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Monitoring soil moisture in grazing systems

Climate variability is creating challenges for many livestock grazing business. For example, in the last 20 years the Barossa region of South Australia has experienced reduced annual rainfall, combined with patterns of later autumn ‘breaks’, earlier spring ‘finishes’ and increased summer rainfall. This therefore makes it difficult for graziers to predict seasonal weather conditions and hence pasture production, a key determinant for a property’s stocking rate.

 

In 2013, the BIGG initiated a project to monitor soil moisture in local grazing systems (funded by a Caring for Our Country Community Landcare Grant). This involved the establishment of telemetry based monitoring stations located in three representative pasture paddocks (Flaxman Valley, Keyneton and Koonunga), which was the first time a farming systems group in Australia has demonstrated soil moisture monitoring in pastures. Each station comprises a sub-surface capacitance probe measuring moisture to a depth of 85cm, an automatic rain gauge and sensors measuring air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and radiation. These are connected to a solar powered telemetry unit with the data being recorded in near real-time and publically available on BIGG’s website.

 

All equipment is connected to a solar powered telemetry unit that transmits data every 15 minutes via a mobile phone network to an internet server. Data downloaded from the server is then used to produce real-time graphs for each site. These can be viewed at the following links:

Flaxman Valley

 

Keyneton

 

Koonunga

 

To help understand the information and associated graphs derived from the downloaded data refer to the Fact sheet: Interpreting information from BIGG’s telemetry based monitoring stations.

 

The Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges NRM Board funded the on-going operation and web-hosting of the weather stations and in March 2017 they also funded a new project (through their Sustainable Agriculture Industry Support scheme from the NRM levy) to develop the information recorded from BIGG’s soil moisture and weather stations for decision-making. Further support was provided for the project by the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin NRM Board in October 2017.

 

For further information about the current soil moisture status of local representative soil types, a network of soil moisture probes are located throughout the SA Murray-Darling Basin region and can be accessed here.

 

Monthly soil moisture monitoring reports – 2017-18

Monthly analysis on the status of the three local pasture paddocks (located at Flaxman Valley, Keyneton and Koonunga) being monitored for their soil moisture use.

 

Resources

 

Soil moisture presentations at the BIGG Conference – February 2018

 

Soil moisture monitoring workshop presentations – April 2014

 


Disclaimer: The data generated from the BIGG soil moisture monitoring sites is provided for information only. Any actions or decisions made by users is at their sole discretion.

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