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Irrigation futures - When and where to water, ask the plant, automatically


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When and where to water? Ask the plant, automatically

This article was written by Cheryl McCarthy, CRC for Irrigation Futures. It was published in the Irrigation Australia Journal in Summer 2007.

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Irrigation futures - When and where to water, ask the plant, automatically

  1. 1. CrC for irrigation FuturEs crc for irrigation futures WHEN AND WHErE TO WATEr? ASK THE PLANT, AuTOMATICALLy Cheryl McCarthy, CRC for Irrigation Futures The existence of spatial variability in the field means that the water requirements of different areas of a crop may not be the same. There is potential for saving water by variably applying water in response to real-time, site-specific irrigation requirement. however, real-time sensors need to be developed to measure real-time plant water stress at high spatial resolution. For cotton, the best indicator of water stress is plant growth. A cotton plant adds a new node to the main stem every three days, so the distance between these nodes on the main stem indicates the vegetative growth of the plant. Internode length is an attribute automatic conveyance of camera enclosure in a cotton crop. measured by agronomists to identify how moisture stressed a cotton crop is. be much better if the process could be length with a standard error of 1.0 However, measuring internode length automated. mm and correlation coefficient of is a tedious manual task, and it would 0.92. Calculations indicate that the Potential of machine vision algorithms can be performed in Machine vision, which can measure real time. A patent application has automatic internode length, is one been lodged for this method and possibility for doing this. Machine apparatus by the CRC’s company IF vision involves the extracting of useful Technolofgies Pty Ltd. information in a scene from a two- This research represents a step dimensional projection of the scene, forward in machine vision of such as an image captured by camera. plants in the field environment. A vision system has been designed Typically, automatic machine vision to automatically measure internode measurement of plant parameters length. The system features a camera in the field is restricted to whole- enclosure that traverses the crop plant characteristics, such as plant canopy. The enclosure comprises height or plant spacing. Publicly a video camera sitting behind a reported research for the automatic transparent panel, and uses the identification of subplant features such flexible upper main stem of the plant as stems and nodes is presently limited to firstly touch the plant against the to seedlings and controlled glasshouse transparent panel, and then smoothly environments. and non-destructively move over the The current research has plant. When the main stem touches demonstrated that a within-canopy the transparent panel, it becomes a camera enclosure is a suitable platform fixed object plane from which reliable for automatic measurement of plant two-dimensional geometry can be parameters in the field. Automatic measured. internode length measurement has Software algorithms have been been successfully achieved. written to take the image sequences The sensor may potentially be used in a collected by the camera and then real-time application, such as a variable- systematically identify the main stem, rate irrigation machine, and could be plant branches, and then nodes, which implemented at relatively low cost. are the intersection of the branches with the main stem. From a sequence Cheryl McCarthy is doing her PhD with the of detected node positions, the CRC for Irrigation Futures. As part of this distance between nodes, or internode research she is looking at the potential of using distance, can be measured. Using the machine vision to identify when and where to Figure 1. (top) Moving image capture water plants. Cheryl’s is doing this research on apparatus; and (below) sample image from developed process, the system has cotton crops being grown on the Darling Downs apparatus. automatically measured internode in Queensland.30 irrigation australia