Farm Level Optimal Water Management: Assistant for Irrigation under Deficit - FLOWAID

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted


The objective of FLOW-AID is to contribute to sustainability of irrigated agriculture by developing, testing in relevant conditions, and fine-tuning through feed-back, an irrigation management system that can be used at farm level in situations where there is a limited water supply and water quality. The project integrates innovative sensor technologies into a decision support system for irrigation management, taking into consideration relevant factors in a number of third country partners. The specific objectives are to develop and test new and innovative, but simple and affordable, technical concepts (hardware and software) for irrigation under deficit, at farms in a large variety of set-ups and constraints, particularly: a maintenance free tensiometer; wireless, low-power data networks; an expert system to assist farm zoning and crop planning, in view of expected water availability (amount and quality); a short-term irrigation scheduling module that allocates available water among several plots and schedules irrigation for each one. The scientific results from the research will be evaluated in four test-sites, three of them located in Mediterranean Party Countries (Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan), where the large future market for deficit irrigation systems will be. The test-sites are chosen in such a way that they differ in the type of constraints, irrigation structures, crop types, local water supplies, availability of water and water sources in amount and quality, the local goals, and their complexity. SME partners will take up research results and build prototypes, which will be installed at the test-sites. In close co-operation all partners will adapt the general concepts of water management to the local situation, by using appropriate parts of it, based upon the test-results. The SME involvement will ensure that the results will be implemented in a short time into adequate and appropriate products for the end-user irrigation market.


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Whalley W (2009) Measurement of Low Matric Potentials with Porous Matrix Sensors and Water-Filled Tensiometers in Soil Science Society of America Journal

Description We developed a novel soil moisture sensor that can be used over a wide range of soil water contents. The sensor measures water potential.
Exploitation Route We have now secured a project, part funded by Delta-T and Rothamsted KEC team, to develop a novel soil moisture sensor to the point where is can become a commercial product.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Water shortage forces growers to irrigate with less water or even with water of a lower quality. To avoid crop damage and income losses they need to manage their water and fertilizers more precisely. This may also reduce nutrient leaching, one of the major aims of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). New knowledge and technology to help growers to make the best possible operational decisions has been developed In the FLOW-AID project. Agriculture is the largest user of water in the world. Irrigation water use efficiency must be increased drastically to secure food production for future generations, in other words: we need 'more crop per drop'. The general approach is to avoid water loss and to ensure that all irrigation water is being utilized by the crop. However, in many cases this is not enough. Working under deficit conditions means that the grower needs to operate his water management more precisely to prevent income losses. In the FLOW-AID project scientists of universities and research stations have co-operated with engineering companies to develop new systems and technologies for irrigation and drainage. The program has now resulted in innovative sensor technologies, which are integrated into a grower decision support system. The system has been evaluated at sites located in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain and over the years it has been improved. The final system has been demonstrated to growers during the third year at the test sites. We currently commercialising the sensor that was developed on this project with Delta-T devices Ltd (Low Road, Burwell, Cambridge)
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description An optimal calibration function and process for a dielectric tensiometer sensor of the matric potential of soil water 
Organisation Delta T Devices Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Richard Whalley and his team have a strong track record of developing novel sensing techniques to measure soil conditions for plant growth. These sensors and sensing approaches have been developed with funding from EPSRC, BBSRC and the EU, but they have never been taken through to the point of commercialization. This has limited their wider use at Rothamsted because of the low number of prototype sensors available for research. The hurdle to commercialization is sensor calibration and this applied in particular to the dielectric tensiometer sensors of water potential (Whalley et al. SSSAJ 75:1652-1657). While the Rothamsted team does have many of the "soil physics" skills needed to develop a rapid calibration method for dielectric tensiometers, to do so in the absence of commercialization strategy, involving the use of pre-commercial sensor designs, would not effective or fruitful. For this reason we are proposing to develop a sensor calibration protocol in parallel with the development of pre-commercial prototype sensor at Delta-T Devices.
Collaborator Contribution Delta-T expects to start commercialising sensors that arise from this collaboration within 12 to 18 months of the end of this project. The successful completion of this project would provide Delta-T with its first low cost and accurate dielectric tensiometer for the measurement of matric potential of soil water. The demand for such a sensor is thought to be very high. We already have a royalty agreement, which is not related to any patent, in place with Delta-T for the technology that is at the core of the dielectric tensiometer technology that they are looking to commercialise.
Impact This collaboration is about to start. It exists because of the existing projects identified (BBS/E/C/00004861 and BBS/E/C/00005204)
Start Year 2015