Mesh Network of Soil Sensors for Greenhouse Gas Monitoring of Biofuel Agriculture

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OPEN 2021
Berkeley, California
Project Term:
06/07/2022 - 06/06/2025

Critical Need:

Agricultural soils are the largest source of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions globally. Economic programs have incentivized greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions in agriculture and bioeconomy pathways, but little has been done to reduce the GHG emissions associated with feedstock production, particularly for N2O - a potent GHG. Lowering N2O emissions associated with bioeconomy feedstock production requires a better understanding of N2O fluctuations at the field level. Measuring N2O fluxes at the necessary scale is challenging, however. N2O emissions are typically characterized by hot spots and hot moments, making them and their associated drivers difficult and expensive to quantify, hindering the development of more climate-friendly agricultural practices.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) will develop a SmartStake technology consisting of low-cost consumable wireless sensor arrays to measure N2O concentrations and emissions drivers (ammonium, nitrate, oxygen, moisture, temperature, pH, and denitrification enzymes). (SmartStake is a staking service providing real-time performance assessment analytics tools.) UC Berkeley’s results will provide a new paradigm for quantifying, monitoring, and managing for lower N2O emissions from biofuel agriculture. Sensors will be addressed by permanent low power electronics that are integrated into the aboveground portion of the SmartStake. The high frequency and density data in a machine learning model will be used to calculate emissions.

Potential Impact:

The new technology will precisely synchronize inputs to crop needs; enhance input use efficiency, crop yield, and farm profitability; and decrease energy use for food, feed, and fuel crops.


The high-frequency and high-density measurements will provide the best data to date on spatial and temporal patterns in N2O production and drivers of N2O dynamics, facilitating more climate friendly bioeconomy pathways.


The sensors will provide high frequency information on soil dynamics.


Key co-benefits to farmers include real time data on water and nutrient concentrations that will improve efficiency and lower costs in sustainable agricultural management.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Olga Spahn
Project Contact:
Prof. Whendee Silver
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Colorado, Boulder

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