New soil moisture probes for pasture districts

probe

One of the new soil moisture probes monitoring phalaris and clover at Harrow (Pigeon Ponds) in the South-West.

New soil moisture probes – like those used to measure sub-soil moisture in dryland cropping areas for the past seven years – are now up and running and delivering important moisture and soil temperature data to Victoria’s pasture growing districts.

A total of 18 new pasture probes, in a range of soil types and rainfall zones, have been added to the ‘Risk management through soil moisture monitoring’ project which began in 2011.

Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Boyd, who has led the project since its inception, has teamed up with Meat and Wool Services’ Jane Court to expand the range of data in the monthly Soil Moisture Monitoring (SMM) report.

The first update from the SMM pasture probes is now published, providing information on water infiltration after rains, as well as showing how plants are using water as they grow dry matter across a range of districts.

Ms Court said such information will help producers make decisions about options to boost pasture production such as urea or gibberellic acid application, or even to make early decisions about stock management or hay/silage making.

Soil moisture probes are now installed in perennial pastures in the state’s North-East at Greta, West Gippsland at Longwarry and East Gippsland at Yarram and Bairnsdale.

There are also two sites in central Victoria at Baynton near Kyneton, South-West at Jancourt, Dartmoor, and Pigeon Ponds and Lawloit in the West Wimmera.

An existing cropping site in Gippsland at Giffard West has had an additional sensor added to the telemetry system that is monitoring pasture soil moisture and comparing that with the crop in the next paddock.

“When the cropping network was set up seven years ago as a pilot we realised that the information was useful to farmers and serviced a knowledge gap,” Mr Boyd said.

“Data could be used for a range of decisions, for example what crop type to grow, but predominately, the information has assisted with yield estimations,” he said.

“We can track what the moisture accumulation is like over winter periods and see how the spring set-up is looking and what inputs you might apply to that crop to meet its potential yield”.

“Early results from the pasture probes show us that this will also be the case for those growing pasture and estimating spring growth and possibilities of growth extending into early summer.”

For more information about the new pasture probes and to subscribe to the monthly report go to the soil moisture monitoring – pastures page.

-Agriculture Victoria

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