Better pot plant cultivation through digital monitoring of humidity

A measuring system for the humidity in potted plants ensures a more optimal water supply. Moreover, a grower saves time because the humidity in the pot can be digitally monitored remotely. These are the main results of the 'Nursery Stock Growing Support System' research project led by the research station in Straelen, Germany. The Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs Business Unit of Wageningen University & Research is involved in the research as an advisor due to its knowledge and experience with sensors. Due to the positive results, the project has been extended by one year.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are many growers who grow potted plants as an outdoor crop. They determine, among other things, on the basis of experience when the plants need water. This can sometimes lead to excessive watering. The grower then spends more money on irrigation (which takes place with fixed sprinklers or watering booms) for water, energy, and labor. Moreover, valuable fertilizers can leach into the soil. Watering that is too low is also possible: this leads to quality problems and less production.

That is why a study was started into a soil moisture sensor system that supports a grower in business operations. By sending measurement data at short intervals, the user gets a real-time overview of his crop. For this purpose, sensors from the Dutch company Quantified were used in the study. Three sensors were placed per tap section, which, to keep costs low, all work via one and the same transmitter. The sensors measure, among other things, the humidity, the EC content, and the temperature in the pot. The grower can view that information online.

The 3-year project ended at the end of 2022, and the results were very promising. Remote digital monitoring of the humidity leads to significant labor savings for the grower as well as potential savings on the consumption of water and fertilizers. Having feedback reports of the moisture status of the pots available can also prevent calamities in the event of defective irrigation equipment.

Growers who participated in the experiment with the soil moisture sensor system have therefore indicated that they are very enthusiastic. Funding has been secured to extend the project for another year. In this way, the system can be evaluated under practical conditions and further adapted for the different plant varieties, pot sizes, and cultivation methods. Participation in the project is valuable for WUR. Especially now that the results are so positive, WUR can further 'train' a decision support system for watering potted plant crops with practical data. One of the growers' wishes is to be able to measure humidity in smaller pots as well. That is why WUR is looking for interested companies to be able to use the sensors in smaller pots or plant trays in the future.


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