Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #429768

Research Project: Evaluating Water Availability and Crop Stress using Soil Water and Plant Canopy Sensors

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21660-005-32-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 20, 2015
End Date: Sep 20, 2019

1. Develop sensor systems to evaluate water use management in agricultural cropping systems. 1.1. Establish sensor network for evaluating soil water use by corn and soybeans in conventional and organic management systems. 1.2. Develop and test plant canopy temperature sensors (infrared) for deployment in a wireless network data collection system. 1.3. Establish a plant canopy measurement network to evaluate water stress of corn and soybeans growing under various management systems. 1.4. Apply technologies for evaluating water use and crop stress in urban agricultural systems to educate urban farmers about water use efficiency.

Sub-objective 1.1: Sensors for Soil Water Availability: Conventional and organic cropping systems will be evaluated using time domain reflectometry (TDR) sensors. Both wired and wireless sensors will be installed in weedy and weed free sub-plots in the Farming Systems Project (FSP) corn and soybeans plots (2016 growing season). CR206R data loggers with wireless radios will transmit TDR data to a central base station. 12 data loggers in reps 3 and 4 will collects data from six sub-plots (3 weedy and 3 weed free). Near surface (0 to 10 cm) soil water content will be measured with wireless TDR probes. 2 CSW655 TDR probes will be placed in each weedy and weed free sub-plot. Data will be collected hourly and summarized to daily values. Data management will use CS Loggernet and SAS. Effects of weeds on water availability within each management system and comparison of management systems effects on water availability will be determined. Sub-objective 1.2 Develop and test plant canopy temperature sensors (infrared): Low-cost microcontroller units (MCU) and sensors for automating the measurement and recording of canopy-, soil-, and air temperature, and soil moisture status in cropped fields will be tested. In cooperation with Ken Fisher ARS Stoneville, MS we will develop a system for measuring canopy and air temperature at FSP. We will use a wireless transmitter/receiver, 4gb data storage (SD card), and blue tooth technology. We will compare two infrared temperature (IRT) sensors for stability and accuracy under controlled conditions in the laboratory and in the field. Evaluations will be made over a range of thermal environments and tested against high precision IRTs to compare calibration requirements and determine which IRT sensor to use in Subobjective 1.3. Sub-objective 1.3: Canopy Temperature IRT network to monitoring plant water stress. The IRT sensors (40) from Subobjective 1.2 will be used to measure corn canopy temperatures and compare plant stress between weedy and weed free plots at FSP in 2016. Two IRTs will measure canopy temperatures from opposing sides of weedy and weed free subplots to reduce effects of solar angle. Height of sensors will be adjusted weekly. Wireless technology will be used to transmit data to a base station used for the Campbell soil water data collection daily and used to compare management regimes and effects of weeds on crop stress. Sub-objective 1.4: Apply technologies for evaluating water use to urban agricultural systems to improve water management of urban farmers. The UDC Farm near BARC serves both research and education functions. The IRT’s developed in Sub-objective 1.2 will be used to compare water use efficiency of urban crops being evaluated for small urban farm settings. IRT sensors will be placed in two reps of their crop demonstration plots. Soil water content will be compared using capacitance sensors buried at two depths. Data will be collected hourly and summarized to daily values. The data will be used in presentations to urban farmers to demonstrate differences in water stress tolerance among crop varieties.