Agricultural research involves study of the complex soil–plant–atmosphere–water system, and data relating to this system must be collected under often-harsh outdoor conditions in agricultural environments. Rapid advancements in electronic technologies in the last few decades, as well as more recent widespread proliferation and adoption of electronic sensing and communications, have created many options to address the needs of professional, as well as amateur, researchers. In this study, an agricultural research project was undertaken to collect data and examine the effects of different agronomic practices on yield, with the objectives being to develop a monitoring system to measure soil moisture and temperature conditions in field plots and to upload the data to an internet website. The developed system included sensor nodes consisting of sensors and electronic circuitry to read and transmit sensor data via radio and a cellular gateway to receive node data and forward the data to an internet website via cellular infrastructure. Microcontroller programs were written to control the nodes and gateway, and an internet website was configured to receive and display sensor data. The battery-powered sensor nodes cost $170 each, including electronic circuitry and sensors, and they were operated throughout the cropping season with little maintenance on a single set of batteries. The solar-powered gateway cost $163 to fabricate, plus an additional cost of $2 per month for cellular network access. Wireless and cellular data transmissions were reliable, successfully transferring 95% of sensor data to the internet website. Application of open-source hardware, wireless data transfer, and internet-based data access therefore offers many options and advantages for agricultural sensing and monitoring efforts.
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