Wireless Monitors Help Farmers, Growers Protect Crops

May 15, 2009
Something to crow about: improved crop protection

There was a time when farmers relied on the rooster for a wake-up call and the dinner bell for the call to supper. And, crop protection was practiced by watching the skies.

Bells and roosters are still around, but crop protection methods are decidedly 21st century. Sources from Onset Computer Corporation, makers of the HOBO data loggers, report that advances in technology have helped make crop management easier and more efficient.

Growers now have access to wireless sensors that closely track air temperature and soil conditions in real-time. They use this information in fields in a variety of ways, such as modifying an irrigation system for optimal yield or receiving automatic alarm notifications when frost events occur.

Oregon Berry Packing Company, an Oregon-based, family-owned, commercial berry farm, is one example of a commercial grower leveraging the power of new sensing technology. The company has recently installed 24 HOBOnode wireless sensors to monitor air temperature and soil moisture conditions in the field.

Will Unger is the field-manager overseeing the 240-acre farm.“We were looking for a way to cut the time and money we spent going out into the field to manually download our data,” explains Unger. “It would take one of our farm managers several hours to go to nine different field locations and download the information necessary to access the environmental conditions affecting our blueberry and blackberry crops.”

According to Unger, the farm manager would go out into the field every couple of weeks to download the data. “We wanted a system that would automatically download the real-time data directly onto a PC at our office.”

The HOBOnode sensors are roughly the size of a small flashlight. They transmit high-accuracy air temperature and soil moisture data to Unger’s PC several miles away, without cables.

According to Unger, the alarm notification helped protect the farm’s 15-year old blueberry plants.“During the bloom period, blueberry plants are susceptible to frost.If the blossoms get damaged, berries won’t be able to grow. Not only does the wireless system save us time and money – the alarm notifications tell us whether we need to irrigate for frost control or heat control.We have peace of mind knowing that we will be notified when situations occur - giving us one less thing to worry about."