Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Researchers at the University of Iowa have been awarded funding to design and use smart technology to maximize crop yields and use water more efficiently in rural agriculture.

The four-year, $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls for UI engineers to design and build smart sensors that measure soil moisture and temperature, along with air temperature and humidity levels. The data would be transmitted to an Internet-based storage system, known as cloud computing, and be available to farmers through an app.

The goal is to use the information from the sensors and models for weather, crop growth, and economy to decide the most efficient, sustainable use of water to maximize crop yields in areas where mostly groundwater is  used — a practice known as irrigation scheduling.

The project will take place in rural, western Nebraska, where farmers have relied on drawing water from the Ogallala Aquifer as an irrigation source.

The project is led by Jun Wang, chemical and biochemical engineering professor and assistant director for the Center for Computer-Aided Design in the UI’s College of Engineering. As part of the Iowa Informatics Initiative, Wang worked with Information Technology Services at the UI and Protostudios Iowa City to develop the proposal.

Wang’s team will partner with researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana.