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Building Irrigation Controllers

The Horticultural Physiology Lab has done much research on drought stress and plant responses to different irrigation regimes. To do this research the way we wanted to, we had to develop our own irrigation control systems, giving us the level of control over irrigation that we felt was necessary.

The principle behind these irrigation control systems is simple: we use soil moisture sensors to measure the volumetric water content of the soil or substrate and if the water content is below a particular threshold, we briefly open an irrigation valve to irrigate that particular plot. The irrigation controllers we have built have evolved over time. We initially used Campbell Scientific CR10(X) dataloggers with Decagon ECH 2 O-10 soil moisture sensors. More recently we have used Campbell Scientific CR1000 dataloggers with Decagon EC-5, 10HS, or GS-3 sensors. We also built low-cost irrigation controllers using Arduino (Uno and Mega) microcontrollers using 10HS sensors.

This page is meant to help you understand the evolution of our work and the pros and cons of different systems. Some of the information here may help you build your own soil moisture sensor-controlled irrigation system.

Note: much of our work on irrigation control has been with a great team of collaborators, both within our lab and from around the world. In the Horticultural Physiology lab, the following former and current students and visiting scientists have worked on this: Krishna Nemali, Jongyun Kim, Lucas O’Meara, Alem Peter, Mandy Bayer, Alex Litvin, and Shuyang Zhen. Other collaborators from the University of Georgia include Drs. Matthew Chappell and Paul Thomas.

Other collaborators include: Dr. Stephanie Burnett at the University of Maine, Drs. John Lea Cox, Andrew Ristvey, John Majsztrik, Erik Lichtenberg, and Dennis King at the University of Maryland, Taryn Bauerle at Cornell University, Bill Bauerle at Colorado State University, David Kohanbash and George Kantor at Carnegie Mellon University, Lauren Crawford, Colin Campbell, Todd Martin, Chris Lund, and others at Decagon Devices.