Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Towards autonomous irrigation : comparison of two moisture sensing technologies, irrigation distribution analysis, and wireless network performance at an ornamental container nursery

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  • As ornamental container nurseries face diminishing water allocations, many are looking to automated irrigation solutions to increase their water application efficiency. This thesis presents the findings of a study conducted at a commercial container nursery to determine 1) whether a capacitance or load cell sensor was better suited for monitoring volumetric water content in the substrate; 2) if the actual irrigation distribution conformed to the expected pattern, how uniform were the weights of plants, and how these combined with plant canopy affected the leaching fraction; and 3) the reliability of the wireless network used to transmit the data to a central database. It was found that 1) the load cells outperformed the capacitance-based sensors because the load cells took an integrated measure; 2) the actual irrigation pattern followed the expected pattern, the variation of irrigation sections were low (C.V. = 0.06) and similar (C.V. ranging from 0.029 to 0.12), and unpruned plant canopies produced greater leaching fraction than pruned canopies (P < 0.18); and 3) wireless network transmission reliability was low (75.2%), suggesting that the system was not suitable for real-time irrigation control, but was sufficient for calculating irrigation length and monitoring net effective irrigation application and evapotranspirative consumption.
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