Soil moisture probes are proving to be useful tools of trade for grain growers and agronomists alike to aid in making better management decisions which include:
- Looking at moisture levels in autumn to help make decisions about crop type and planting date.
- Tracking the data during the growing season to observe how deep rainfall events are soaking to fill up the sub soil.
- Observing where roots are active and using this information to assist in making nitrogen topdressing decisions.
- Observing daily crop water use and as we move into spring and calculating how much moisture is left in the ‘bucket’ for grain fill.
- Making a call on how full the profile is in spring to assist with late season topdressing.
- Predicting yield based on historic trends in crop water use in spring (3 or more years moisture probe data is usually required for this).
- Comparing and complimenting Yield Prophet.
The probes themselves are buried sub-surface in order for normal cropping traffic operations to carry on as per normal. A cable is channelled below the tillage depth across to a fence post where the telemetry unit and solar panel are mounted (typically with a weather station. Information is read by the soil moisture probe on a regular basis (typically hourly) and uploaded as regularly to a server where it can then be accessed via specialised software (IrriMAX) or via a live web page display (LiveData).
Soil moisture probes also have soil temperature sensors inserted in them which enables tracking of soil temperature which is useful for:
- Modelling early crop growth
- Soil temperature has assisted in managing nutrition requirements, particularly in the early post emergent phase of crop growth.
- With a push on to bring longer season winter wheat into our cropping systems, having a guide of soil temperature will be imperative to getting sowing dates right when looking at early-mid April planting.
- Soil temperature has a significant impact on nitrogen mineralisation during wet periods in Summer, so to have a guide over this period of how hot soil temp is compared to other seasons may help with planning nitrogen budgeting.
Agbyte used soil moisture probes from the following providers: