Optimising irrigation application maximises the value of a crop, minimises input costs and potentially provides resilience to reduced water allocations.
The uptake of soil moisture sensors has been of significant benefit for irrigation scheduling but does not provide a direct and 'real-time' measure of plant water status. Furthermore, soil moisture cannot easily be used to assess stress during the application of deficit irrigation, particularly when atmospheric conditions are variable.
Plant-based sensing provides the additional information required, but such sensors are typically expensive, short-lived and difficult to operate reliably. With the support of Wine Australia, we developed Proxicrop, a low-cost thermography-based sensor that uses image segmentation to reliably measure a large area of canopy throughout the season, removing the limitations of current point-based thermal sensors.
Partnership options include, but are not limited to:
- Commercial license of the technology in its current form.
- Co-development of a commercial hardware product for integration with an individual’s and/or organisation’s own algorithms and systems.
- Co-development of a commercial hardware product with CSIRO, including novel algorithms for a unique combined product/service.
- Depending on the arrangement, Wine Australia may provide support to assist with the commercial development of the technology.
There are a number of significant advantages to the CSIRO-developed thermal imaging sensor, including:
- The ability to measure canopy temperature as the average from a large area of the canopy, rather than a less representative single point.
- The ability to measure canopy temperature throughout the day.
- Utilisation of data-fusion of RGB and low-resolution thermal imagery to distinguish between canopy and other objects in the field of view (such as the soil, vineyard infrastructure, etc.) to track only the canopy throughout the growing season.
- The potential to be used with a variety of irrigation management strategies.
- The ability to be deployed in any farming system, with particular advantages for irrigated horticulture and application of regulated deficit irrigation.
- The potential for use as an alert system during heat waves or frost events.
The hardware and software that constitute the ProxiCrop thermal imaging sensor provide measurements of canopy temperature for approximately 1-2 m2 of plant canopy, with interfering background objects and sky removed. This measurement can then be combined with environmental data to assess plant water status via various indices, which can be selected according to need.
ProxiCrop is intended to allow accurate irrigation of a crop where some degree of water stress is desired (e.g. winegrapes) or to optimize full irrigation, avoiding excess water use. It is applicable to any irrigated crop grown outdoors but has so far been tested and developed using winegrapes as a model.
The hardware design and data analysis pipelines are jointly owned by CSIRO and Wine Australia. The pipelines make use of various open source software libraries.
The work to date has been undertaken by a team led by our Agriculture and Food researchers, with input from Manufacturing researchers. The Agriculture and Food team have 15 years’ experience in providing strategies for improved crop management in winegrapes with a focus on optimising plant water use in perennial crops.