Search and Access Archived Conference Presentations

2014 ASHS Annual Conference

Public Benefits of Wireless Sensor Irrigation Network Adoption

Tuesday, July 29, 2014: 5:30 PM
Salon 5 (Rosen Plaza Hotel)
John Majsztrik, University of Maryland, Laurel, MD
Dennis King, Ph. D., University of Maryland, Solomons, MD
Elizabeth Price, University of Maryland, Solomons
Using wireless sensor irrigation networks (WSIN) in ornamental production has been shown to result in many benefits for growers, including water savings, reduced production times, improved plant quality, and reduced plant losses.  These on-farm benefits increase profitability, and potential adoption rates.  Higher adoption rates and efficiency gains through use of WSIN should also lead to public benefits through reduced environmental impacts.  Since this technology is relatively new, public benefits could not be measured directly and therefore had to be estimated.  Benefit estimates are based on results from on–farm research conducted during the project period, combined with publicly available state and regional information.  Reductions in water use and air and water emissions for six U.S. agricultural regions, the U.S. overall, and the six states that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed were calculated. Assuming an average adoption rate of 50% in ornamental operations, estimated impacts included annual water savings of about 223 billion liters (L) (the equivalent of 400,000 U.S. households annually).  Reductions in annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated only with the reduced energy use from pumping less water, resulted in cutting 36,232 Mg of CO2 (equivalent to removing 7,500 cars annually).  Reduced fertilizer applications and more efficient irrigation also resulted in emission reductions of 282,000 kg nitrogen and 182,000 kg phosphorous, while maintaining plant nutrient uptake. These contributions to water and air quality were achieved in ways that generate significant profits for growers, but would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve using conventional urban or agricultural best management practices (i.e. wastewater treatment plant upgrades). If WSIN technologies are adopted in other areas of specialty horticulture (e.g., fruit, vegetable and nut production) or in agronomic crops (i.e. corn (Zea mays) and wheat (Triticum sp.)), the indirect and induced private and environmental benefits are likely to be significantly higher.  Overall, WSIN have the potential to improve production efficiency and increase profitability, while also decreasing water, nutrient application and runoff rates, and reducing air emissions.