Latest computer technology helps researchers listen to plants

Scientists from the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and the University of Edinburgh are trialling new speckled computer technology on the Christmas crop of poinsettias from Pentland Plants Nursery.

The technology uses a range of sensors to wirelessly relay information back to a laboratory.

SAC plant pathologist Simon Oxley said: "We can check the temperature, light levels, moisture and nutrients around the plant along with the compost to make sure that everything is perfect for the plant to grow.

"With readings every minute, we can keep a close eye to make sure that the plants are kept in perfect condition ready for Christmas."

The project has been developed by the SAC, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and Pentland Plant Nursery.

It is the first time that speckled computer systems have been used in horticulture.

They have already been applied in medicine, where they can be used to monitor body movement or respiration.

The initial horticultural trial took place at the SAC and sensors were installed at Pentland in July.

Data are currently being compiled, but the system is expected to offer growers a more detailed picture of their crops and could potentially deliver light and energy savings when linked with automatic glasshouse and environment systems.

Pentland technical manager Jean Repecka said: "Poinsettias represent a big investment in time and expertise. The new technology offers the prospect of better control over inputs and a deeper understanding of how plants are thriving.

"It should raise an alarm if you get spots that are under-watered or that sort of thing."

The technology could also be applied in the retail sector, where it would be used to monitor garden centre polytunnels and planterias. 

It will learn about the daily pattern of temperatures, light and watering and will send a message to the grower if the plants are not properly cared for.

University of Edinburgh computer scientist and speckled computing consortium director DK Aryind said: "It is gratifying to see the outcome of our basic research in speckled computing now enabling precision horticulture with the potential for saving energy.

"Specks are finding new applications in a variety of other areas such as monitoring the natural environment and optimising energy usage in buildings."

The project is supported by the SAC New Technology Fund.

Research Consortium in Speckled Computing is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop miniature computing devices called specks that combine sensing, processing and wireless networking capabilities.


Subscribe to Horticulture Week for more news, more in-depth features and more technical and market info.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Tree planting guide - three basic rules

Tree planting guide - three basic rules

Choosing the right plant, correct planting procedure and best aftercare are the three basic rules for sucessful tree planting, Sally Drury explains.

Tree planting - what are the benefits of planting trees?

Tree planting - what are the benefits of planting trees?

Mitigating climate change, providing windbreaks and reducing the risk of soil erosion are some of the best reasons for planting trees, says Sally Drury.

Tree and shrubs - nursery market

Tree and shrubs - nursery market

Growers are more optimistic now that garden designers and landscape architects are seeking more mature trees and shrubs, writes Sally Drury.

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Opinion... Unbeatable delight of quality plants

Viewing top-quality plants, both growing and on sale, always gives me pleasure.

Editorial ... More analysis and insight from bumper HW issue

Editorial ... More analysis and insight from bumper HW issue

Welcome to this bumper 72-page July edition of Horticulture Week magazine, packed with exclusive analysis, insight and expert advice on the biggest issues impacting all sectors of the UK horticulture industry right now.

Edwards: Will a weak pound and tariffs on imported stock be good for UK nursery production?

Edwards: Will a weak pound and tariffs on imported stock be good for UK nursery production?

At the time of writing - a few days after the general election - sterling has weakened and we still have no idea of what Brexit means.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Ornamentals ranking

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Tough retail pricing policies and Brexit opportunities drive the top 30 growth strategies.

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles