Project Summaries

11-988  Project Manager: E. M. Barnes

MAKING WIRELESS SOIL MOISTURE MONITORING A USEABLE TOOL FOR IRRIGATION SCHEDULING

Joseph Henggeler, University of Missouri

This is Year 2 of this project. In the first year, a wireless soil moisture monitoring system using Decagon capacitance sensors was installed in a pivot-irrigated cotton field in Hornersville, Missouri. Three sites lying radially from the pivot point were monitored. EC-5 sensors were installed at the depths of 6, 12, and 18 inches. The data was wirelessly transmitted to a Decagon Web site and the cooperator and PI could view the results.

In 2012, a second cooperator was added and the original one moved to a new pivot location. A sensor was added for the 24-inch depth. The sustainability of wireless monitoring took a great leap forward when a local farmer entrepreneur became a serious, local distributor for Decagon. The rep installed the sensors and formatted the computer system. He also provided a smart-phone app to the growers that will let them see the moisture status on their phone. In terms of sustainability, another factor that has been worked on is a business plan for the rep that will allow him to install, retrieve at the end of the season, service, and re-install and update computers. It is at this juncture when there is more potential to drop out of use for the coming year.

The concept of Percent Total Available Water is being used to determine when to irrigate. Additionally, collecting weekly plant mapping data helped the two farmers know if their crop was growing at a healthy rate. This proved too time consuming, and so in the future, monitoring COTMAN style will be done.

There is no better way to show the impact of the project than to look at how the first year cooperator changed his irrigation practices based on lessons learned in the first year. He realized in 2011 that he was blind-sided, and it became difficult to manage moisture and to catch up if he got behind early. In 2012, he was prepared early to make sure that he would maintain adequate moisture. In 2012, the sensor data indicated he kept the soil moisture at better levels (even though it was a record drought year) than in 2011.

 

Project Year: 2012
 

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CORE PROGRAM
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