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Optimizing Soil Moisture Monitoring for Higher Yields

Updated: Jun 8, 2023


Introduction

As farmers, the ability to efficiently convert water and nutrients into profit is crucial. Achieving the optimal balance between soil moisture and nutrient levels is key to maximizing crop yield and minimizing waste. By leveraging advanced sensors and data analysis, farmers can make informed decisions and enhance their farming practices. Join us as we delve into the world of soil moisture monitoring and its significance in modern agriculture.


State of the Art Soil Moisture Monitoring

There are many different types of probes available; however, most of them are installed after planting is completed, and taken out before harvest. This is time consuming, expensive, and doesn’t always give us the best data. GroGuru has developed a soil moisture probe that gives us a wonderful picture of what is happening underground in relation to plant roots and moisture. In our opinion, this is currently the best tool for monitoring soil moisture. Bonus: the probes are installed underground with wireless technology that transmits to an easy-to-move telemetry unit. This data is then sent to an app that allows to you view it, understand it, and make well-informed decisions. The underground probe is installed about 12 inches deep, with sensors at 4 inches, 4 inches, then every 8 inches after that. These probes are created to stay underground for at least 5-7 years or longer depending on battery life.


Soil Moisture probe data showing lines for each sensor in a probe. Each  line represents a specific depth, and as time goes on, they start "stair-stepping" as the roots grow deeper.

Each of these lines represents a sensor in the probe. This makes is so easy to understand what is happening underground and gives us a full picture of soil moisture. How deep are your roots? Easy…when a sensor starts to “step”, your roots are there. How full is your water profile? Easy…how high the spikes are relate to how full your soil is with water. When should I water? After 2-3 years of data, this question will be easy too. All the data collected will allow you to create an irrigation template (see example below). This will allow you to:

· Apply the right amount of water at the right time​

· Maximize yield and quality​

· Manage production risk

· Have a "recipe for success" that can be used over and over again to push the bar in plant health and high yields


Sample irrigation template with blue representing a full water table, green showing when to irrigate, yellow showing caution and red showing moisture depletion causing stress to the crop.




3 years worth of soil moisture probe data with continuous data stream that allows us to have a full picture and make better decisions before, during and after the growing season.

This graphic has three years of soil moisture information in it. This big picture allows you to see what moisture does during the winter, with cover crops, with double crops, and make better decisions regarding crop rotation and pre-irrigation. The data is more consistent because of the permanent location of the probe. Learn the first year, adjust the second year, and KNOW the third year and beyond. Listen to the crop, and it will tell us what we are doing right or wrong.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much area does one probe cover? This depends on how many management points you want. Think of it like an air conditioner. The probe is similar to a thermostat. Placement is key; if you evaluate and place the probe in the area with the most common soil type for that field, and in the correct placement relative to drip irrigation emitters, then only one might be needed per field. Similar to air conditioning a house, if you wish to manage the temperature differently on two floors, an additional thermostat and air conditioner may be needed; if you wish to manage to areas of your field differently, it may be beneficial to have two probes.

  • What about the top 12 inches above the buried probe? First, we can bury the probe as deep or shallow as you wish. If your tillage practices only involve the top 6 inches, we can put it at 6 inches. You can also use a traditional soil moisture probe and connect it to the telemetry unit so you could have data from the top 12 inches, plus the deeper data from the GroGuru probe. Ultimately, the top 12 inches isn't as crucial. You may not be able to see the half inch rain on the chart, but you will be able to "see" it because the roots won't use as much water from below. Also, the deeper your roots, the better the use of nutrients and water. Ideally, roots should be 4-5 feet deep, which allows us to have a very good picture of the moisture around them with the deeper probe.

  • How do I see the information that I get from the soil moisture probe? The information you collect with the probe is sent to an app on your smartphone. This allows you monitor soil moisture in real time. The data is translated into a picture that is a snapshot of what is actually happening in the root zone of your crop.



Picture of phone with the soil moisture monitoring app with quick status and then a detailed view.

Conclusion

Optimizing soil moisture monitoring is crucial for modern farmers aiming to maximize profits. By leveraging advanced sensors and data analysis, farmers can make informed decisions, reduce waste, and improve crop yield. Monitoring soil moisture levels in real-time empowers farmers to respond proactively, ensuring water and nutrients are balanced for optimal plant growth. With the right tools and a comprehensive irrigation template, farmers can increase their profitability while mitigating production risks. Embrace the power of soil moisture monitoring to unlock the full potential of your farm and cultivate a successful future in agriculture.

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