Technology Sending Sikeston Ag Data to Southeast Students’ Fingertips

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Damon Dowdy of Below Ag Service demonstrates to students how the new soil moisture sensor will operate.

SIKESTON, Mo., Sept. 16, 2015 – A soil electronic sensor system was installed last week in the agriculture experiential learning field at Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston.

The system monitors on an hourly basis the soil temperature and moisture content, along with the air temperature and rain levels, and makes that data available online, accessible from a cell phone app or computer.

A solar array for power transmits data to a satellite for retransmission to computers and cell phones. The system’s electronics also support soil water probes at four soil depths, an electronic rain gauge and an air temperature probe.

The sensor system provides soil data that is monitored daily. It also can measure water content in soil at selected depths to quantitatively predict center pivot irrigation scheduling and predict crop performance, said Dr. Mike Aide, chair of the Department of Agriculture at Southeast.

Computer programs use the data collected to predict soil water evaporation, potential for selected disease and insect growth potentials, and net photosynthesis.

The same system was installed in July at the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center in Gordonville, Missouri. The installation of the system in Sikeston is an effort by the University to extend the same technology to its agriculture students at its Sikeston campus.

Aide said the new system will enhance agriculture students’ knowledge and skill sets, putting them a step ahead of agriculture students at other universities where this technology is not available.

“Agriculture students may use the data to predict irrigation scheduling, disease occurrence, insect development and crop performance,” Aide said.

The project was installed by Below Ag Service of Parma, Missouri.