutions for reducing irrigation water are not found. Farmers irrigate nearly one-half million acres on the eastern plains from the Ogallala Aquifer that directly impacts the Republican River, he said.

The researchers have been experimenting with cowpea, a legume, but believe the new leaf-sensor technology would be transferable to a variety of crops, including corn, wheat, potatoes, sugar beets and pinto beans. In the future, it might also be applicable to monitoring large swaths of urban grass like city parks, Stoner said.

"This device is very precise, and will allow a plant to receive just the right amount of water," said Seelig. "If a plant can tell a water valve when to open and when to close, farmers are going to save a lot of money."

Hans Seelig | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.colorado.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production
14.02.2017 | University of Missouri-Columbia

nachricht Important to maintain a diversity of habitats in the sea
14.02.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'

23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field

23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

23.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>