Primary Insight recently ran an irrigation scheduling workshop for crop farmers that focused on what soil moisture probes are the most cost-effective option for cropping? This is the most common question we get asked by growers noting the unique nature of crop farms. The below provides an overview of the pros and cons of the main types of probes available in New Zealand.
Our advice to cropping farmers is telemetered vertical probes are the best and most reliable solution; and bluetooth vertical probes are also an option if no livestock are present. Yes, there is a small cost associated with installing and then removing these each year, but the yield and quality gains more the cover this.
The other question we are commonly asked is how many soil moisture sensors are needed? To answer this, it is important to first understand how irrigation is managed. This involves looking at the irrigation systems and how they are managed, and relating the crops grown and any significant differences in soil type to these. Installing a probe for each area that is managed differently is the best practice approach; prioritising the areas that provide the highest return is the good practice approach.
The other key aspect to check before purchasing a soil moisture probe is the website interface. Is it easy to understand? Do the numbers make sense? Can you combine individual sensor readings to create a useable trace that makes sense? If not look we suggest you keep looking!