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Scientist’s involvement helps sensors send water to crops, right when they need it

Posted by struscott | March 7, 2019
Head and shoulders shot of Pete Jacoby, wearing black hat.
Prof. Pete Jacoby

Helping farmers grow food using less water, Pete Jacoby, plant ecologist in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, is advancing water-sensing research in his new role with the American Society of Agronomy.

Jacoby was recently named vice leader of the Society’s Sensor-based Water Management Community, which explores and shares research on water sensors, sensor-based irrigation, and how plants and the soil are affected by water and drought.

Growers have traditionally relied on weather data and their own senses to gauge their crops’ need for water. Members of the Sensor-based Water Management Community are helping develop new tools that tell growers exactly what is happening in the air, soil, and plants. They explore sensor technology to help deliver the right amount of water exactly when crops need it, eliminating water waste and ensuring farm sustainability.

“Sensor-based water management is the way of the future in crop production,” Jacoby said. “Society benefits from sustainable, precision agriculture, while the environment gains thanks to growers’ better, informed decisions about plants’ real-time water needs.”

A longtime ASA member, and a former CAHNRS associate dean who’s worked at WSU for 21 years, Jacoby applied for the role, seeing an opportunity to meet and work with like-minded scientists. As vice leader, Jacoby will help the community of scientists review and share information to build a better picture of plant responses, automation, and how technologies can sense water in the soil and control irrigation.

He will also help put together and moderate the group’s 2019 symposium in San Antonio, Texas, and will advance to Community Leader in 2020. Service helps Jacoby’s profession and builds on WSU’s reputation for excellence.

At WSU, Professor Jacoby is a teacher, Extension educator and scientist studying the potential of subsurface micro-irrigation for increasing water use efficiency in production of high value crops like wine grapes, hops, and berries. Based at Pullman, his research activities are coordinated from WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser. He is active in the Irrigation Association, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and the American Society of Enology and Viticulture. Learn more about Jacoby’s research here.

The American Society of Agronomy advances the profession of agronomy, promoting soil and plant sciences and the wise use of natural resources and conservation to produce food, feed, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceutical crops for our world’s growing population. Learn about the Society here.