Measuring plant thirst

Themes: Aerospace, Water & Maritime

Early lab scale demonstration

A TRL is a measure to indicate the matureness of a developing technology. When an innovative idea is discovered it is often not directly suitable for application. Usually such novel idea is subjected to further experimentation, testing and prototyping before it can be implemented. The image below shows how to read TRL’s to categorise the innovative ideas.

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Monitoring the amount and movement of water in plants allows us to detect when plants start to experience water stress. Tuning irrigation to this, instead of fixed irrigation schedules, avoids unnecessary irrigation and saves water.


We investigate how short-term changes in the plant’s water content influence radar backscatter at different frequencies, angles, and polarisations. We use this to determine what combination of observations is needed for water stress detection and related applications.


In the short term, our investigations enable to see how well we can do the detection with the currently available satellites, aircraft, drones or in-field sensors. In the long term (20 years) we might see dedicated satellite missions.

dr. ir. Susan Steele-Dunne