Growing plants can be a tough job if not provided with enough water- to thrive well. Watering a plant is the most crucial task. Automatic watering systems ease the burden of when and how much to water plants.
To make an automatic watering and irrigation systems to supply an adequate amount of water to the roots of the plants without human intervention. These are device-based systems, which pumps or shut down the water flow based on environmental conditions (humidity, temperature) or soil moisture condition.
Irrigation as well as the fertigation process included in the automated irrigation system helps in crop growth and development. This, in long run, benefits by preventing the occurrence of dead lawns or reducing the replacement of dead plants.
Almost every system (drip, sprinkler, surface) is automated by using timers, sensors, or mechanical appliances. Programming and installing this system properly can also help in saving money and saving water.
Pros and Cons of Automated Irrigation System
Types of Automated Irrigation Systems
1. Time-based system
The watering time of plants varies with time. Flowering and fruiting are critical growth stages of water- that should not lack water availability.
Some automatic irrigation systems aim to prepare a system schedule according to the water requirements of the crop. Time is the basis for an operation to these systems containing time clock controllers, or timers as integral parts.
2. Volume-based system
Land having a large area divided into smaller fields or sections. These sections are now applied with a pre-allocated volume of water.
3. Sensor (Priority)-based system
Based on the actual dynamic demands of the plant, the irrigation schedule is set. The primary measurement for determining the threshold for switching on the system is the amount of moisture in the soil.
Sensors determine the time when the automatic irrigation system needs to be turned on- depending upon soil moisture. Once the soil moisture level goes down, the sensor sends the signal to the controller which ultimately starts the system.
Similarly, there are some other sensors to determine when the level of water in the reservoir has fallen below the minimum level.
In order to set up an automatic irrigation system those are the components that you will need
Sensors are the devices acting as a signal or flag- to initiate or shut down the irrigation cycle. One of the basic fundamental units to make an automated watering system is – a sensor. To optimize the efficiency of the existing irrigation system, various types of sensors are set- which are now available in the market.
Here are some of the sensors which are compatible, easy to install, and produce impressive results in production.
a. Soil Moisture Sensors
Soil moisture sensors work by measuring the volumetric water content of the soil (Mistri et al., 2018). Volumetric water content is simply the ratio of water volume to soil volume. In simple words, it estimates the quantity of water left the root zone of the plant.
b. Rain and Freeze Sensors
You don’t want to irrigate your plant when it’s raining- or do you? That sounds completely illogical and insane.
Rain and freeze sensors are plant savior- stop irrigation when not necessary, prevent runoff, and resist overwatering in plants.
Several designs of these sensors are available in the market and each function is based on separate concepts.
Some sensors contain cups- collect water during rain- the weight of filled cups interrupts the irrigation cycle.
Other sensors use a dish with two distant electrodes at the bottom of the cup. Once the water reaches the electrodes, the irrigation cycle is interrupted.
In addition to that, another sensor uses a disk that expands when in contact with the water. The expanded disk then triggers the switch and interrupts the irrigation cycle.
c. Wind Sensors
Wind during irrigation disturbs the pattern of distribution of water. Thus, wind sensors detect wind above certain velocity and trigger the irrigation cycle.
2. Development Board
To make an automatic irrigation system you will need development board which is imperative to make an automated system. To be precise, a development board is a programmable circuit board that can write a program based on your project.
It detects the data necessary to make the decision about the start or shut down of the irrigation cycle.
Components of the development board include:
• Power Circuit.
• Programming interface (to program the microcontroller through a computer).
• Basic input circuitry, like buttons.
• Basic output circuitry, like LEDs.
• Input/ Output pin access.
Generally, relays are used as an actuator to trigger pump-motor circuits in making fully automated grow system.
They establish or break the electrical connection and are used as electrical switches.
4. Water Pump
Water pump acts as a driving force to move water from the source to the land or greenhouses to be irrigated.
Sometimes, a driver is installed with a pump for irrigation in small areas. But, if the area needs a large spray range, larger pumps or even a pressurized device is needed to make a sufficient projectile.
5. Irrigation Pipelines
Another main component to make an automated irrigation system is the irrigation pipeline.
