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Corn+Soybean Digest

UNDERGROUND INFORMATION

When most of us think “wireless,” we think of something in our cabs or desktops. Someday soon, you may farm on top of a wireless network of soil moisture sensors. They are being developed at Iowa State University (ISU) by Ratnesh Kumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and a team of scientists. These sensors will report soil moisture levels.

The sensors could help researchers understand precisely how water moves through a field. And they could help them understand soil carbon and nitrogen cycles.

Those sensors could help farmers manage their nutrient and water resources, maximizing yields and profits and minimizing environmental impacts.

Stuart Birrell, an ISU associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and a part of the sensor research team, says the project will provide the kind of real-time, high-resolution data that researchers and producers have been looking for.

“A challenge of precision agriculture is collecting data at a high enough resolution that you can make good decisions,” Birrell says. “These sensors would provide very high-resolution data for producers and researchers. They would give us another data layer to explain differences in yield and help us make management decisions.”

Buried about 1 ft. deep in a grid pattern 80-160 ft. apart, they will someday relay data along the grid to a central computer to log information for researchers or farmers.

Eventually, researchers hope the sensors will collect data about soil nutrient content.

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