It started as a project for long term space survival, when NASA estimated that crews headed to or living on Mars would spend 80% of their waking hours farming! But, with support from the National Science Foundation, research into a leaf sensor that could “call in” with its vital statistics morphed into technology that can help farmers on this planet. The goal is to save water by directly measuring a plant’s moisture level. Richard Stoner, founder of the company Agrihouse, says the Leaf Sensor works with any crop, any living plant. It’s being tested and used by agronomists, plant researchers, as well as farmers and greenhouse operators. According to Stoner, USDA field tests in 2008 showed the sensors (solar powered, about the size of a penny) saved about 25% in water use. The sensors work for an entire growing season, and report data in real time.
Credit: National Science Foundation
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