Researchers aim to use FitBit technology to test water supply in corn fields

LINCOLN, Neb. - Thanks to a $300,000 grant, researchers at the University of Nebraska are hoping to use FitBit technology to see how effectively corn plants are using water.

University of Nebraska researchers are working to build monitors that will take the guesswork out of watering crops. (Source: KOLN)

Researchers say different hybrids of corn require different amounts of water and fertilizer, and even the same type of corn requires different amounts in different fields.

Right now, researchers say there isn't any way to monitor those required amounts except by digging up plants by hand and analyzing samples. That can be time consuming and difficult.

Now, by placing a tiny monitor directly in a corn stalk, researchers are hoping to measure heat transfer required to move water to the plant both hourly and by the minute to determine how much water is needed.

"This will be really useful during droughts," said Associate Professor James Schnable. "This way farmers will know if they need to water more or less and when to water."

Schnable says the goal is to maximize efficiency.

"Right now, farmers are just trying to guess," Schnable said. "If they knew for sure, they'd save time, they'd save money and they'd still get the same yield with less effort and that's really what we are trying to accomplish."

Researchers at the University of Nebraska are partnering with the University of Iowa to create prototypes for these monitors. The goal is to begin testing as early as next planting season, and begin putting monitors in the hands of farmers in the next 5 to 10 years.