Plants text message farmers when they are thirsty, new innovation from smartcrop

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. Accent Engineering, Inc., of Lubbock, Tex., developed the SmartCropTM automated drought monitoring system based on a patent held by the 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 James Mahan at the ARS Plant Stress and Germplasm Development Research Unit in Lubbock is one of the original theorists of the idea behind SmartCropTM. 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.

SmartCrop™ is a product from Accent Engineering, Inc. of Lubbock, TX. Accent is a design engineering business focused on electronic product design. In its eleven years, Accent has designed over 100 products for our customers. Many of these products are still in production today. The SmartCrop system is based on a patent held by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). Accent Engineering added the technology necessary to make the patented work commercially viable. The SmartCrop system is in Beta testing this summer and will be available for widespread distribution for the 2008 growing season.

In the Texas High Plains area, for example, Mahan found that cotton begins to suffer from drought if cotton plant leaves stay above 82 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 6-1/2 hours. Farmers can choose the time-temperature threshold at which they would like to receive an alert, and adjust it at any time. via Smartcrop.

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