Use of soil moisture sensor-based irrigation on vegetable crops

Lincoln Zotarelli, Michael D. Dukes, Thales P. Barreto


The use of improved irrigation scheduling techniques has been shown to greatly increase irrigation water use efficiency. Consequently, fertilizer is retained longer in the effective root-zone, resulting in substantial water savings and reduction of N-leaching losses. The present paper focuses on vegetable irrigation with soil moisture sensing methods used in North-Central Florida. Field experiments were conducted to test different thresholds of soil moisture sensor-based irrigation control systems on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) for sandy soils. The use of subsurface-drip irrigation and soil moisture sensor-based systems consistently increased tomato yields while greatly improving irrigation water use efficiency and thereby reduced both irrigation water use and potential N leaching. For peppers, high irrigation rates as applied for fixed-time irrigation did not increased yield, conversely, irrigation scheduling using soil moisture sensors allowed application of less water, which resulted in higher irrigation water use efficiency values. While fixed-time irrigation treatment had a single irrigation event (high volume, low frequency), which promotes excessive water percolation and N leaching. In addition, appropriate use of soil moisture sensor monitoring and/or sensor-based irrigation systems can allow growers to sustain profitable yield while reducing irrigation application and reducing NO3-N leaching in sandy soils.

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283