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Using soil water sensors for efficient irrigation in greenhouses

Using soil water sensors for efficient irrigation in greenhouses

MARC VAN IERSEL AND STEPHANIE BURNETT
UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

Manual irrigation is labor-intensive and repetitive, so it is one of the first greenhouse tasks that should be automated. Although automating irrigation is easy, automated systems are not necessarily water efficient. Many growers use timers to control irrigation, but timers do not account for day-to-day changes in plant water use caused by natural fluctuations in temperature, light, and humidity levels. In addition, plant water use increases as plants grow. This makes it difficult to obtain efficient irrigation using a timer. Given the increasing strain on water resources in many parts of North America, the greenhouse industry needs to move towards more efficient irrigation systems.

Soil water sensors provide promising new opportunities for automating greenhouse irrigation according to plant need. We have worked extensively with EC-5 probes, which are small enough to fit into a 4” pot, and have found that these probes accurately measure the volumetric water content of soilless substrates. We have integrated EC-5 probes into an automated irrigation system that makes it possible to irrigate plants based on actual plant water use.  This article shows the results of our experiments. Learn:

  • Why sensors ensure plants never experience drought stress
  • Does automating irrigation with soil moisture sensors really work?
  • How can growers implement systems for better efficiency?
  • How automation using soil moisture sensors can improve plant quality

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