A new sensor system which will help farmers make better decision about their irrigation timing, lifting yields and preventing water waste, has been launched in time for cotton season.
Initially available for the cotton industry, the GoCanopy irrigation sensor technology was developed by the CSIRO, and commercialised by Goanna Ag.
Goanna Ag chief operations officer Tom Dowling said GoCanopy will bring the doctor to the field.
"We are measuring the temperature of the plant, we measure the stress hours accumulated by the crop," he said.
"GoCanopy then allows us to set refill points more accurately than ever."
The sensors behind the GoCanopy technology were developed by a team of CSIRO researchers based out of the Australian Cotton Research Institute at Narrabri and funded through the Cotton Research Development Corporation.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food research scientist Dr Michael Bange said plant based temperature sensing could offer more accurate information into the timing of irrigation by predicting the levels of moisture stress in the plants.
Likening plants to an evaporative air-conditioner, Dr Bange said when plants were transpiring and had access to water the crop canopy was cooler, conversely when water was limited the leaf temperature was higher.
"The optimum temperature is about 28 to 32 degrees for cotton, this will change with different species," he said.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food research scientist Dr Hizbullah Jamali said the temperature was then used in an algorithm which predicted when optimal irrigation should occur.
"You are getting first hand information from the plant about whether it is happy and when it might need a drink," he said.
Dr Bange said this did not mean farmers should throw out their other irrigation scheduling tools.
"The plant based system is part of an ecosystem of sensors and insights to help schedule irrigation and understand the impacts of stress," he said.
"Using tools that rely on the weather or our soil based sensing approaches also provide valuable insights."
Mr Dowling said GoCanopy would be available as part of the Goanna integrated GoField irrigation scheduling system.
"GoField combines three products of ours, GoProbe our soil moisture probe which measures the root zone of the crop, it is an 80 centimetre probe with a sensor every 10cm that measures water and temperature," he said.
"GoSat is our product based on the IrriSat algorithm, GoSat calculates your field crop water use, and using a 12 kilometre grid weather package from the Bureau of Meteorology we then forecast 10 day daily water use."
Mr Dowling said GoCanopy will be available on Goanna's LoraWan network, though in the future it would be available with satellite connection.
"It is a very small device, it uses batteries and solar power and is a very easy and simple device to use," he said.
Smarter Irrigation for Profit project lead for cross sectoral integration and extension Lou Gall said a recent webinar on the technology, coordinated by CottonInfo, provided a great opportunity for enhancing the understanding of and use of plant based sensors to guide the timing of irrigation.
"It brought together the research team, grower partners and the commercial provider to talk about the application and fit of the technology," she said.
"Irrigators are looking forward to implementing this technology as a tool to optimise irrigation across the cotton industry.
"The current field research will further enhance the value of the technology to users and we are looking forward to advancements which are expected in the coming years."