Soil moisture monitoring is an area of growing study for dryland farming and irrigators alike. Accurate monitoring of soil moisture penetration into the soil depth profile is key to efficient and effective irrigation techniques. As a result, optimum timing of effective irrigation can lead to increased yields by preventing plant stress days. This also keeps nutrients in the fibrous root zone.
Coupling soil moisture readings with weather station parameters such as wind, temperature, RH, rainfall, and solar irradiance provides more detailed information. As a result, it greatly aids modelling and, the prediction of plant-soil moisture requirements ahead of time.
Benefit for Irrigators
- RAW – Readily Available Water in your soil provides a zone between over and underwatering. This is where your crop can readily extract water from the soil. RAW is determined by soil type, crop, rooting depth (restricted by soil tension), and form of irrigation used. The chart indicates the RAW zone as “available water”.
- Ongoing monitoring of soil moisture levels can help understand your soil’s relationship to irrigation and moisture-holding capacity.
- Studying daily soil moisture patterns can reveal a daily uptake of soil moisture by your crop as part of an evapotranspiration process. The transpiration process also acts as a cooling mechanism for crops to prevent heat stress. Subsequently, soil moisture will generally not deplete much overnight when the photosynthesis process is not taking place and the crop isn’t experiencing heat stress. Ideally, this would result in a distinctive stepped soil moisture pattern from day to day. When these steps get smaller and smaller without a notable weather change this can be a sign of plant stress. Plant water uptake will vary throughout its development process.
- For seasonal crops, root depth can be tracked by studying the depths of the soil profile that show a daily decrease in soil moisture.
- Combining soil moisture with salinity provides an alternative means of tracking fertiliser movement through the soil. During fertiliser application, fertiliser nutrients can be carried past the root zone. Therefore, they are unable to be reached by your crop, if over watered.
Benefits for Dry Land Production
- Firstly, the monitoring of dryland soil moisture profiles provide the knowledge on available deep soil moisture to carry a crop through to maturity after the root system reaches a deep moisture zone.
- Monitoring of summer crops or cover crop effectiveness toward deep soil moisture retention over summer periods.
- Determine which crops are heavier on soil moisture and model soil moisture to crop yields.
- Tracking of plant root growth through the soil profile by monitoring the depth of moisture extraction.
Monitoring for Optimal Yield
ESS Earth Sciences has a range of products for various agriculture applications, including soil moisture profilers and probes. For more information, click on the links to learn more about these monitoring tools.