Disease prediction and frost protection will be made easy for fruit growers with a new real-time leaf wetness sensor with frost alert called Leafcrop, developed by Sencrop – which recently launched its range of connected agro-weather stations in the UK.

Sencrop, a leading European agtech start up business, has developed innovative weather stations using wireless network technology to give real-time support to decision-making on UK farms. Local agri-environmental data including air temperature, rainfall, humidity, leaf wetness, and wind speed is gathered from individual fields in real-time, and fed into a user-friendly dashboard that provides history, alerts, trends and seven-day forecasts. The dashboard can be accessed on the move via a smartphone app, or on a desktop at the office.

Sencrop’s latest innovation, Leafcrop, is the next generation of high-resolution, maintenance-free sensors providing ultra-local data to growers. The new sensor, which won a silver medal in the 2019 SIVAL Innovation Competition, measures leaf wetness, temperature, and humidity – three key factors required for disease prediction. The data collected is transmitted to Sencrop’s dashboard where it is immediately available to aid decision-making.

Composed of a box and a leaf-shaped sensor, Leafcrop detects even the slightest traces of water and ice on the leaf’s surface and is able to precisely measure the water retention, evaporation and natural run-off experienced by a real leaf. Leafcrop is the first sensor to precisely measure leaf wetness, from the very first drop, enabling accuracy levels unseen in previous generations of leaf wetness sensors.

Growers can also benefit from essential frost alerts to aid frost protection. Leafcrop is able to detect wet bulb temperature, a determining factor for frost prediction. Frost alerts can be scheduled via the Sencrop dashboard, allowing growers to receive warnings in real-time, enabling preventative action to be taken to protect at-risk crops.

Leafcrop is installed directly in the orchard, vineyard or field and is comprised of three elements – the Leafcrop electrical box which transmits the data to the dashboard, the covered sensors for air temperature and humidity that is installed in the cropping area, and the leaf sensor that is installed in the crop canopy. No wired electrical supply is required as the system has a battery that lasts for up to three years.

Martin Ducroquet, Sencrop co-founder explains the benefits of precisely measuring leaf wetness, he says: “Local, field-specific weather and leaf wetness data allows growers to make more informed decisions about crop protection activities. Understanding the conditions in the crop canopy is essential for fighting diseases such as downy and powdery mildews, black rot and apple scab. For the latter, Sencrop has even developed specific algorithms that incorporate the Mills curve, which defines the minimum amount of wetness for an apple scab spore to cause an infection and initiate symptoms.

“Unlike leaf sensors which tell you whether a leaf is wet or dry, Leafcrop collects granular data on the level of leaf wetness, the air temperature and the surrounding humidity, which combine to provide a more detailed picture on which to base spraying decisions.

“Through Leafcrop, Sencrop is revolutionising data analysis for all growers by facilitating the collecting of information directly from their orchards, vineyards and fields, and enabling disease and frost prevention in real-time. We’re entering the UK market at an exciting time and look forward to providing UK growers with the opportunity to better manage their work, reduce spraying activities, and take action at the right moment, as we have for the past two years with growers in 10 countries across Europe. We currently have over 5000 Sencrop stations in our network and that number is growing every day.”

Sencrop is committed to making precision farming technology available to all, with Leafcrop available for a low up-front cost of £350, significantly below the cost of the last generation’s sensors, and an affordable subscription model to access the dashboard.