Developing A Wireless Sensor Network With an Integrated Decision-Support Solution for Tea Plantation Management

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"The flexibility and reusability of NI Wireless Sensor Network hardware makes it desirable in the tea industry for plantation management. The environment may change, and we may need to monitor different environmental conditions with a different wired network. However, we can reuse the same WSN nodes in different applications."

- Lahari Sengupta, CDAC

The Challenge:
Developing an online data acquisition system to monitor important soil characteristics such as soil pH, soil temperature, soil moisture, and the environmental parameters of tea plants growing in remote hilly areas and making an online decision support system (DSS) to control irrigation, fertilization, and pesticide management for healthy tea plant growth.

The Solution:
Creating a tea plant monitoring system using an NI Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) system in remote field locations, along with an Ethernet gateway, a USB-compatible data acquisition module, and NI LabVIEW to control irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticide pumps.

Lahari Sengupta - CDAC
Abhra Pal - CDAC
Amitava Akuli - CDAC
Jayanta K. Roy - CDAC
R M. Bhagat - CDAC
Nabarun Bhattacharyya - CDAC

Tea is usually grown in foothill areas with high rainfall. Proper planting requires exact environmental conditions and soil nutrients as well as sufficient irrigation. Traditionally, physical and chemical soil properties have been manually analyzed by collecting the soil from the field and transporting it to a laboratory for instrumental analysis at regular intervals. The process is time-consuming, laborious, and prone to human error. To solve these problems, we placed sensors in the remote field and connected them via a WSN node to a data acquisition module connected to a PC using either a USB or Ethernet cable.

System Setup

Physically laying signal cables in a plantation field is difficult, especially in hilly areas, and animals or insects could damage the cables. We developed a WSN-based online data acquisition solution to monitor the physical properties of soil, such as moisture, temperature, and pH, as well as environmental parameters, such as ambient temperature, humidity, and solar radiation. Based on the data acquired through the sensors, we created an intelligent DSS to automatically fulfill the plants’ requirements by turning on a pump for proper irrigation or controlling a pump for spreading fertilizer from a tank.

The system includes sensors that measure important soil physical parameters. Soil temperature influences the time of soil fertilization, and the presence of moisture in soil determines irrigation needs. In our pilot study, we used two WSN nodes placed 10 m from each other in the tea plantation field. A specially designed weather shield box protected the WSN and the electronic sensor module 1(Figure 1). The NI WSN node supplied a 12 V, 20 mA (max) current to the sensors. The wireless nodes captured data from the sensors (see Figure 22) and transmitted it to a wireless gateway. The wireless gateway connected to the PC, located in the server room, through an Ethernet cable3 (see Figure 3).

The gateway was kept inside the laboratory approximately 50 m from the farthest sensor node. We developed a signal conditioning circuit for the sensors. The voltage signals captured by the sensor nodes transmitted to the NI WSN-9791 Ethernet gateway every 15 minutes. The system stored the measured value in a MySQL database. We used the LabVIEW Database Connectivity Toolkit to establish connectivity with this third-party database (see Figure 4).

We developed a DSS framework to manage important decisions, such as scheduling agronomic operations (giving water, fertilizer, and pesticides). The system bases the decisions on sensor output. If the soil moisture moves below field capacity, the system activ ates irrigation. Appropriate soil moisture content and temperature help determine the best application time. Tea grows best in a pH range of 4.5 to 5.5, and any fluctuation in soil pH helps the system decide when to make pH corrections. The system manages decisions based on the data coming from the different sensors. Thus, when the soil requires irrigation, the PC generates a signal through the DAQ device to switch on a water pump to feed water from the storage tank. The DSS also controls the pumps to provide the liquid fertilizer and liquid pesticide, respectively, when fertilizer and pesticides are required.


WSN flexibility and reusability make it desirable in the tea industry for plantation management. The environment may change, and we may need to monitor different environmental conditions with a different wired network. However, we can reuse the same WSN nodes in different applications. During pruning operations, when one particular tea plantation plot is unused, we can shift the WSN node to a different location at any time. The WSN solution is very reliable in hilly areas, where using cables for communication is difficult. In addition, the WSN system can withstand harsh environments and costs less than a wired network, which demands extensive setup and human involvement, and lacks reusability.

Author Information:
Lahari Sengupta
Plot- E-2/1, Block-GP, Sector - V, Saltlake Electronics Complex, Bidhannagar
Kolkata 700091

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