Water, Irrigation Costs and the Benefits of Sensor Networks: Results from a National Survey of Ornamental Growers

Wednesday, July 24, 2013: 9:15 AM
Desert Salon 1-2 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
John Majsztrik , University of Maryland, Laurel, MD
Erik Lichtenberg, Ph.D. , University of Maryland, College park, MD
Monica Saavedra , University of Maryland, College Park
John D. Lea-Cox , University of Maryland, College Park, MD
The use of wireless sensor networks to determine irrigation timing and application rates can reduce water application rates and thus irrigation costs (including energy and labor in addition to direct expenditures on water).  Sensor networks may also reduce disease pressure through more efficient irrigation, which can reduce or eliminate  fungicide use.  In addition, irrigation sensor networks have also been shown to accelerate growth in some instances.  For society at large, greater precision in agricultural irrigation in general, and ornamental crops in particular can potentially reduce pressure on water supplies as well as environmental inputs of nutrients and pesticides.  We conducted two national surveys in order to gather information on cost, perceptions of wireless sensor networks, and water management practices in greenhouse and nursery operations.  The first survey asked for detailed information about a variety of on-farm costs and practices.  The second survey focused on a subset of questions from the first, targeting grower perceptions of sensor networks, and information on production costs and revenue.   We have conducted preliminary analysis of the 176 surveys completed fully to date.  Respondents represent 1713 acres of greenhouse, 11,372 acres of container production, and 20,576 acres of field production in 28 states.  Fertilizer, disease management, and water account for relatively small shares of expenditures (averaging 2.2%, 0.7%, and 2.3%, respectively), suggesting that potential cost reductions from the use of wireless sensor networks may not constitute a strong incentive for growers to adopt them.  The survey results also indicate that increased plant growth and quality, reduced labor expenses, and decreased losses due to irrigation and disease are likely to constitute stronger incentives for wireless sensor network adoption.  We are currently in the process of estimating growers’ willingness to pay for wireless sensor network base stations and expansion nodes using these survey data.