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Enabling better global research outcomes in soil, plant & environmental monitoring.

Monitoring Plant Water Use in Urban Ornamental Nursery


Project background

Water is among the three biggest operating costs of commercial ornamental nurseries in urban settings. Furthermore, Australian nursery operators are often restricted with strict water access regulations. Nevertheless, nursery managers must ensure that potted ornamental plants are grown to optimum marketable value. By carefully measuring plant-water relations combined with on-site weather conditions, ornamental nursery managers can manage water use whilst ensuring the supply of quality planting materials.

The key parameters a nursery manager periodically checks typically through manual inspection are:

  • Pot soil moisture;
  • VPD (vapour pressure deficit calculated from temperature & humidity);
  • Leaf temperature (to avoid frost during winter and sun burn during summer).

Monitoring and Network solution

In the Urban Ornamental Nursery, the following sensors and instruments were installed:

  • Soil moisture probes in pots – allowing the monitoring of pot soil moisture;
  • Weather station – monitoring of temperature, humidity & VPD extremes, as well as everyday weather events;
  • SFM1 Sap flow meter on key potted plants.

With a network solution the nursery manager was enabled to monitor the water use of the plants and the extremes of weather that influence the plant, as this was connected to the internet. There was:

  • The 4G Telemetry system – communicating the sensor data to the cloud (now superseded by the MFR-NODE);
  • ICT Dataview – the data storage and visualisation platform;
  • Data redundancy for soil moisture, vapour pressure deficit, weather parameters, and sap flow for future analysis.


  • Informed decisions on timing and lengths of overhead/drip irrigation;
  • Water usage quantification of potted plants;
  • Seasonal and Daily variation – quantification;
  • Ability to provide exact data for regulatory water audits.


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