What’s Growing On: Soil Moisture Sensors

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - On some farms in North Central Florida, crops are being cared for with innovating technology that gives farmers a way to save water and ultimately money.

Growing crops on sandy Florida soils can be a difficult task.

Sand often fails to effectively retain water. And when growing watermelons, irrigation can be a tricky balancing act.

UF IFAS Extension Agent Tatiana Sanchez says watermelons “pull a lot of water. But at the same time you want to be cautious in not overwatering because, then again, you’ll be pushing those valuable nutrients away from the plant.”

That’s where soil moisture sensors come into play.

These sensors are a way to give farmers “eyes in the ground” and keep moisture levels in the right spot so the plant can grow and not waste water.

Sanchez adds watermelons “keep all of their water and all of their nutrients closer to the surface of the ground where most of their root system is located so that the plant can take it all up.”

Farmers are able to read the sensor’s data directly from a computer that prompts them how to balance the watermelon’s hydration.

The computer shows a three color scale that Sanchez explains shows up “blue when there’s too much water. If it’s green, you are right where you need to be. And then if it’s approaching the red, then you need to water your crop immediately.”

On top of helping farmers maintain healthy watermelons, sensors allow them to preserve one of North Central Florida’s springs and save water and money.

The IFAS Extension Program is always available to demo the sensors with farmers in the Suwannee River Valley. To find your local office, click here.

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