Field Sensors Could Provide Real Time Soil Reports to Farmers

by Brian Wilson
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Researchers at Iowa State University are developing an advanced type of sensor which farmers can place in their fields to keep constant tabs on nutrient levels and soil moisture. Jonathan Claussen, a mechanical engineering professor at I-S-U, says the sensors are about the size of a tent stake and they’re designed to stay in the ground all growing season, about four months, through any temperature swings or rain events.

The device needs to be both rugged and easy to use, Claussen says, as he notes farmers don’t want to read a 20-page instruction manual. It also needs to be inexpensive, so farmers can place a wide network of sensors.

Ideally, farmers could purchase dozens of the sensors to monitor the soil’s nutrient levels in real time, as they’ve worked to keep the price at less than one-dollar per sensor.

The I-S-U team has worked to develop an array of sensors for other purposes, for things like food safety and even testing for COVID-19.

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