ISU Develops Nutrient Sensor That Farmers Can Use All Growing Season

Ames, Iowa — Researchers at Iowa State University are developing an advanced type of sensor that farmers can place in their fields to keep constant tabs on nutrient levels and soil moisture.

Jonathan Claussen, a mechanical engineering professor at ISU, says the sensors are about the size of a tent stake and they’re designed to stay in the ground all growing season, about four months, through any temperature swings or rain events.

The device needs to be both rugged and easy to use, Claussen says, as he notes farmers don’t want to read a 20-page instruction manual. It also needs to be inexpensive, so farmers can place a wide network of sensors.

Ideally, farmers could purchase dozens of the sensors to monitor the soil’s nutrient levels in real-time, as they’ve worked to keep the price at less than one dollar per sensor.

The ISU team has worked to develop an array of sensors for other purposes, for things like food safety and even testing for COVID-19.