How much is enough in watering plants? State-of-the-art in irrigation control : Advances, challenges, and opportunities with respect to precision irrigation
With a rapidly expanding global population placing an ever growing demand on freshwater resources, an increased focus on irrigation techniques tailored to the specific needs of plant appears as one solution to minimize overall freshwater consumption. Precision irrigation methods seek to realize an acceptable compromise between yield and irrigation water consumption through control of the timing and quantity of water supplied to plants. The goal is to maintain the water content of the soil, achieve specific water use efficiency with regard to yield or maintain the physiological response of the plant to water stress within predetermined limits. Reliance on soil moisture measurements to establish irrigation water demand inadequately addresses heterogenous distribution of water in soil. Growing research interest is observed detailing the determination of plant water status directly from physiological responses. This paper reviews irrigation control approaches based on different plant water status assessment techniques. A distinct focus is made on application scale of the discussed control approaches, an aspect that has not been considered intensively enough in previous discussions of irrigation control approaches. A discussion of the observed strengths and shortcomings and technological advances supporting the various methods used to quantify plant water status extends the review. Emerging trends that are likely to have an impact on plant water status determination and optimal timing and quantification of irrigation water requirements are integrated to show latest results. A peek into the future of precision irrigation foresees greater reliance on plant-based signals, both in characterization of the control variable, namely the plant water status, and in generation of controller outputs in terms of quantity and timing.