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SmartButtons technology in Trifinio: c&c publishes first test results

Esquipulas/Guatemala, Jan. 30th 2015 –  First experiments on soil temperature confirm theories on use of cover crops

SmartButtons – a slightly belittling term for a scientifically highly relevant tool in the area of climate change research. Our team of c&c started working with SmartButtons in Central America in November 2014; here are their first results. Our colleague Pablo Ruiz resumed them for us:

“What did we want to know?

First of all, we wanted to find out whether there are temperature differences in different depths so that we find the ideal depth for burying them. Secondly, we were curious whether cover crops reduce the soil temperature.

What did we do?

In a c&c demo plot, the buttons were buried in different depths of 5, 15 and 25 centimeters, partly in fields with cover crops and partly in fields without. The sensors registered the temperature every 3 hours for 15 days in a row. Once this time was over, we recovered the buttons to then consolidate the information in a database. According to the literature, the root hair of the coffee plant dies if temperatures exceed 33.5 °C.

What did we find?

Well, the soil temperature does change when going deeper and there is also a difference for fields with and without cover crops. The good thing for us is that:

1. The extreme temperatures are lower below cover crops;

2. The average temperature is lower below cover crops.

Those are only preliminary findings from a very small sample. We will continue our assessment with our partner Peter Baker (CABI), investigating the ideal depth for the temperature sensors in the future. The other important thing to take into account is the development of the root system itself, the question addressing the share of root in the different depths. Smallholder coffee farmers do little to stimulate the development of a good root system. They tend to only look at what they can see -fruits and leaves but not the roots.”

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