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Using Wireless Sensor Networks in Commercial Strawberry Production

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2015 ASABE / IA Irrigation Symposium: Emerging Technologies for Sustainable Irrigation - A Tribute to the Career of Terry Howell, Sr. Conference Proceedings  .(doi:10.13031/irrig.20152144943)
Authors:   John D. Lea-Cox, Bruk E. Belayneh
Keywords:   Irrigation, automated, control, precision, decision, set-point, software

Abstract. Irrigation and nutrient management is important in strawberry production to maximize yield, profitability, and reduce the environmental impact of production practices. Currently, irrigation water scarcity is affecting strawberry production in California and environmental regulations are limiting agrochemical applications in States such as Florida and those in the mid-Atlantic region. Wireless sensor networks (WSN) have the potential to provide cost-effective solutions to these challenges facing strawberry production. We have installed WSNs on two commercial strawberry farms in Maryland to implement sensor-controlled irrigation with the objective of quantifying its effect on water use, plant growth, and fruit quality as compared to current practices on the farms (grower-controlled irrigation). The sensor-controlled irrigation is achieved based on average volumetric soil moisture content values of sensors placed in the root zone and pre-defined set-points. Control nodes are configured to apply irrigation for a specified amount of time when the average sensor reading drops below the set-point using a software program (Sensorweb™; Mayim LLC, Pittsburgh, PA). Real-time root-zone soil moisture, temperature and electrical conductivity values are recorded on a 15-minute interval by monitoring/control nodes; data is accessed through the internet using Sensorweb™ by both farm managers and researchers. Irrigation volumes, plant growth, fruit yield and fruit quality parameters are being assessed for the two commercial production systems on the farms (matted row/overhead sprinkler vs. plasticulture/drip irrigation). We are also testing the utility of the WSN system for frost warning purposes during spring, comparing the precision of canopy-based temperatures and on-farm weather station data with satellite (e.g. Skybit™) data.

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