Scientists have developed a new "intelligent" reliable soil moisture sensor that is set to ensure horticulturists accurately irrigate staple crops such as potatoes and fruit, and enhance environmentally friendly farming practices. A collaboration between the University of Warwick and Herefordshire based McBurney Scientific led to the development of the new product that harnesses enhanced sensor technology for measuring soil moisture with wireless communication and the processing power and convenience of the hand-held computer.
Soil moisture conditions play a vital role in ensuring good crop quality and quantity, and the new device is set to simplify the task of measuring and reduce the costs of irrigation scheduling by more than £10 per hectare each year, compared with current soil measurement equipment. The battery-powered probe is a significant improvement on existing devices, which use complex technology and are often too expensive for use in low-margin crops.
Heat pulse technology embedded in a porous ceramic tip on the probe measures soil moisture content. Readings are then sent via radio signals to a hand-held computer, which can interpret the results to show how much water is needed to optimise growing conditions, depending on factors such as soil type. It automatically downloads the data within a 100 metres range of the sensor.
Consumers demand high quality fruit and vegetables as well as environmentally sensitive methods of crop production, and the amount and timing of irrigation are crucial factors in ensuring a good crop.
Jenny Murray | alfa
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