Using soil moisture sensors to control irrigation, up to 50 % of water can be saved directly, and indirectly as well fertilizers. Previous research (eg 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 non-contact soil moisture meter. It is low-cost, and can thus be used in large numbers in order to determine an average true moisture content of a valve section. In the project SuTek Turkish growers test AquaTag in their greenhouses.
The AquaTag was initially developed for container plants in the Netherlands. In this project (SuTek), now, a watering strategy for horticulture in Turkey with small, soil-based crops is being developed. The aim is to keep the technology accessible and make it available worldwide for crops for which saving of water, fertilizer, energy and cost is important.
Growers (cucumber, peppers, green beans) placed five sensors per valve section. Once per day measurements were carried out with the hand-held meter. Based on the average moisture content, the hand meter gave an irrigation advice (yes/no irrigation and amount). Crop type, soil type and crop stage were taking into account. Water amounts were compared with those of valve sections where the growers determined the irrigation, without use of the sensors. In the sensor-controlled valve sections a more even moisture content and a saving of 23-45% of the water was obtained, compared to the unregulated valve sections. In organic farming that was 9 %.
Partners for water
The AquaTag was originally developed by SensorTag Solutions (STS), in close collaboration with the Technical University of Delft , TNO, University of Eindhoven and several engineering firms, supported by STW . This project is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Agency - NL, under the program "Partners for Water" (PVWS12003 ). The EGE University, agricultural faculty (Izmir, Turkey ) conducted experiments on the location in Orhanli at 9 growers.
STS and Wageningen-UR Horticulture will present the AquaTag in December at the GrowTech Eurasia 2013 in Antalya (TR).