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Dynamic Fertigation - Transcript


00:00            Hay bales in a field
                      Focus pull – water pipe to plants
                      MS – water fertigation equipment
                      Wide – equipment in field
                      Wide – Dr Monaghan walks to equipment
                      MS – fertigation equipment on ground
                      Wide – greenhouses
                      CU – Warwick HRI sign
                      MS – researcher in field adjusting equipment
                      CU – of above

Guide Voice: As record heat waves and water shortages continue, most food growers can only dream of a water and fertilizer saving system that could dial up over a GSM phone network, respond to commercial five day weather reports, and decide whether to turn itself on or not!

However, it’s now a reality, researchers at the University of Warwick's plant research arm, Warwick HRI have developed this “Dynamic Fertigation” technology in response to growing water scarcity particularly in the UK. 

00:29 SOT Dr Jim Monaghan, Project Leader, Warwick HRI / Harper–Adams University College -“Fertigation allows crops to receive water and fertiliser in small amounts little and often when and where the plant needs it. Why its going to become more important in the future is the fact that we’re becoming very aware of the environment, there’s a lot of legislation that’s limiting waste of water and limiting the pollution of water courses by fertilisers for example.”

00:51            CU – low shot across crops in field
                      Wide- across crops in field         
                      CU – low shot, equipment and crops
                      CU – as above
                      Wide – Dr Monaghan walks through crops
                      MS – as above
                      CU – Dr Monaghan examining plant
                      Wide – crops in field
                      CU – low shot of crops and equipment
                      CU – solar power controller
                      Wide – equipment in field
                      CU – circuit board
                      MS – solar power unit and circuit board in casings

Guide Voice: By examining water and fertilizer saving irrigation techniques widely used in Southern Europe, which use trickle tape irrigation to provide the mixed delivery of both, known as “fertigation”, they found a number of ways to improve on them.

In Europe, fertigation pipes are most likely to be controlled by someone riding a moped through the fields to turn supplies on and off by hand. At Warwick HRI however, they’ve 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, to a control system that switches it on when the soil dries to a set level, unless the weather forecast is for rain.

01:29 SOT Dr Jim Monaghan“We’ve tried to integrate it in a system that can predict crop nutrient requirements but measure soil water quantities and at the same time integrate weather forecast data because we don’t want to be applying precious fertiliser, we don’t want to be putting effort into applying fertiliser and 20 minutes later we receive 10 millimetres of rainfall which will just flush everything through the soil profile and off into water courses.”

01:56            CU data logger irrigation monitor unit
                      MS – crops
                      CU – cabling going into the ground
                      MS – fertigation unit
                      CU – label for crop
                      Wide – Dr Monaghan using laptop at equipment
                      CU – cabling and crops
                      CU – as above, different angle
                      Wide – crops in field
                      MS – Dr Monaghan walks to equipment  
                      ECU – Dr Monaghan checks reading on gauge
                      MS – Dr Monaghan leaves equipment
                      CU – low shot, crops/plants
                      CU - plants

Guide Voice: By combining the soil moisture data with advance weather reports, they’ve now automated the system to the extent that it could make its own decisions on whether the crops needed watering.
Currently they are running a number of field trials of “Dynamic Fertigation,” including a field of lettuce in Cartagena, Spain, which they can monitor and adjust from an office in Warwickshire in the UK.

Early results show 33% saving in fertilizer for lettuce and 50% for runner beans, sound commercial drivers for further development of this prototype system, which will be of interest around the world for a number of reasons.

Not only does it save precious water, stop fertilizer from being washed away, with the added ecological benefit of stopping it polluting waterways, but by fine-tuning the process, it could also result in better quality produce for the consumer.

02:44 SOT Dr Jim Mognahan“We can actually run plants more accurately and we can run them dryer and we can run them with lower nutrients and that gives you a longer shelf life. So a customer can go and pick it off the shelf and that lettuce will be able to be eaten a day or two longer than it would if it had been in a traditional system.”

03:00            CU – produce
                      Wide – Dr Monaghan at equipment
                      Wide – equipment in field
                      CU – upwards angle shot of plant

Guide Voice: Better produce, with more efficient use of water and fertilizer, less pollution, short of ringing up to say when the produce is ready for you to eat it, there seems little this system can’t do!

03:11                Ends

This material is available for use without restriction for up to 28 days following the feed date, Tuesday 25 July 2006. For use beyond this period, please contact Research-TV on +44 (0) 207 004 7130 or email

Page contact: Shuehyen Wong Last revised: Wed 26 Jul 2006
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