Illustration for article titled EcoModo - The Best of Treehugger

This week at TreeHugger: Modern food production can already by pretty high-tech, but researchers at the Iowa State University might bring agriculture into the 21st century information age. They have created wireless sensors that can be buried underground in a grid pattern to give farmers information about soil (water, nutrients, etc). The Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) has more than 660,000 active users, only the Internet is larger. It has around 50 classified and unclassified server farms, for a total of thousands of servers, and it has decided to slash energy usage. and finally, free-piston engines could potentially replace traditional gas engines and be much more efficient.According to the Iowa U. researchers, their sensors could be buried about 1 foot underground in a grid pattern (80 to 160 feet apart) and then could gather information about how water moves through a field, soil moisture, help understand the carbon and nitrogen cycles within soils, which nutrients are present or missing, soil temperature, etc. With the appropriate software, you could precisely model a field and thus increase production by using just enough water/fertilizer. The Navy Marine Corps Intranet is huge, but it's getting smaller in some ways. Thanks to consolidation and virtualization, it could go down by a 8:1 ratio in number of servers and save tons of power. Free-piston engines could potentially replace traditional car engines someday: 1) They have very low friction, 2) only one moving part, 3) are about 50% efficient (about TWICE as good as gas engine and better than diesel), 4) and they generate electricity directly. Of course, they also have problems which would need to be overcome first... TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.

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