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Soil Moisture Monitoring is essential in La Nina

The NIWA climate outlook indicates that we will continue with the La Niña weather pattern for the reminder of summer but start moving into a neutral phase for autumn. As previously noted, La Niña weather patterns always make for more challenging irrigation seasons due to more frequent rain events, warmer temperatures, but fewer ‘hot-days’. Reliable and accurate soil moisture monitoring is essential.

Soil moisture monitoring is a simple task under pasture farms. Typically, between 1 and 3 permanently installed probes are required that only need to be removed and re-installed for pasture renewal. Provided the probe is installed well and the soil moisture trace is setup correctly, soil moisture monitoring is relative plain sailing.

However, for cropping farms the number of probes needed can be upwards of 6, and these need to be installed and removed annually. So how do you minimise the cost of soil moisture monitoring on a cropping farm?

Selecting a reliable and accurate probe that can be easily installed and removed is key. For example, the tapered nature of the Sentek Drill and Drop Bluetooth probe allows for easy installation and removal while ensuring good soil to sensor contact and therefore accurate readings.

The number of probes required can be reduced through their tactical use; using a single probe to monitor the critical growth stages of at least two crops over the season, for example, autumn wheat followed by a seed crop. The number of probes required can be halved adopting this approach and some of our cropping clients are now using their Bluetooth soil moisture probes in this way.

Having said the above, we’ve recently had some great feedback around the cost benefit of investing in soil moisture monitoring on cropping farms, as well as for monitoring winter forage crops on dairy platforms. The feedback is clients have paid for the probes they’ve purchased within the season through increased yield alongside an ability to tactically use a limited or costly water supply with confidence. Post-harvest we’ll publish some farm case studies of these.

We’ve also had a couple of clients comparing our product with other offerings, and the great news is we’ve come out on top from both a probe reliability and service perspective. This has made us very pleased as our business goal was to provide a cost-effective, quality service to our clients!

Primary Insight are specialists in soil moisture measurement, if you want to put in place reliable and accurate soil moisture monitoring on you farm, need support with trouble shooting an existing installation or would like to understand how to correctly setup, read, and use your soil moisture data for irrigation decision-making, we are here to help.

Alternatively, join us at one of our free irrigation workshops in February, March, or April. Check out the event listings on our website for more information on dates and locations You’ll also get a certificate of attendance that satisfies your Farm Environment Plan irrigation training requirements.


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