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How long will it take to pay for my soil moisture probe?

December 2021 has been one of the coldest and wettest December’s we’ve seen for well over a decade and January is shaping up to be the same based on the 10-day forecast..

Despite this, the NIWA seasonal climate outlook through to March 2022 still predicts the continuation of the La Niña weather pattern. This means we can expect above average temperatures, near normal rainfall and normal to below normal river-flows. However, the La Niña weather pattern is also expected to bring increased frequency of onshore winds that reduce the number of ‘hot days’ and increase cloud cover and drizzle. The bar chart below provides a summary of the monthly Potential Evapotranspiration for Lincoln from the last 3 season, noting this only includes data up to the 22 January.

It’s season’s such as this one where the benefits of accurate and reliable soil moisture probes and an automatic rain gauge, that all feed into an irrigation scheduling website are realised; particularly when combined with expert advice. The probes and rain gauge are paid for within a season through reduced pumping costs and fewer irrigator operating hours – it’s a no-brainer.

For example, based on an irrigation cost of $0.05 per m3 (typical cost of a shallow bore or surface take) applying 40 mm less irrigation (the difference between the irrigation applied in December 2020 and December 2021 – 4 pivot or 1 traveller rotation) and for the average irrigated farm size (210 ha), you would save $4,200 in 1-month. This would pay for a quality telemetered probe (lifespan 7-10 years), an automated rain gauge (lifespan 5-years), and a season’s worth of scheduling advice. The savings are even greater for irrigation from deep bores – you’d pay for 3 probes!


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