Determine the usefulness and impact of wireless sensor networks on strawberry yield and quality, and the usefulness of sensor networks as a precise tool for frost protection.
For sustainable strawberry production, irrigation and nutrient management is a major challenge for growers across the country. This is evidenced by the serious water scarcity problem that is affecting production in the major strawberry growing regions of the United States, as well as the stricter regulations that are being put in place to reduce environmental effects of fertilizers and other agro-chemicals. Wireless sensor networks (WSNs) are an emerging technology that can help strawberry growers by providing specific irrigation and fertilization information about practices on their farms, as well as providing other benefits.
We have installed WSNs at partnering commercial strawberry farms to provide growers real-time data on root-zone soil moisture and electrical conductivity (EC), canopy temperatures and weather conditions, utilizing an advanced software program (Sensorweb, Mayim, LLC., Pittsburgh, PA). The collected information can be viewed on a local computer or be accessed over the internet on any device (laptops, tablets, mobile phones) by growers and researchers alike, thus providing the capability to schedule and alter irrigation events remotely.
The main objective of our project is to implement WSNs to improve irrigation and nutrient management decision making on commercial strawberry farms, and determine the impact on yield, quality and resource use. In addition, the use of WSNs as a precise frost warning system will be investigated, as compared to current satellite-based information. This project also focuses on quantifying the economic impact of using WSNs for irrigation control, nutrient management and frost protection. By using WSNs, we expect to see an increase in profitability while decreasing environmental impacts, since the technology enables more efficient utilization of labor and other resources.