Smartphone app detects water stress
Thanks to a smartphone app, managing crop irrigation may become easier for farmers in the future.
The Vine Water Stress App, being developed by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and UNSW with funding from Wine Australia, uses a thermal camera you can attach to your phone to monitor water levels in vines.
“The app automatically identifies and measures the temperatures within the image, excluding things outside a certain temperature range. What remains is the canopy,” said Mark Skewes, project leader of the research team heading the tool’s development.
“It measures the average temperature of the canopy and compares this temperature to benchmarks within the image, to give a crop water stress index number.”
This number will indicate how much the canopy is transpiring, and provide information to farmers about whether the crop is in water stress.
The data and thermal imagery taken by the smartphone can be uploaded to the internet from the phone. In the final version of the app, farmers will be able to access the information through their computer as well as on their phone, and use it to help improve irrigation management.
“The app could be very useful in regulated deficit irrigation management,” said Mark “This is when growers intentionally stress the vines to improve fruit quality.”
“The problem is you have very little feedback during the process,” said Mark. “This app provides an immediate measure of what the plant is experiencing”.
In the past, researchers have used thermal imagery to monitor crop water stress. This was mainly done with very expensive equipment. The app in development is a cost-effective way to make the technology available to anyone.
This research is currently being undertaken within Australia’s wine industry, but may be applied in other crop industries such as citrus.
“The current app works with vines, but there is no reason why this approach can’t be transferred to citrus. It would be very easy to rework the app to work for different crops”, said Mark.
The Vine Water Stress App is still in development and not yet generally available. It is currently being used by beta testers including growers, wineries and researchers.
The project is finishing at the end of June, and aims to deliver the fully developed app by then.