Tech Journal

January 28, 2017 02:55 AM
iowa farmland crop tour 2016

DIY Pesticide Sensors Coming: Low-Cost and Fast

Dip a pesticide sensor in a cup of slurry and get an answer in minutes. Jonathan Claussen, an assistant professor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University, has developed a low-cost, easy-to-use pesticide sensor that requires no lab work. No professionals required to stick in a sensor, check the number on an electrochemical reader and keep moving through a field.

The sensor has two main components. A conductive electrode is composed of graphene flakes inkjet-printed into a sensor pattern (3 to 5 millimeters in diameter) on paper, polymer or plastic. Rapid laser heating makes the graphene ink highly conductive. On top of the graphene ink, an enzyme is printed or drop-coated. Essentially, the enzyme slows down or becomes more active in the presence of a particular pesticide. The reader device notes the activity and produces a corresponding number indicating whether a pesticide is present and at what concentration level. A single strip is able to test for multiple pesticides.

“It’s similar to a diabetic using a glucometer,” Claussen explains. “In our case, we’re testing for pesticides in a soil slurry.”

The physical process is relatively simple and quick. Take a soil plug from a desired depth and mix it in 
a cup with water at a 1-to-1 ratio. Dip in a test strip and a reading registers within a minute. Claussen aims to keep production costs of each strip below $1.

The sensor strip technology has application beyond agriculture: biomedical field, cancer screening, explosives or nerve agent detection and more, Claussen adds. He’s also developing ion sensors for simple, in-field fertilizer measurements.

Claussen hopes for pesticide sensor commercialization within three years. For more, visit

Phenotyping on the Farm


A farm-ready phenotyping station has arrived. Developed by Nadia Shakoor and Todd Mockler at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the PheNode records temperature, humidity, CO2, rainfall, air quality, wind speed, light quantity and quality, soil moisture, soil temperature, pH and nutrient composition in real time. The device is solar-powered and takes measurements within the crop canopy.

“With a suite of diverse sensors on the PheNode, we can continuously monitor field crops for growth rate, stem diameter, height, leaf shape, leaf angles, canopy closure, light interception and the relationship of these traits to enhanced canopy photosynthesis,” Shakoor explains.

She says the PheNode offers producers an “affordable and comprehensive” phenotyping option to measure crop environments. All PheNode data is stored on the device and wirelessly transmitted. For more, visit

Comparing Land Sale Values

In the past two years, what land has sold across the U.S. and at what price? Granular has added Comp Sales to AcreValue, its free online farmland tool. Across 2,500 U.S. counties, producers can check land sale values based on county records.

Sale prices, locations, parcel boundaries and buyer and seller names are available through the Comp Sales addition. For more information, visit

NDVI Video As It’s Captured

Real-time NDVI video allows quicker input decisions based on real-time information. LiveNDVI from Sentera sends video straight from a drone to mobile devices as it’s captured with the power of the Double 4K sensor. The reduction in collection time translates to faster overall field coverage.

LiveNDVI records crop health data, processes algorithms in-flight and sends the data to field’s edge in real time. “It could not be faster, and it costs less than traditional methods of data collection,” says Eric Taipale, CEO of Sentera.

LiveNDVI Video is available with Sentera’s Omni quadcopter and Phoenix 2 fixed-wing drones. For more information, visit


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