Agriculture of the New Age

Agriculture of the New Age – Farming with Sensors
Sensors are modern tools used for mapping of various soil conditions, nutrient content and pest detection. They help farmers improve their yield by using data-driven decisions.
In aiming to produce enough food, farmers have to change the way of farming. They need to use modern farm technologies such as sensors and convert their farming into precision. In this regard, they farm based on data-driven decisions instead of gut feeling. This helps them increase the yield while reducing the finance cost.

Agriculture of today is faced with many problems. The lack of available farmland, limited access to water, climate change and overpopulation jeopardize the overall sustainability of farm production. In aiming to produce enough food for growing population, farmers have to increase crop productivity per field unit. So, there is a big question struggling every farmer: How to achieve that? Luckily, there is one possible and quite simple solution: the introduction of modern technologies in agriculture. New modern technologies not only bring revolutionary changes into farming but also revolutionize the way in which farmers have worked.
Modern farm management relies on many different sensing methodologies, farm equipment, enhanced seeds, and farm software which facilitates tracking of a complete farm production from one central place. Modern technology helps farmers provide accurate information of crop, soil, climate, and environment conditions.

Sensors are an important tool in modern agriculture management. According to their application and function which they provide, there are three most important sensor types:
Soil moisture sensors
Sensors for nutrient mapping
Sensors for pest detection.

Soil Moisture Sensors for Smart Irrigation
Soil moisture sensors are instruments for measuring water content in the soil. They help determinate the exact amount of soil water which plants can use in the period from rainfall to irrigation. Soil moisture can be determined by measuring soil moisture tension and soil moisture content. Based on the way of measuring a soil moisture, farmers can use few types of sensors;
Tensiometers and gypsum blocks by measuring water tension show how easy water can be extracted from the soil. The higher the readings, the drier the soil.
Time domain reflectometry (TDR) and frequency domain reflectometry by measuring water content show the exact percent of soil moisture content.

Gypsum block and TDR soil moisture sensor

Placed near the active root zone, soil moisture sensors are valuable tools for smart irrigation. By measuring water soil content, sensors collect various data from the soil thus allowing farmers to easy plan and schedule an irrigation. In this regard, knowing how much water is in the soil at any moment, under – or over irrigation can be easily avoided.

Sensors for Nutrient Mapping Provide Real-time Field Data

Sensors for nutrient mapping are known as electrochemical sensors. These on-the-go soil nutrient sensors are based on ion-selective electrode technology which measures the soil nutrient levels and soil pH.
The sensor measures the potential voltage difference between sensing and reference parts of the system, which relates to the concentration of specific ions in the soil (H+, K+, NO3-). Measured data are interpreted as the soil pH value and the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium in real-time.

Sensors for nutrient mapping are mainly placed in the field but can be also vehicle-and drone-based. Soil data are captured on-the-go and instantaneously converted into distribution maps. According to analysed data, farmers know which part of the field has the lack of a certain crop nutrient. This helps them to minimize fertilizers use and finance cost while increase crop yield.

Accurate Sensors for Pest Detection
Sensors for precision farming are constantly improving, thus developing new ways of possible yield saving. Such modern technology is pest detection sensor which detects disease and insect pest occurrence. The sensor collects real-time data about crop condition based on current weather conditions. Pest detection sensors help farmers to detect infestation at very early stage, giving them enough time to prepare for the adequate pest protection. Additionally, by using sensors, farmers can greatly reduce the percentage of pest damage and thus save the yield.

Satellite map from pest detection sensor

Beside three aforementioned sensor types, there are a variety of other sensors used in modern farm management. According to the measurement technique used for soil sampling, sensors are classified into:
Electromagnetic – use electric circuits to measure soil texture (sand, silt, clay), soil moisture content, soil depth variability (depth of topsoil, depth to hardpan), cation exchange capacity.
Mechanical – measures soil compaction, compacted soil layers.
Optical – use light reflectance to measure soil organic matter, soil moisture.
Airflow – measures soil air permeability.
Acoustic – measures soil texture (sand, silt, clay), soil bulk density (compaction), soil depth variability (depth of topsoil, depth to hardpan).

Technology is increasingly taking over the agriculture sector. Farmers are not dummy village people anymore, they are becoming technologically educated and proud to participate in world hunger eradication.

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  • Tasos on December 8, 2021 @ 18:52:48

This post was created by Filip Gerin on July 14, 2021.