Optimizing growth, quality, and profits through precision irrigation in ornamental plant production
Decreasing availability of good quality fresh water resources and increasingly strict environmental regulations will necessitate more efficient irrigation practices in ornamental production. Our focus has been on the development of wireless sensor networks (WSNs) to provide growers with real-time information about soil/substrate water content and environmental conditions to facilitate resource management. The graphical user interface (GUI) can be used to configure automated irrigation, based on soil/substrate water content thresholds. Testing the WSNs in commercial production settings has shown multiple benefits of this technology: 40-70% reduction in water use, faster growth of some crops, decreased problems with root pathogens, and increased profits. We have also shown that precision control over substrate water content can be used as an alternative to plant growth retardants in ornamental production, by simply lowering the substrate water content when plant height increases faster than desired. The technology benefits society-at-large as well, because it fosters decreases in non-point source pollution by agro-chemicals. Based on the economic benefits and the expected price for these WSNs, we expect rapid industry adoption of this technology.
van Iersel, M.W., Chappell, M.R. and Thomas, P.A. 2016. Optimizing growth, quality, and profits through precision irrigation in ornamental plant production. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 1131:57-64
benefits, greenhouse, irrigation efficiency, nursery, soil moisture, water, wireless sensor network