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Monitoring soil moisture in grazing systems

In 2013 BIGG received a 2013-14 Caring for Our Country Community Landcare Grant, ‘Monitoring Soil Moisture to Improve Productivity and NRM in Grazing Systems’.

 

By monitoring soil moisture and associated climate data in local grazing systems, this project aimed to assist livestock producers in making key management decisions, such as pasture establishment, fertiliser usage and most importantly when to de stock. De stocking early may lead to increased productivity gains through feed utilisation and market opportunities. It also allows improved NRM through greater soil cover, better pasture recovery and reduction in wind and water erosion.

 

At the heart of the project is the establishment of soil moisture and weather stations located in pasture paddocks at Flaxman Valley, Keyneton and Koonunga in September 2013. At all three sites a sub-surface capacitance probe, automatic rain gauge, wind anemometer and a sensor measuring air temperature and relative humidity have been installed.  The capacitance probes were buried below the soil surface and measure soil moisture and soil temperature at 10cm intervals to a depth of 85cm (Flaxman Valley, Keyneton) and 125cm (Koonunga).

 

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 please refer to the Fact Sheet: Interpreting Information from the BIGG Soil Moisture Monitoring Demonstration Sites.

 

The Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges NRM Board have kindly funded the on-going operation and web-hosting of the weather stations until December 2018. 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.

 

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.

 

Resources

  • Australian Society of Animal Production Conference: Soil moisture monitoring in grazing systems assists decision making- Paper and Poster, July 2016
  • Final Soil Moisture Project Report (for the 2013 Caring for our Community Landcare grant)- Brett Nietschke, April 2015

 

Soil moisture monitoring workshop presentations – April 2014

 

Monthly soil moisture monitoring reports – 2014

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.

 

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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.

Koonunga soil moisture monitoring site