Monitoring greenhouse gases to save farmers money

UTA researcher working on sensing system to detect farm-related gas emissions

Monday, Oct 18, 2021 • Herb Booth : Contact

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Sungyong Jung

A team of electrical engineers from The University of Texas at Arlington and UT Dallas is developing a sensing system that can be used on farms to detect greenhouse gas emissions, a major factor in climate change.

UTA’s Sungyong Jung, associate professor of electrical engineering, and UT Dallas’ JB Lee, professor of electrical engineering, say their system will allow farmers to make adjustments that will reduce greenhouse emissions while increasing crop yields and lowering costs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA ARS) is funding their research with a $265,000 grant, including about $182,000 for UTA.

“Farm fields emit carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from fertilizers, cultivation of soils, animal waste and rotting crops,” Jung said. “If we are successful, farmers will be able to accurately monitor gas emissions and reduce the factors that lead to them, allowing the farmers to save money while increasing their productivity.”

Measuring greenhouse gas emissions is complicated because they are produced by multiple processes. Farmers must place hundreds of sensors in their fields to monitor emissions, making the collection of data difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

Lee is developing a low-cost nanosensor that can detect carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Jung is creating a low-power, embedded readout system with long-range data transmission capability so that information can be sent to a centralized data center. There, an individual can log in to view results without having to go out and check multiple sensors in the field.

In the initial stages of the project, Jung and Lee will test their system in fields at UTA and UTD, then build a large-scale system to be tested in USDA ARS rice fields in Arkansas.

Jung’s research is an innovative contribution to the increasingly tech-savvy field of agriculture and also contributes to sustainability, said Diana Huffaker, chair of UTA’s Electrical Engineering Department.

“This collaboration is a great example of an exciting new area of research in the field of artificial intelligence,” she said. “The benefits of this proposed sensing system—measuring greenhouse gases, helping crop yield, reducing the resources needed for cultivation and enabling cost-effective smart farming—could have a broad impact as we work to thrive in a changing environment.”

- Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering