Wednesday, 18 October 2023 10:55

Moisture probes on display

Written by  Staff Reporters
Moisture probes are a valuable tool for managing the timing and application rate of irrigation. Moisture probes are a valuable tool for managing the timing and application rate of irrigation.

Farmers can follow and compare the readings of different soil moisture probes following the installation of a demonstration site at the Foundation for Arable Research's Kowhai Farm at Lincoln.

FAR technology Chris Smith says that the project aims to look at the various soil moisture monitoring services commercially available to arable growers.

Nine different providers are represented. Growers are invited to log in to any of the providers' portals to check out what moisture probe readings look like on the companies' software platform.

"By familiarising yourself with each one, you will see how easy it is to understand the information that is used to make management decisions."

Moisture probes are a valuable tool for managing the timing and application rate of irrigation, particularly at critical growth stages of a crop's development, Smith says.

Multi-level probes add an additional benefit for monitoring the movement and penetration of moisture in the root zone after a rain or irrigation event.

Growers are encouraged to use moisture probes as part of their best practice for the irrigation audit process.

"This is so they have evidence to justify application rates or timings and prove that they are not creating potential leaching issues from over-applying, as they can illustrate they are keeping the moisture within the root zone."

Most probes also monitor soil temperature, which is useful at the shoulders of the season to make sure any irrigation events don't cool down soils too much. Both temperature and moisture are also critical measurements for fertiliser applications or planting timings.

Probes can be calibrated, but it is important to realise most show a trend in a farm's soil, getting proportionally drier or wetter in the root zone or at different depths within the soil profile, Smith says.

"It is arguably of greater value to have the field capacity and stress point for that specific probe set up correctly, taking into consideration the soil type, crop type and adjuste for growth stage (root zone depth).

"That is why moisture probes should be installed by the providers, adjusting the graphs once the probe has bedded in and had a decent weather event. This is also the reason it is bes to install them in winter, when setting these parameters is much easier, because of the opportunities to reach field capacity."

The season's results will be reviewed in June each year.

Farmers can access the moisture probe providers' portal and logins on the FAR website at

The providers are: Agri Water Service, Crop X, Halo Systems, OnFarm Data, Harvest Electronics, PGG Water, Primary Insight, Valley and Vantage NZ.

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