Soil Water Monitoring Using Wireless Sensor Network

Author(s): Sui, R.

Mississippi Delta is one of the most productive and intensively irrigated agricultural regions in US. Although there is more than 1000 mm of annual precipitation in this region, uncertainty in the amount and timing of precipitation is one of the most serious risks to the producers. Producers in this region have become increasingly reliant on supplemental irrigation to ensure adequate yields. There are more than 17,000 water wells in Mississippi Delta used to pump groundwater from the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer for agricultural irrigation. Increasing groundwater withdrawal is resulting in a decline in the aquifer levels. It is necessary to develop improved water management tools for water resource preservation and sustainable agriculture in this region. To increase water use efficiency and productivity, novel sensing technologies are required to determine crop water status and conduct irrigation scheduling. Crop water status and the amount of supplementary water needed can be assessed by measuring soil moisture and plant physical response to water stress. A wireless sensor network (WSN) was built and deployed in three fields to monitor soil moisture status and collect weather data for irrigation scheduling. The WSN consists of soil moisture sensors, weather sensors, wireless data loggers, and a wireless modem. Soil moisture sensors were installed at three depths below the ground surface in various locations across the fields. Weather sensors were mounted on a 3-m instrument tower. An antenna mount was designed and fabricated for use in the WSN. When field equipment such as a fertilizer or chemical applicator impacted the mount, the mount was capable of protecting the antenna from damage by the equipment. The WSN has been deployed and operated in fields with cotton, corn, and soybean crops for three years. It performed well in data collection and transmission. No major operational issues occurred with the WSN except occasional data transmission interruptions by the thunderstorms during the summer. Using the WSN system, soil moisture and weather conditions including precipitation, solar radiation, wind speed, and humidity were measured every minute and the hourly averages were reported and stored at one-hour interval. The soil moisture data and weather data were automatically and wirelessly transmitted to the internet making the data available online. Data collected by the WSN have been used in irrigation scheduling research in cotton, corn and soybean crops.
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