A team of University of Connecticut researchers engineered a soil moisture sensor that is more cost effective than anything currently available and responds to the global need to regulate water consumption in agriculture. https://today.uconn.edu/2019/09/engineers-produce-water-saving-crop-irrigation-sensor/
Designed and tested on the university's farm, the sensors are small enough to insert into the soil with ease and less expensive to manufacture than current technology, the researchers write in the Journal of Sensors and Actuators.
“Advances in hydrological science are hampered by the lack of on site soil moisture data,” said Guiling Wang, study author and professor of civil and environmental engineering at UConn. “It's really hard to monitor and measure things underground. The challenge is that the existing sensors are very expensive and the installation process is very labor intensive.”
The sensors developed by the team of UConn engineers — environmental, mechanical, and chemical — are expected to save nearly 35% of water consumption and cost far less than what exists. Current sensors that are used in a similar way range from $100 to $1,000 each, while the one developed at UConn cost $2, according to the researchers.
An alternate monitoring option, soil moisture data collected from remote sensing technology such as radars and radiometers on board satellites, have suffered from low resolution. But the new technology developed by UConn Professor Baikun Li's group can provide high spatio-temporal resolution data needed for hydrology model development in Wang's group.
In the UConn prototype, wires are connected from the sensors to an instrument that logs data. Researchers conducted field tests of the sensors — performing side-by-side tests with commercial sensors under various environmental conditions throughout a 10-month period. The effects of the environmental variations on soil moisture throughout the period were clearly reflected.
Critically, the small sensors can also be easily sent around he world given the fact that soil moisture plays a fundamental role in agricultural decision-making globally.
Accurate soil moisture sensing is essential to ensure a water level that produces the most robust crops while not wasting the natural resource. In some states in the U.S. — Florida and California, for example — irrigation water usage has become tightly restricted.
The UConn researchers are also working on a nitrogen sensor that is the same model of the water sensors. These would help provide farmers with information on when fields need fertilizing. Currently, nitrogen sensors are not available using this type of technology.
“This is really an exciting start to a much larger scope of things we have in mind,” says Li, a study author and professor of civil and environmental engineering.
Towards water-saving irrigation methodology: Field test of soil moisture profiling using flat thin mm-sized soil moisture sensors (MSMSs)
This study examined flat thin mm-sized soil moisture sensors (MSMS) fabricated using thermal press technology on thin compact disc (CD) to solve the long-standing problems of soil moisture profiling. The 10-month field tests conducted at a farm site compared three groups of MSMS with commercial capacitance-type soil moisture sensors (SMS) in terms of accuracy, sensitivity to environmental variations (e.g. water shock, temperatures, dry/wet seasons) and long-term stability. MSMS sensors were mounted on the shallow, middle and deep locations of a hollow plastic rod (length: 1.1 m) and installed along the soil depth to profile the soil moisture variation. The resistance readings of MSMS sensors along soil depth were recorded in a real-time mode. Due to soil settlement over time after installation, the MSMS sensors in the shallow soil suffered from unstable readings, while the MSMS sensors in the middle and deep soil exhibited high stability and had the best correlation with water content values of commercial sensors (R2 value: 0.6264). The contact between MSMS surface and soil particles appeared to be a critical factor determining the stability of MSMS readings. In addition, MSMS sensors showed a prompt response to the sharp change of soil moisture in the water shock tests. The soil moisture profiles collected from MSMS sensors captured the spatiotemporal variation of soil moisture, which enabled the simultaneous profiling at multiple locations. This field study demonstrated the great potential of mass deployment of low-cost but accurate MSMS sensors to achieve high resolution profiling for water-saving irrigation.
Soil Health & Cover Crop Field Day
Date: October 31, 2019
Time: 8:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Contact: Alli Rowe, email@example.com
Sponsor: UCCE Ventura
Location: Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center
Come gather around a cover crop demonstration for a discussion on cover crop seed selections, appropriate mixes for different cropping systems, and management issues. Other soil health topics include compost applications, Healthy Soils grant opportunities, and technical assistance availability.
This event is free and open to anyone interested in soil health. Please spread the word! Register here
8:30 –9:00 Registration
9:00 –10:45 Rotate through stations to learn about cover crops
- Station 1:Biomass Builders with Shulamit Shroder, Climate Smart Agriculture Specialist, UCCEKern County
- Station 2: Pollinator Habitat with Jamie Whiteford,Irrigation Specialist, Ventura County/Cachuma RCD
- Station 3: Low Profile with Oleg Daugovish,Strawberry and Vegetable Crop Advisor, UCCE Ventura County
- Station 4: Mustards and Varieties with Dee Vega,Staff Research Associate, UCCE Ventura County
- Station 5: Compost and Compost Tea with Annemiek Schilder,County Director, UCCE Ventura County
- Station 6: Grant Opportunities and Technical Assistance with Alli Rowe,Climate Smart Agriculture Specialist, UCCE Ventura County
10:45 –11:00 Questions and wrap up
There's a new pub in town, and you can read it up. It's a generic guide to mulch use.
Mulches are materials that are applied to the soil surface, but not tilled, mixed, or combined with underlying soil. Landscape mulches are typically plant residues (organic mulches) or rock, sand, and stone (inorganic mulches). You may know that immediately after application mulches prevent weeds from germinating and reduce evaporative loss from soil surfaces, but there are other benefits as well. And down sides, as well.
