Review: Sensors for the improvement of irrigation efficiency in nurseries

  • Nkosinathi D Kaptein 1. Institute for Commercial Forestry Research, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; 2. Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum Research Unit, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
  • Marnie E Light 1. Institute for Commercial Forestry Research, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; 2. Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
  • Michael J Savage Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum Research Unit, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Keywords: automation, porous substrates, seedlings, small-volume container, timer system

Abstract

Traditional timer-based systems for irrigation management, which are more commonly used in commercial nurseries in South Africa, are not ideal as they may not irrigate seedlings efficiently. A sensor-based irrigation system is presented as an alternative, as this can provide several benefits to nurseries and nursery-grown seedlings. Small-sized soil water sensors that could fit in small-volume nursery containers (25 to 100 mL), and could be integrated into an automated irrigation system, are reviewed. Several experiments have been conducted internationally to measure soil water status of small-volume containers in soilless substrates, and a large body of knowledge is now available. In this review, we describe the principles of several currently commercially available sensors that can be adapted to this purpose, giving advantages and disadvantages of each type. We conclude that a sensor-based irrigation system has great potential to address the challenges associated with irrigation scheduling, while improving water usage in most nurseries.

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Published
2019-07-31