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Plants text message farmers when thirsty


May 6, 2008
By USDA Agricultural Research Service

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NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Plants text message farmers when thirsty
Beginning this crop season, farmers will be able to receive text
messages on their cell phones from their plants saying whether they are
thirsty or not. A Texas company has developed an automated drought monitoring system based on a patent held by the USDA.

May 6, 2008, Lubbock, TX — Beginning this crop season, farmers will be able to receive text messages on their cell phones from their plants saying whether they are thirsty or not.

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Accent Engineering, Inc. , of Lubbock, Tex., developed the SmartCrop™ automated drought monitoring system based on a patent held by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) . They are offering it for sale in time for this growing season.

Battery-operated infrared thermometers placed in irrigated fields monitor leaf temperatures and relay that information to a computerized base station. A cell phone modem can be hooked up to the base station to download data to a personal computer. This modem can also send text messages to a farmer's cell phone.

ARS plant physiologist Dr. James Mahan at the ARS Plant Stress and Germplasm Development Research Unit in Lubbock is one of the original theorists of the idea behind SmartCrop. Each plant species has a fairly narrow range of internal temperatures it prefers for best growth. When leaf temperature goes above the upper limit or threshold of that range for too long, the plant needs water, as much for cooling down as to quench its thirst.


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