Wireless Soil Sensors^ to Improve Farming
Researchers at Iowa State University have developed wireless soil sensors that could bring agriculture in the information age (more than it already is) and make farming much more efficient.
The goal would be to put these sensors about 1 foot underground in a grid pattern (80 to 160 feet apart) and have them gather information about how water moves through a field, soil moisture, help understand the carbon and nitrogen cycles within soils, which nutrients are present or missing, soil temperature, etc. Read on for more details.
The Goldilocks Approach
Farmers have an incentive to put too much of something in a field rather than too little. Too much water, too much fertilizer, etc. Better have some of it wasted rather than affect yields...
But with precise information on a field from sensors, they would be able to get it "just right", thus reducing their water/fertilizer/etc costs without being afraid of affecting yields. They could also develop better models to predict in advance crop growth and yields, reducing the number of bad surprises.
"A challenge of precision agriculture is collecting data at a high enough resolution that you can make good decisions," [Stuart Birrell, an Iowa State associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering,] said. "These sensors would provide very high resolution data for producers and researchers. They would give us another data layer to explain differences in yield and help us make management decisions."
The wireless soil sensors project is supported by a three-year, $239,999 grant from the National Science Foundation. They are not production ready yet, but that's the goal...