Butler’s Orchard, located in Germantown, Maryland, is a family owned and operated farm producing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees on over 300 acres of land.
Butlers were pioneers in the ‘pick your own fruit’ business, opening their farm for public picking in the 1950’s. The farm is open for public picking throughout the year and the remaining produce is sold in the Farm Market for local consumption.
Butler’s Orchard has grown strawberries for many years, planting the first field of strawberries in 1953. Strawberries are grown in a matted-row production system with production blocks of various sizes distributed throughout the farm, typically lasting 3-5 years. Irrigation is provided through overhead sprinkler irrigation. Sprinkler heads are located 60’ apart on the main lines and irrigate a radius of 30’. Thus, each of the two main lines irrigate half of the block. For the research being conducted on the farm, a 120’ X 540’ (WXL) matted-row strawberry production block was selected. Two 2” main lines, that run the length of the block (at 30’ and 90’ of the width), are used for irrigation.
Nodes are deployed in the matted row strawberry production system at Butler’s Orchard
Half of the strawberry production block (one irrigation line) is irrigated based on soil volumetric water content set-points, while the remaining half will continue to be irrigated by the Butler’s team using their “typical” practice. Four wireless nodes (mounted on stakes in the picture) have a total of 8 10HS (soil moisture) and 8 GS3 (soil moisture, electrical conductivity and soil temperature) sensors attached, which are deployed across the rows in each block. The sensors are inserted in the root zone at a 4-inch depth and distributed across the block to provide data from representative areas of soil. The soil moisture sensors provide information that automatically controls irrigation (on the sensor-controlled block), and monitors the existing irrigation practices in the grower-irrigated block. The GS3 sensors installed in each block will provide electrical conductivity data that will enable us to monitor fertilization activities and nutrient content in the soil. Irrigation water applied to each block is also recorded by the nodes, using Badger flow meters (Badger Meter, Milwaukee, WI).