Email Print Share

"Berry Thirsty" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

A team of mathematicians from the American Institute of Mathematics has created models that help identify which crops to plant where and when.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Strawberry yields.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: light outdoor sounds, field) In the strawberry fields of drought-drenched California, mathematics can bear fruit.

Each year, AIM--the American Institute of Mathematics in Palo Alto brings together 800 expert mathematicians from around the world to do research on a wide variety of challenges: Migraines, medical imaging, and, in this case, how math can help growers in the berry patch. Nine of those experts teamed up with Driscoll's berry people and others to come up with possible solutions to problems posed by drought conditions.

It's more complex than just computing water consumption and planting strategies. The models the team developed consider soil properties, precipitation data, topography, and runoff measurements. The new models I.D. which crops to plant where, and when. Using an iPad connected to wireless sensors, a grower can measure which plants have been watered sufficiently, preventing fertilizer runoff, while using less water from the aquifer.

The team believes their models could be even better with input from sociologists and environmental economists. This multi-dimensional approach may work to improve other crop yields as well.

Mathematicians: Outstanding in their field or in somebody else's field.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.