College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Iowa State research team wins $1 million NSF grant for soil sustainability study

An Iowa State University research team has won a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop underground wireless sensors that could help farmers improve crop production and reduce field runoff.

The grant will fund a research team headed by Ratnesh Kumar, an Iowa State professor of electrical and computer engineering. Working with electrical engineers and agronomists, he is developing an integrated system that uses sensors buried in the soil to relay data to a central computer that would record information for researchers or farmers.

“Our new CyberSEES grant will allow continuing progress towards the goal of cyber-enabled sustainable agriculture through inter-disciplinary research involving sensor electronics, antenna design for underground placement, nano-scale technologies for sensing and energy-harvesting, and computing and networking science,” said Kumar.

The sensors could help researchers understand how water moves through a field to reduce runoff, and assist in the development of better models to predict crop growth and yield. The sensors could also reveal the carbon and nitrogen cycles within soils.

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