Using soil moisture sensors to control irrigation, up to 50 % of water can be saved directly, and indirectly as well fertilizers. Previous research (FLOW-AID) has shown that this is possible, while still keeping the yield and quality at a good level. Especially in (semi) arid areas horticulture can benefit thereof. Sensors are relatively expensive, and measure only locally, while the moisture content can vary greatly within a valve section.
The Aquatag is a new, patented concept of a contactless soil moisture and EC meter, originally developed for Dutch container plants. The AquaTag is inexpensive and can be applied in large numbers to more accurately determine the average moisture content of a valve section.
In this project, Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture developed an irrigation strategy for the horticulture sector in Turkey with small, soil-bound crops. The aim was to keep the technology accessible and ultimately to make it available worldwide for growers, to whom saving of water, fertilizers and energy is of major importance.
Approach and achieved results by Turkish vegetable growers
Growers placed five sensors per valve section. Once per day, measurements were performed with a hand-meter. Based on the average moisture content, the hand meter gave an irrigation advice (yes/no watering and duration), taking into account soil type, crop type and cropping stage. Growers were visited once every five days, and the sensor values and water meters were recorded. Water gifts were compared with those of valve sections where the growers determined irrigation by them self without using the sensors. In the sensor-controlled valve sections, growers achieved a more uniform moisture content and a water savings of 12-40% compared to the non-controlled valve sections. No grower indicated that he had realized a lower yield or lower quality.
Partners for Water
The Aquatag is developed by SensorTag Solutions BV in cooperation with the TU Delft, TNO, TU Eindhoven and several engineering firms, supported by STW. This project was supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), within the framework of the program "Partners for Water" (PVWS12003). The EGE University agricultural faculty (Izmir, Turkey) performed the experiments on location at eight growers in the Orhanli village.