Agri Business

Scientists in Coimbatore receive National Water Award for device to assess soil moisture

LN Revathy Coimbatore | Updated on November 17, 2020

A team of scientists from ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute developed Soil Moisture Indicator to help farmers with efficient irrigation management

Farmers engaged in cultivation of water-intensive crops such as sugarcane rarely practice efficient irrigation management practices based on moisture status of the soil, according to experts, reiterating the need for conservation of water resources.

A team of scientists from ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore has developed a small, user-friendly device named ‘Soil Moisture Indicator’ (SMI) to help farmers with efficient irrigation management.

This device, which was developed with inputs from farmers and sugar factory personnel through the Farmers’ Participatory Action Research Project (FPARP) has brought laurels to the Sugarcane Breeding Institute here and the developers of SMI — K Hari, D Puthira Prathap, P Murali, A Rameshsundar and B Singaravelu.

The team has bagged the National Water Awards-2019 for their work on “SMI and its application in irrigation water management”.

The Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, awarded a cash prize of ₹2 lakh and a citation to the scientists.

Puthira Prathap, Principal Scientist and Co-Inventor of SMI told BusinessLine that the small (less than 2-feet) device helped sugarcane farmers assess soil moisture levels while scheduling irrigations. “We tested under various levels of soil moisture conditions in farmers’ fields across Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Cuddalore, Erode and Coimbatore; SMI-driven irrigation scheduling helped farmers conserve about 15 per cent of irrigation water (up to 6 irrigations) without compromising on the yield.”

Electric conductivity vs soil moisture

The principal inventor of the device, Hari, said that the electronic moisture-indicating device was designed to work on a variety of soil types. “It works on the principle of electrical conductivity. While soil electrical resistance is indirectly proportional to soil moisture content, electrical conductivity of the soil is directly proportional to soil moisture,” the scientist explained.

“Considering the versatility of the technology, several ICAR-KVKs (Farm Science Centres) had demonstrated its use in different crops such as groundnut, brinjal, bhindi, coconut, banana, paddy, sesame, black gram, green gram, tomato and mustard besides sugarcane,” said Prathap.

Palaniswamy, a farmer at Thondamuthur, Coimbatore said that he has been using the device to assess the moisture content of the soil in his arecanut and banana fields.

Scientists said that the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Telangana have included the SMI for purchase and distribution to farmers and other stakeholders under various schemes; and twelve firms have been granted licence for commercial production of SMI.

Published on November 17, 2020

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