As climate becomes more unpredictable, management of agricultural sites poses new problems to farmers. Technological advances in crop monitoring systems hope to provide unprecedented actionable data to ensure a secure food supply chain.Water management of agricultural sites is a costly, energy intensive endeavor where common practice is to overwater to avoid issues with water stress. Optimization of field scale watering could greatly reduce run-off and conserve resources in an ever-changing environment. Precision agricultural methods are beginning to appear across the country, however, methods to monitor plant water status remains a laborious and destructive practice. Sandia researchers are exploring new non-invasive methods for monitoring water content in plants via implantable and field-deployable sensor technology.
Sandia is deploying its minimally invasive microneedle sensor technology to measure plant water status in situvia electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. Microneedles are micro-scaled pyramidal structures capable of puncturing barrier tissue and functioning as either an in situsensor or interstitial fluid sampling system. By bypassing the exterior layer of leaf tissue via microneedle puncture, a substantial decrease in electrical resistance is seen and enables high resolution measurement of water dependent passive tissue properties. Using this methodology, unique tissue specific properties have been investigated and highlight differences between water transport and water storage tissue within a leaf.
As climate change makes producing food more challenging; new systems, sensors, and breeding techniques are required to mitigate risk associated with variable environmental conditions. Real-time monitoring of plant water content may enable a new era of farm management capabilities.