The selection of irrigation pipelines varies with the system of irrigation. For drip irrigation, a flexible polyethylene pipeline is recommended. While aluminum irrigation pipes are the most common one.
6. Irrigation Pipeline Valves
Irrigation pipeline valves work as a water flow controlling device- placed at a strategic location. Scheduled opening and closing of these valves make automated irrigation systems more convenient.
A power supply of 12 to 24 volt is generally connected to a development board with relays to automatically alter the power supply to the valves.
How to Make an Auto watering System for your Plants
1. Using timer/controller
A controller/timer is the brain of an automatic watering system. Whether the system is drip or sprinkler, a timer set automatic watering system is a total life savior.
Here’s how to set auto watering system in drip irrigation.
Supplies to make automated plant watering system:
• Automatic Watering Timer;
• Quarter-inch drip tubing;
• Half inch polyethylene tubing;
• Barbed Fittings;
• Drip Emitters;
• Tubing Holder Stakes;
• Reducer Tees.
Step 1: Install Drip Lines and Emitters
After you design the picture of your drip irrigation system, the installation process is easy and quick.
A half-inch polyethylene tubing delivers the water to a general area, while quarter-inch tubing delivers to individual plants, container plants.
Snapping a connector through a hole in a large polyethylene tube links it to a smaller dripping tube. Emitters are then connected to the ends of small tubing- which contains small nozzles.
Small-sized tubing is now stacked on tubing holder stakes- delivering water directly to the base of the plant.
For container plants, soaker tubing is connected to quarter-inch tubing through a tee. Soaker tube placed around the base of the plant supply water by penetrating through the wall.
Step 2: Setup an Auto-watering Timer
A programmer timer installed in the faucet starts the irrigation cycle at your scheduled time. One end of the polyethylene pipe connected to the timer- the other remaining closed.
Some timers set- starting and ending time of the irrigation cycle- how long to irrigate- how often to irrigate.
How to install an irrigation system that’s automatic.
2. Using Sensors
To make automatic plant irrigation system you will need, soil moisture sensors, temperature and humidity sensors those are most often used.
You might need expert advice and consult to set up an automated irrigation system using sensors. However, given below is a brief explanation of- how is it done?
Whenever there is a change in the moisture level of the soil below the threshold- the soil moisture sensor sends a signal to the microcontroller. Sensor connected to the development board- senses the moisture content in the soil.
The microcontroller then supplies power to the pump through irrigation valves and activates the irrigation cycle.
The opposite is the process when the moisture level is above the threshold.
A microcontroller is programmed in such a way that it gives signals to relay to interrupt or continue the motor.
How an Automated Irrigation System Helps Growers to Make a Better Product
To make automatic plant watering system for your plant is an attractive model- especially to young people and plant growers. It is not only labor extensive but also convenient all year round.
This system makes agriculture- smart, precise, and real fun.
Efficient water management plays a significant role in the productivity of crops. Overwatering of crops leads to runoff and leaching while under watering causes water stress conditions.
Thus, an automated hydroponic system improves irrigation efficiency and contributes to reducing production costs.
Another benefit of an automated watering system is- fertigation. Fertigation is the process of applying chemicals through irrigation pipelines. The timely application of chemicals to the plant reduces the chance of disease infection.
Along with that, root zone application of water also prevents the chances of wilting. This system delivers sufficient water during critical water requirement stages of the crop- which are the main stages for increasing productivity.
Studies have shown that plants that are automatically irrigated have a higher rate of photosynthesis than that are manually irrigated- indicating higher plant biomass and yield production (Boutraa et al., 2011).
Future of Automated Irrigation System
Integration of “automated” irrigation system added one more tool in smart technologies. Smart technologies help the agricultural industry to overcome the limitations of traditional irrigation practices. Agriculturists and farmers are contributing to saving the water by using automated irrigation and optimizing their usages.
Sensors-based agriculture practices have lined up the facilities from checking up the soil moisture to prepping up for changing weather conditions.
The irrigation system of tomorrow is becoming more effective in controlling water usage- significantly contributing the global water conservation.