Have You Taken Your Plants Temperature
Lately? By Don
May 10, 2001
Is your plant on the phone? Better take the call and save your
Cotton plants in Oklahoma and peanut plants in Texas are
calling farmers and telling them they need water, sending their
vital signs over a phone line to the World Wide Web at:
Short pencil-size infrared thermometers mounted on posts take
the plants temperature and record how long theyve been too warm.
These prototype devices can save water and energy by giving plants water to
cool them off and reduce their stress time. They are being tested
on other crops--corn, millet, sorghum, soybean, and sunflower--as well as in
other states: California and Mississippi. The units being tested in Oklahoma
and Texas relay their information in a midnight cell phone call to the web. The
farmer, homeowner, turf operator or orchard grower can then check the web to
decide when to irrigate. Any of the devices can be put on automatic
to trigger irrigations.
The patented device is available for commercial licensing. And
as it moves several generations away from its prototype, it is becoming easier
to use, wireless, sturdier, more compact and less expensive. The day is coming
when a homeowner could place a cigarette-pack-size unit on a decorative light
pole and use it to run the lawn sprinkler.
James R. Mahan, an Agricultural Research Service plant
physiologist, and colleagues developed
(Biologically Identified Optimal Temperature Interactive Console) and have
refined it over the past 13 years. Mahan is based in Lubbock, Texas.
The scientists built the device to take advantage of a basic
discovery they made about plants: Plants grow best only within a narrow
temperature range, which varies by species. Future versions should allow users
to choose the lawn or other plant species they are watering from a digital menu
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: James R. Mahan, ARS
Plant Stress and
Germplasm Development Research Unit, Lubbock, Texas; phone (806) 749-5560,
fax (806) 723-5272, email@example.com.