Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laser Irrigation!

I'm still not sure if this is too much technology for a pretty basic problem, but I guess the precision of a laser beats, say, sticking a finger in the dirt. I also love that the science of the thing is literally based on how light 'twinkles.' Seriously?! Twinkle! Ha!


From 'The Economist':
HOW much and how often should farmers water their crops? The invention of the automatic sprinkler gave farmers the power to act upon the answers to those questions. It did not, though, provide the answers themselves. Most farmers still make the call based on instinct or err on the side of caution and switch the sprinklers on at fixed intervals.

Unfortunately, both of these approaches risk wasting water, and in some parts of the world that is a scarce resource. California, for example, has suffered a drought for the past two years and just experienced the driest spring in recorded history. Water bills have risen, but even that has not curbed demand sufficiently. Many parts of the state have therefore limited the use of water, to the detriment of crops and lawns.

Jan Kleissl and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, think they may be able to help. Dr Kleissl’s idea is to use lasers to detect the amount of moisture in the air above the crops, and then use this information to decide when they need to be watered. His system, known grandiosely as a “large aperture scintillometer”, consists of a laser on one side of a field, a telescope on the other, and a lot of clever computing to interpret what the telescope sees. What that computing is trying to measure is how much the laser beam twinkles as it passes across the field.

Read the full article here:

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