Soil moisture sensing for forage irrigation
Growers worldwide have been using many methods to determine when and how much to irrigate forages. A few of them still use traditional methods, while others already adapted their farms to optimized smart ag sensors.
Growers worldwide have been using many methods to determine when and how much to irrigate forages. A few of them still use traditional methods such as measuring a shovel-full of soil, while others already adapted their farms to optimized smart ag sensors.
One large concern with traditional practice is that yield potential can already be lowered once the visual signs appear. On the other hand, exploration of the available technologies, and selecting the ones that work well with individual management plans, can help growers ensure that irrigation is scheduled precisely.
A healthy farm must include soil moisture sensing:
One tool that is becoming more commonly used is soil moisture sensors because of their ability to constantly monitor what is happening in the soil. For this, there are four basic steps for implementing a sensing system:
1- Select which type of soil moisture you would like to measure
2- Determine needed components
3- Determine the number of sensing stations required
Sensoterra soil moisture sensors are a wireless and robust technology helping growers to identify the best moment to irrigate, based on the water necessity at the root zone. Primarily measuring volumetric water content - the ratio of the volume of water compared to the entire volume of the soil - reported as a percent.
In ideal soil, about 50% of the volume would be solids and the other half would be pore spaces that act as reservoirs for water and air. Depending on the soil structure, the volumetric water content at field capacity (adequate amount of water the soil should hold) can be anywhere from 15% to 44%. On the other end of the scale is the permanent wilting point, where the plant can no longer pull water from the soil, and that varies from 8% to 23% depending on the soil structure.
The importance of calibration:
Different soil types will present differences in texture and bulk density, meaning that a given type of soil can inherently hold more or less water. The texture of soils varies significantly – even at a single site. For this reason, calibrated data for a particular type of soil is an efficient way to predict water necessities in different statuses of the irrigation schedule, being them: too dry, healthy and too wet moments.
Heterogeneous fields will naturally require more sensors and more attention throughout irrigation schedules due to local site differences. Smart sensors with calibrated data are capable of increasing yield because they respect the plant's timing for more or less water; consequently avoiding over- and under-irrigation.
For this reason, Sensoterra works with calibrated data. Sensors are currently calibrated for the 12 most common soil types, gradually expanding for more soil options. In addition, growers can also require customized calibration curves for their soil types.
Sensoterra offers an affordable-farm-tough-wireless solution, ready to provide soil moisture data from remote areas to urban farmings. Growers are able to control over-irrigation, save water, save energy and time, while remotely managing multiple fields.
Furthermore, the ability to integrate sensors' data with other smart devices, gives a full bird-eye view of the crop, reducing unpredictable variability.
Curious to see how Sensoterra can help your crop yield? Check our case studies!
For more information, send us an email to: [email protected].
Caroline is a Soil Data Manager at Sensoterra. Previously, she worked as a laboratory analyst, responsible for data analysis of roots and soil, identifying pesticide contamination and plant accumulation. Her background is in Environmental Science, with a Masters's degree in Water & Environment from Radboud University.Get in touch