Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Weather watching water system gives large water & fertilizer savings for growers

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed an irrigation system for growers that not only saves water and fertilizer it will soon even automatically read and respond to five day weather forecasts to decide whether it is going to water your plants or not. Demonstrations of this new research will be presented at a special "Water Day" for commercial growers on 20th July at the University of Warwick's Wellesbourne campus.

Researchers at the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI are examining ways to respond to the fact that the UK is becoming an increasing water scarce country - particularly in the south and east. They are looking at the basic engineering behind water and fertilizer saving irrigation technique use in Southern Europe called fertigation and found not only could they use it to address UK problems they could cleverly automate the technique to such a degree that they could build a system that will soon even use the mobile telephone network to automatically call up advance weather reports and automatically use those reports to make its own decisions on whether your plants needed watering based on the combined information from its soil sensors and the commercial 5 day weather reports.

In Southern Europe growers have long conserved water and fertilizer supplies by a technique called fertigation - in its most basic form this consists of little more than hoses delivering water and fertilizer to plants via a series of holes in the pipe. The whole process was governed by little more than a tap and a farm hand on a moped regularly checking the pipes. The Warwick technique called "Dynamic Fertigation" uses an array of moisture sensors in the soil which send data to a control system that hooked up to a laptop by mobile phone technology. The control system switches on the water when the soil dries below a site specific threshold. Using models of crop growth the system can predict when the crop needs nutrients and these are applied with the water. So far so good, but what if it rains? This system can take in and act on data from 5 day advance weather reports preventing the application of precious fertilizer getting washed away by a heavy rain fall into rivers and water courses. This new high tech method of fertigation will obviously be of considerable interest not just in the UK but in regions of the world already using more primitive fertigation methods.

Warwick HRI researchers are running six field experiments in the UK at Wellesbourne in Warwickshire with supporting field experiments in Lincolnshire, UK and Cartagena in Spain. Early results show 33 % saving in fertilizer for lettuce and 50% for runner beans. Targeting water and fertilizer applications to when and where they are needed saves water and alos prevents contamination of water ways.

The research will be presented to growers at a special "Water Day" on Thursday 20th July 2006 at Warwick HRI's Wellesbourne site. The Water Day will present a range of latest research on water saving techniques for growers.

More details on Water Day flyer at:

Note for editors:

This Defra-sponsored LINK project leade by Warwick HRI runs from 1 April 2003 - 31 March 2007, and brings together a team led by Dr Jim Monaghan (Harper Adams University College) which also comprises JE Piccaver & Co. (Gedney Marsh), ADC Bioscientific, Anglian Water Services Ltd, Biohybrids International Ltd, Bomfords, Fairfield Control Systems Ltd, Intercrop Ltd, Kemira Growhow Oy, Chichester Crop Consultants, Geest Foods Ltd, Tesco Stores Ltd, Earthcare Environmental Ltd, Delta-T Devices, and Field (GB) Ltd.

For further information please contact:

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Warwick Tel: 02476 523708
or 07767 655860

PR55 PJD 18th July 2006