As the record-breaking heat wave and water shortages
persist, most food growers can only dream of a water and fertilizer
saving system that can be dialed up over a GSM network, responds to
commercial five day weather reports and decides whether to turn
itself on or not!
However it is now a reality! Researchers at the University
of Warwick's plant research arm, Warwick HRI, have developed
“Dynamic Fertigation” technology in response to growing
water scarcity particularly in the UK.
Water and fertilizer saving irrigation techniques called
"fertigation" are widely used in Southern Europe. In
"fertigation", feed pipes deliver water and nourishment
to the plants themselves but mostly they are operated manually.
At Warwick HRI, researchers examined the existing
"fertigation" techniques and have now built a system that
uses sensors at the base of plants to detect the level of moisture
in the soil and feed that back to a computer using a GSM phone link
direct from the field. The control system then switches the water
on when the soil dries below a set level.
The researchers took it a stage further by combining the soil
moisture data with weather forecasts and the system was automated
to the extent that it could make its own decisions on whether your
plants needed watering!
Not only does this save precious water, it also stops fertiliser
from being washed away by rainfall, which is not only cutting waste
but has the added ecological benefit of stopping it from polluting
Early results show a 33% saving in fertiliser for lettuce
and 50% for runner beans. With both economic and environmental
benefits, this new high-tech method of “fertigation”
will be of considerable interest not just in the UK but in regions
of the world already using more primitive “fertigation”
- Fields of lettuce, courgettes and beans
- Fertigation technology
- GSM radio masts
- Researcher with laptop reading data
- Fertigation systems.
- Water Metering
- Dr Jim Monaghan, Project Leader, Warwick HRI