Includes a table of common mulch materials with their benefits and potential problems.
This free publication is available by download.
Read more. Know more. And there's a lot more to read at ANR Publications.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University researchers have for the first time grown the bacteria in a laboratory that causes Citrus Greening Disease, considered the world's most harmful citrus disease.
Being able to grow the elusive and poorly understood bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), will make it easier for researchers to find treatments for the disease that has destroyed millions of acres of orange, grapefruit and lemon groves around the world and has devastated the citrus industry in Florida.
The researchers, including Phuc Ha, postdoctoral research associate, Haluk Beyenal, Paul Hohenschuh Professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, David Gang and Ruifeng He, from WSU's Institute of Biological Chemistry, Anders Omsland, from the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, and researchers from the University of Florida and University of Arizona, report on their work in the journal, Biofilm.
WSU was selected three years ago for a $2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study the bacteria, in part, because Washington has no citrus industry. The disease, formally known as Huánglóngbìng, (HLB), is spread by Asian citrus psyllids insects. It attacks the vascular system of citrus trees and causes fruit to become green, misshapen, and bitter-tasting.
A critical step in coming up with weapons to fight the disease is being able to study it in the lab, but the CLas bacterium is notoriously difficult to grow. With a small genome, CLas is thought to depend on very specific nutrient availability and possibly compounds secreted by other nearby bacteria. When researchers used a traditional rich media that they typically use for growing bacteria, they mostly grew bacteria other than CLas.
So, in order to conduct research, scientists have had to get bacterial samples directly from the trees themselves or from the insects that spread it, which is time-consuming and cumbersome. Trying to conduct experiments has also been difficult because, unlike neat lab cultures, bacterial samples gathered from a sick tree vary, depending on where and when the sample is gathered and the level of infection.
Without being able to grow the bacteria in a lab, researchers have been unable to even absolutely confirm that the bacteria, in fact, causes the disease.
In their paper, the researchers for the first time successfully established and maintained CLas bacterial cultures outside of its host.
Using infected citrus tissue as their starting point, the researchers developed a biofilm, a kind of bacterial city that allows a variety of bacteria to thrive. Instead of a rich growth medium that would crowd out the CLas, the researchers severely limited the growth of partner bacteria and created a medium with the specific nutrients, acidity, incubation temperatures, and oxygen levels that are optimal for CLas.
The CLas thrived – an important first step.
“We were really excited,” said Beyenal, “but then we wondered if we could re-grow it.”
The researchers were able to transfer the orange-colored culture and grow new cultures in their biofilm reactors, which they have maintained for more than two years.
“We can do this for as long as we want,” said Beyenal.
Beyenal's group is now working to purify the culture, which will further help researchers to study it. They are also developing genetic-based methods to understand and mitigate the spread of the disease.
- Haluk Beyenal, Hohenschuh Distinguished Professor, Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, 509-335-6607, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- David Gang, Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry, 509-335-0550, email@example.com
- Tina Hilding, communications director, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, 509-335-5095, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Phuc Ha and Haluk Beyenal examine a bacterial culture in the laboratory./h2>
The California Avocado Society held its 104th Annual Meeting recently and acknowledged an individual's contributions to the avocado industry with its Oliver Atkins Award. This award is presented in honor of nurseryman Oliver Atkins who went beyond what was required or expected, benefitting the avocado industry and its growers. His devotion to the industry was noted in his day-to-day activities and to the changes that he brought to the industry. The award was made to Mr. Pablo Rodriguez.
The award was presented by Nurseryman Rob Brokaw and the following notes were made during the address:
Pablo Rodriguez was born in Mexico in 1950, one of eight kids. He attended a private school on scholarship from ages 8-12, finishing his formal education at 8th grade. He came to the US in order to support his parents and siblings at age 20 in 1971 and worked up and down California for two years before landing at an avocado/citrus nursery in Ventura county.
The nurseryman at the time made a point of “keeping an eye on Pablo”, and Pablo soon rose to be the nursery manger, developing an expertise in grafting. He bought a home in Santa Paula, raising a family there. He gained US citizenship in 1996. He and his family also have a company that performs topworking which is now managed by son Robert.
Readying a rootstock for a graft
As the nursery became involved in working with partners overseas, Pablo's expertise was in demand. He has worked with collaborators in Mexico, Peru, and Dominican Republic, Chile, Florida, Hawaii, Spain, South Africa and more.
His skills and expertise are evident in the millions of avocado and citrus trees that have been produced here in California under his watchful eye, but the greater impact of his efforts resonates around the world.
Pablo and Samuel Garibay showing South Africans the Brokaw Way
Today Pablo is in semi-retirement. In his case, that means he works just as much as he ever did. He's constantly operating in the background shoring up processes and ensuring smooth operations. On Sundays, he can be found wandering the orchards – “just making sure the graftwood is good for harvest this week!” He isn't asked to do this; he just does it because it needs to be done.
But the real story about Pablo, apart from his intelligence and his accomplishments, is his profound humility and humanity. Pablo's dealings with others are informed by a deep spirituality and morality. He seeks to raise others, preferring to remain in the shadows.
Pablo is a guy who, when asked if he can do the impossible, will think for a while, then shrug and say, “Well, it has to be done”. And then does it. This happens regularly.
To his family, to California growers and to the global avocado industry, Pablo has given selflessly of himself. We're all enriched by his presence in our community.
A Serious budman