Tuesday 10 May 2016

Winter Is Coming! Tips for preparing AquaCheck soil moisture sensors for winter.

Preparation for winter is key when soil moisture is involved. Once soil moisture probes have been removed from the paddock the first thing to do is plan where they will be installed for the coming season. Choice of paddock, crop and location are all important.

 Re-installing the probe in a similar location for the following season will allow for the comparison of moisture management from year to year. It can also provide insights into how soil moisture is used by different crops in a rotation. Re-installing the probe in a different paddock will require some thought as to where the probe should be placed. Ideally a few key things should be considered as to the location:

  • Choosing a location that is representative of the paddock. If an EM survey has been done then a location can be selected from the results. If no EM survey has been conducted then a location that looks, or has anecdotally been, representative of the paddock should be identified.
  • Make sure that the site is located in the middle third of a pivot, isn’t under any towers or under the end gun and that nozzles that pass over the probe aren’t blocked. Generally placing the probe in the middle of a span is optimal.

  • Run the pivot or lateral over the paddock if possible so that wheel tracks are easily identifiable.
  • Ensure that tramlines can be identified. This is to avoid installing too close to the tramline. 
  • Generally installing after the first spray or fertiliser application is ideal.
  • Winter provides the best time for soil moisture probes to bed in. Therefore it is important that probes are installed as early as possible. By installing early it allows for the soil profile to have time to rebuild structure around the probe which is key for accurate data capture. On top of this winter time will provide an opportunity to identify the soil moisture field capacity.
A recent install ready for winter. Tramlines are visible in the background.

If the probes are not being re-installed prior to winter then the following will apply:
  • Disconnect the probe from the AquaLINK 3G telemetry unit. Store the probe in a safe place. Particularly away from anything that may chew on the cable.
  • Place the AquaLINK 3G telemetry unit on a windowsill or in the garden, somewhere it will receive sunlight. This is to ensure that the battery remains charged up over the winter.
  • If the probe is not going to be used for a whole calendar month contact Agri Optics to get the connection deactivated and save on the monthly bill.

Remember the 6 Ps. Prior Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Ultimately your soil moisture management will be improved due to accurate and timely data from probes that are installed in the right place and as early as possible.