One of the big challenges we face as growers is managing the variation that occurs between individual plants in any given crop that we are growing. Moisture Content, pH and conductivity (nutrient availability) are all key metrics that we should be measuring and managing to optimise the performance of crops.
BlueLab Corporation Ltd, a Tauranga based company, has developed a handheld measurement tool that enables growers to measure these in real time. The tool consists of a Pulse Meter with two 200mm probes that are inserted directly into the root zone. Measurements are collected and uploaded to the Pulse app, loaded onto a smart phone for automatic data collection, measurement comparison, storage and exporting to a third-party package such as Excel. The operator sees the measurements as soon as the data is uploaded.
The tool works across a wide range of growing media including soil, coco coir, potting mix and nutrient solution. Mike Riordan (Forevergreen Seedlings) has been using the Pulse Meter tool for 18 months and says the benefits to his business has included:
- Understanding the variability of these key metrics between samples. Its surprising!
- The ease of measurement allows the operator to take numerous samples over a short period of time.
- Data can be exported immediately to spreadsheet for analysis
- Measure impacts of changes in management practices on key metrics e.g. as temperatures rise, the impacts of changing time and duration of watering can be measured to assess impact on root temperature.
- Improved understanding of how moisture content, conductivity (nutrient availability) and pH change over time by measuring the same plants on a regular basis. The end goal is to define the acceptable ranges within which crops are grown
Mike's focus has been on understanding trends rather than expecting complete accuracy. While other users have expressed concern at the repeatability of the measures (does the unit generate the same result when applied to the same sample area) and the accuracy of the measure, Mike still thinks the tool allows an insight into crop performance that was not possible for most growers before. The ability to take large numbers of samples in a timely fashion is critical to understanding the power of large sample size in defining acceptable ranges for crop management purposes.
There is an opportunity for the sector to commission an investigation that addresses these issues and produces an algorithm that allows conversion of the Bluelab meter measures to gold standard measures.
*BlueLab Pulse Handheld Meter (Bluelab Meter).