ZIM Technology/ZIM AgroForst: How much water is best for a tree?

A joint project between the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development (HNEE) and the ZIM Plant Technology GmbH helps optimise irrigation systems, saving water, fertiliser, and energy.

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The non-invasive magnetic ZIM-probe clamped on a poplar leaf in a short rotation forestry in Brandenburg. The ZIM-probe determines the cell turgor pressure, the relevant parameter of the water supply of plants. © YARA ZIM Plant Technology GmbH The non-invasive magnetic ZIM-probe clamped on a poplar leaf in a short rotation forestry in Brandenburg. The ZIM-probe determines the cell turgor pressure, the relevant parameter of the water supply of plants. © YARA ZIM Plant Technology GmbH

" The EU funding has been appreciated very much. It allowed us to develop a broad spectrum of probes that measure the water supply of leafy plants and conifers in real time under field conditions. "

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Zimmermann, project leader

The project allowed both partners to combine their individual aims by using the European Regional Development Fund in Brandenburg. ZIM Plant Technology was able to bring its ZIM-probes – sensors that measure the turgor pressure, a measurement for the water concentration, in the cells of a plant – to perfection. At the same time, the HNEE studied the effects of different water supply levels on fast growing trees.

Pinpointing irrigation needs

The non-invasive ZIM-probes are clamped to the leaf of a plant and transmit data about each plant’s water concentration wirelessly to a modem, which uploads it to an internet server. Farmers can then download the data and use it to determine where additional irrigation is needed, enabling considerable savings in water consumption and increases in crop output. This helps facing the global challenge of water scarcity.

During the project, the system’s wireless range was increased significantly, and the probes were developed further to achieve greater versatility for use on different leaf types. Furthermore, a database for necessary irrigation levels for different crops has been developed, in cooperation with field studies all over the world.

The ZIM AgroForst project, carried out by the HNEE, used the ZIM-probes to study how external factors influence the water levels in trees, and to find the optimal water concentration for a quick growth of different tree species. This knowledge helps farmers to dose water and fertiliser more precisely depending on the condition of the soil and the tree’s growth conditions, thereby saving money and efforts – and helping the climate.

Boosting competitiveness and jobs

The project was carried out on plantations of willow and poplar. These plants are typical for short rotation forestry, planting fast-growing trees that can be harvested at a young age. They are then used as biomass to produce energy.

Thanks to the project, ZIM Plant Technology, which was founded in 2010, expanded into an internationally active enterprise, now employing 17 people in Brandenburg. At the HNEE, the project provided opportunities for 30 to 40 student research assistants every year. It also generated 10 research jobs during its implementation.


Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “ZIM Technology/ZIM AgroForst” is EUR 2 961 400, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 2 089 640 through the “Brandenburg” operational programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


Draft date

30/03/2015