The beauty of this particular sensor, he says, is that you can mount it on a post and keep it about 14 inches above your canopy, or you can mount it sideways if you’re growing corn.

The next step, says Perry, is getting the data from a sensor that is placed in a field. “You can do this by radio. You can go with spread-spectrum license-free radio, and there are licensed radios like Mesh Networks, and there’s the Internet.

“A number of counties are putting in WiFi or WiMax across counties forming a wireless network. In this case, you’d have the ability to use WiFi sensors. But the tried and true method is to have a cellular signal, and this is mostly what we have across our region, either with the GSM with T-Mobile and AT&T, or CDMA with Verizon/Sprint. That is how we get most of our data.”

Decagon also has come up with an inexpensive way to get data via satellite, he says.

“Radio telemetry is basically getting that data from a spot in the field out to your pickup at the edge of the field. This way, you don’t have to walk into your field with a laptop computer, hook it up to a box, and download the data. You can receive continuous data. Or, you could have a radio near the sensors in the field, maybe put it up a little higher, and you could transmit that back to an office base.”

At the irrigation park in southwest Georgia, researchers are working on a Mesh Network, placing inexpensive sensors out in the field, says Perry. They inter-communicate with one another and then back to a base station at the edge of the field or a center pivot point.

“The bottom line in using all of this is to make a better informed irrigation decision,” says Perry. “It helps you answer the questions of when to irrigate and how much to irrigate. If you watch the soil moisture sensor data, you can see the decrease in the soil moisture status. That’ll give you an idea of how quickly it has dropped and give you an idea of how soon you need to irrigate.

“To know how much to apply, watch the data, and see if the soil moisture is increasing down to the depths of your crop roots at that particular time.”

phollis@farmpress.com