Soil Moisture: How to Simplify the Control Process
One of the biggest issues of farming today is achieving and maintaining the needed level of soil moisture throughout the growing season to get the desired results. Most of the physical and chemical properties of the soil get affected by the changes of its moisture. That is why monitoring of the moisture level is the main component of soil analysis. However, that is not easy to do. Luckily, precision agriculture technologies offer new, easy ways of soil moisture management.
Methods to Control the Soil Moisture
Farmers define numerous agricultural methods for measuring the level of water in the soil that can be divided into direct, indirect, and remote.
- Direct methods involve taking a soil sample and extracting water from it by evaporation, leaching, and chemical reaction. Soil moisture is calculated based on the mass of the extracted water and dry soil.
- Indirect methods involve the measuring of soil characteristics that depend on the water content. A specific object placed in the soil can also be used for measurement. Usually, it’s a porous absorber. Unfortunately, the relationship between the physical and chemical properties of soil and the soil moisture has not been researched deep enough.
- Remote sensing methods include non-contact and long distance measurement methods. Such measurement of the soil moisture is based on the electromagnetic radiation from the soil surface. The change in both the intensity of electromagnetic radiation and in soil moisture depends on the dielectric characteristics (reflection index), soil temperature, and their combination. Far-field moisture measurements typically involve satellite monitoring.
But why is it important to identify and manage the soil moisture? Moisture is one of the most critical parameters when it comes to growing plants. It enriches the plant roots with water, controls the level of salts and minerals in the soil, controls soil density, controls the favorable temperature, and prevents soil leaching. It proves that soil moisture is of great importance, being one of the main factors of plant fertility and productivity. The yield of plants highly depends on the content and quality of water in the soil.
Satellite Monitoring in Soil Moisture Management
According to an article by ScienceDirect, the problem in soil moisture is caused by climate change. That is why, the modern definition of agricultural technology includes the use of technology aimed at eliminating this issue, adjusting farming to climate change. Moisture deficiency, increased temperature in summer, and uneven or insufficient precipitation for winter crops at the germination stage or in spring are the obstacles familiar to almost every farmer.
The problem with moisture measurement is that it is not a quick process, which hinders prompt and continuous monitoring. That is why, along with the classical methods for determining moisture by evaporating or compressing a sample by hand, many technical methods were invented, one of them being satellite monitoring.
But how exactly do farmers benefit from knowing the soil moisture levels? Here are the main points:
- Understanding the optimal conditions of temperature and humidity for sowing
- Planning the implementation of other agrotechnical operations (treatment, spraying, harvesting) in optimal conditions
- Planning the timing and amount of irrigation, reducing its cost based on accurate data
- Forecasting the risks of pests and diseases based on accurate meteorological data
- Access to the archive of field precipitation data
- Ability to accurately predict the yield potential given the particular moisture level
- Adjusting the norms of mineral nutrition, reducing unreasonable costs for fertilizers
- Determining the moisture deficit in a timely manner
As for the agronomic tools that leverage satellite monitoring, they also allow for soil moisture management. Besides, one of the key advantages of such monitoring is that there is no need for additional, expensive field equipment. Such tools provide growers with the opportunity to analyze droughts in the region and to estimate the historical moisture typical for a particular time of the year in the area. That can help in planning work on the plantation, based on the moisture dynamics on the particular land. One of the tools that offer access to such information is EOS Crop Monitoring.
To assist satellite monitoring from the ground, field installed sensors perform the moisture readings of the surface and at the root zone of the plant. The use of this technology allows for more accurate yield predictions, significantly improving the decision-making process for efficient farming.
Water is one of the decisive factors in successful crop development. That is why plant watering requires a thoughtful approach and should not be either excessive or insufficient. Soil moisture data is a valuable asset that can help the growers effectively manage other valuable assets: time, labor, fertilizer, seed, and more. Reliable information on the presence of moisture in the soil, the local weather conditions, and analyzed satellite images of fields make it possible to optimize production costs and choose the most appropriate smart farming technology for the conditions of a particular land.