Soil Monitoring with IoT uses technology to empower farmers and producers to maximise yield, reduce disease and optimise resources. IoT sensors can measure soil temperature, volumetric water content, photosynthetic radiation, soil water potential and soil oxygen levels. Data from the IoT sensors are then transmitted back to a central point (or the cloud) for analysis, visualisation and trend analysis. The resultant data can then be used to optimise farming operations, identify trends and make subtle adjustments to conditions to maximise crop yield and quality. The use of IoT in agriculture is known as Smart Agriculture (or Smart Farming), and IoT is a central component of Precision Farming.
What can I measure with Smart Agriculture / IoT sensors?
Smart Agriculture is focused around soil, weather and crop conditions. Given the importance of weather and irrigation; many Smart Farming solutions are coupled with Smart Environment (Air Quality) and Smart Water (Pollution, Turbidity, Nutrients) for a complete solution. The most common IoT sensors are listed below:
Soil temperature is an essential factor in belowground plant activity, influencing things such as root growth, respiration, decomposition and mineralisation of nitrogen. Soil temperature can be estimated by measuring air temperature and other factors, however, the most accurate measurement is to use a probe, buried in the soil. Depending on the root structure of the plan in question, multiple probes can be installed at different depths. Surface soil temperature can be monitored using a different type of IoT sensor that uses IR technology.
- Soil temperature.
- Non-Contact surface temperature.
The moisture content of soil can also be monitored using buried probes with electrodes. In hydrology, soil science and agricultural – soil moisture content plays a vital role in soil chemistry, plant growth and groundwater recharge. Soil moisture content is essential for several reasons:
- Water in the soil serves as a critical nutrient for all crops and plants.
- Water is an essential component of photosynthesis.
- Crop yield is heavily influenced by the availability of water in the soil.
- Soil water is an important carrier of soluble food nutrients for plant growth.
- Soil water helps regulate soil temperatures.
Soil science is a complex area and suffice to say; it is beyond the scope of this article! IoT and Smart Agriculture technology from Libelium can measure the following:
- Soil moisture (3 x depths)
- Volumetric water content.
- Soil water potential.
IoT sensors can measure different types of solar radiation that play a vital role in photosynthesis. Beyond basic light levels of Lux, IoT can measure the following:
- Solar – Photosynthetically active radiation.
- Solar – UV.
- Solar – Shortwave.
Solar radiation can have a real impact on plant-growth and IoT enables you to monitor solar levels to understand correlations and trends.
Rainfall/precipitation, wind, humidity and atmospheric pressure all play an essential role in plant growth. Our Smart Agriculture systems support several advanced weather stations. Weather stations provide rich data-sets that, when combined with soil sensors, give you a 360 view of your farming operation. IoT weather stations can measure the following:
- Precipitation (optical and tipping bucket measurements).
- Air pressure.
- Wind speed.
- Wind direction.
We support many other IoT sensors for agriculture and are valuable in specific niche scenarios. Although not soil monitoring, they enhance any IoT deployment. These additional sensors include:
- Vapour pressure
- Soil oxygen levels.
- Leaf and flow-bud temperature.
- Leaf wetness.
- Trunk, stem and fruit diameter.
Wireless Communications for IoT and Smart Agriculture
A key benefit of IoT solutions is the wide range of wireless communication options available. IoT is not just limited to urban areas with extensive mobile coverage; support for LoRaWAN, 4G, Zigbee, Sigfox, WIFI and Satellite mean Smart Farming/Agriculture solutions work find in both urban, rural and very-remote environments. The low-power nature of IoT systems means nodes and sensors can be powered by battery, solar or other renewable sources.
Almost any crop or farming business can optimise their operations using IoT. We have seen specific interest in the following:
- Cannabis and Hemp
- Cherries, Apples
What about remote environments?
As mentioned earlier, Libelium IoT supports a wide range of communication protocols and is comparatively low-bandwidth. You may have a localised network of sensors using LoRaWAN (i.e. 15KM) before this data is transmitted back to the cloud using satellite communications. This transmission could be real-time or periodically batched. The use of IoT, Satellite and Agriculture have particular relevance to remote farming communities and settlements that are distributed over a wide area – perhaps were mobile or traditional broadband coverage is lacking or non-existent.
Can I control irrigation systems, heating or lighting systems?
The first part of any precision farming or automation system is the measurement element. IoT and Smart Agriculture solutions collect thousands of data points a day. Once this data has been analysed, formatting and correlated – it can be used to trigger an intelligent response or automate other aspects of your infrastructure. For example, when soil moisture drops below a certain level – software can trigger your irrigation system. If moisture levels increase to suboptimal levels, alerts can be generated to operational or farming staff. With IoT and agriculture, the possibilities are endless.
Learn more about soil monitoring and IoT
This blog post was designed to serve as a primer to soil monitoring with IoT. The field of study around soil science is extensive, and the characteristics and important attributes of soil vary considerably by crop or the particular soil conditions. If you would like to discuss how IoT can assist your business or help optimise yield, reduce disease and enhance quality – please speak to our solutions team. You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call +44 1624 777837 or complete the contact form on our website.