CropeX offers an affordable and immediate solution to support short season crops
Irrigation is way for farmers to remove one of the variables in crop production, lack of rainfall. In this respect irrigation is a kind of insurance policy. One common myth is that “a little too much is better than not enough”. In fact, more nutrients and more water will not always benefit your crop. Overwatering can result in shallow rooting and poor root development in general, while inconsistent watering stresses the plants and can result in blossom-end rot (in some crops) later on. Continuous monitoring of soil water content improves field performances and helps saving time and money.
Remote field-monitoring for irrigation-management has been practiced for large scale agronomic crops for many years. The recent developments, offering handy DIY installation type and affordable pricing, allow beneficial support for short season horticultural crops as well. Incorporating moisture sensors in vegetables beds helps to enhance healthy growth and prevent stress. Using such tools to trigger irrigation provides farmers with specific information to fine-tune ordinary irrigation guidelines.
CropX portable sensor is easy to move between plots. Once the lettuce is over you can simply uninstall it and reinstall it in the beans section within minutes!
(See links below for instructions)
The purpose of water management is to apply the right amount of water at the right time. That is not only for water savings but also for increasing fruit quality, optimizing resource utilization and protecting your environment.
- Over Watering may be more damaging to your crop than under-watering - Plant roots require oxygen to take up water. That is why a flooded plant wilts in the same way as a plant exposed to drought. However, the damage can have longer lasting effects. Roots may die off from lack of oxygen and in some cases root disease can attack the weakened root system.
- Fruit quality - The production of high quality fruits is dependent on a consistent and appropriate irrigation schedule. Dryness as well as over watering and the dramatic fluctuations between such extreme moisture levels, have direct effect on fruit shape, flavor and fertility. Simply monitoring the soil moisture can help avoid such faulty growth ahead of fruit formation.
- Optimize nutrients uptake - Optimized irrigation practices increase fertilizer retention in the root zone. It was found that increasing fertilizer retention time from 1 to 3 days, quadruple N uptake efficiency (Scholberg et al. , 2009). While over watering washes away fertilizers below the root zone, correct watering schedule will allow the crop more time for uptake.
- Avoid fertilizers leaching - Excessive irrigation results in water percolating deeper into the soil profile carrying dissolved fertilizers. This way you are not fully utilizing your resources and also potentially polluting ground water.
See below soil surface and ahead of plant response
CropX smart soil moisture sensor measures the volumetric water content (% VWC) in two depths: 8’’ and 18’’. The figure below shows the moisture trend lines, for both depths, in drip irrigated bell peppers bed. It is clear to see that the farmer irrigates in short intervals. That is in order to maintain the water content within the safe boundaries, between field capacity (FC) and wilting point (WP). Even though the fluctuations in the graph look similar, it doesn’t mean that the farmer set the irrigation system on a permanent schedule. The irrigation schedule had to be adjusted according to real time changes. During the season the water needs are not consistent, mainly due to weather conditions and plant consumption. However, the total percent “volumetric water content” of the soil (% VWC) should be stable with only moderate fluctuations. The moisture readings obtained from the sensor reflect the current available water in the soil, therefore allowing the opportunity to improve practices. For example, a couple of hot days will increase evapotranspiration (ET) and the loss of water from the soil reservoir. A fixed irrigation schedule may not compensate such deficit on time. The figure below shows a significant decrease in water content during the second half of August. Tracking these trends, you can plan ahead and prevent the water content from reaching the wilting point before the plant actually starts to wilt.
Fig. 1: (Bell Peppers, SDI, NC.) Soil moisture levels at 8’’ and 18’’ depths: The trends in both graphs allow tracking and reacting on time (the peak on Sep 12 is hurricane Mathew).
See below surface: Combining your knowledge with the moisture readings will help you estimate the active roots location. For example, onions would expected to grow 8’’ roots within 40 days after sowing. These roots are expected to get to 18’’ depth after 3 additional weeks. Knowing that, you should see decrease in VWC% due to water uptake, indicating active root system. As you know, overwatering can result in poor roots development. In such case, a significant absence of movement in VWC% graphs, at the expected depth could help you detect shallow root system.
This warning will help you to take action on time.
The desired result for effective water management is to prevent harsh conditions from being introduced to the plant. Soil moisture sensors reveal soil conditions before it shows on the crop, allowing sufficient time to minimize potential damage and provide efficient growth support.
To move a sensor to a new location, please follow instructions in 2 steps:
- First uninstall the sensor from the first location
- Then reinstall it in the new location (starting from the 2nd p “ Step 2”)
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