August 19, 2020

Soil Moisture Sensor: Innovation For Precision Farming

Water is a crucial factor in plant development. That’s why irrigation requires a thoughtful approach, as it should be neither excessive nor insufficient. Soil moisture sensors are extremely useful in determining water levels, considerably facilitating farmers’ efforts and reducing costs.

A soil sensor enables you to schedule irrigation events more efficiently by either increasing or decreasing their frequency and/or intensity, not to wash off valuable nutrients or, on the contrary, leave the plants thirsty. A remote soil moisture sensor empowers agriculturalists to estimate the water levels without the need to be physically present in the field.

field with sensors

Soil Moisture Sensors In Precision Farming

A soil moisture sensor is a device that measures current soil moisture. Sensors integrated into the irrigation system aid in scheduling water supply and distribution much more efficiently. Such gauges help to reduce or enhance irrigation for optimum plant growth.

Soil sensors are classified by technology and fall into the following types:

  • ground – installed below the ground to monitor the root zone;
  • aerial – retrieving data with UAVs and seldom used for soil moisture mapping;
  • satellite – estimating the situation from space. It does not interfere with activities in the field and helps to save costs and do without labor-consuming installations.

Soil moisture sensor systems prove to be vital since crop cultivation is a dynamic process requiring regular maintenance. The dynamics justify using sensors for different terrains, plant development stages, climate features, and to anticipate weather risks. By analyzing infrared (IR) emission, satellite remote sensors ensure a constant stream of relevant and reliable data. Combined with satellite imagery, this data allows farmers to stay updated on any changes in the soil moisture levels and react in a timely manner.    

One interesting aspect of soil moisture sensors is the fact that the more of them you deploy, the higher accuracy you will get. Their number considerably impacts the inputs while satellites can cover vast areas, and specific software elaborates field maps with multiple heterogeneous zones. 

sensors system in the field

Sensor Installation And Calibration Routine

Having decided to utilize a soil moisture sensor system, you will need to install, calibrate, and adjust them constantly. Designated specialists complete various tasks. They determine:

  • device locations;
  • distance from each other;
  • their number;
  • depth of installation;
  • the way the sensors are placed;
  • time of recalibration;
  • data reading and interpretation.

Apart from this routine, employees have to fix sensors that are out of service, validate the accuracy of data, and to elaborate irrigation patterns.

how to instal sensors

Among all types of soil moisture sensors, satellite software is the one that really saves you the trouble. Monitoring apps are user-friendly and available on many devices, including a PC, a laptop, or tablet. Thus, you are able to know what is happening in your field anywhere anytime, provided you have internet access. Such apps enable farmers to detect the issue remotely and react in a timely manner.

Reading And Interpreting The Sensor Data

When the information is retrieved, you need to be able to interpret it correctly. Different types of sensors provide different kinds of data requiring different approaches. Thus, the accuracy of interpretations directly depends on the skills of an employee. Yet, not every farmer can afford trained professionals; and, as we can see, they do not always have to.

Online monitoring apps simplify the task. You get soil moisture values for any date and any field you select. The curves on a graph promptly report on the situation and allow managing the problem.

How Crop Monitoring Helps

Crop Monitoring is a multifunctional application by EOS designated for farmers, agronomists, insurance agents, and traders. The application is constantly updated and improved. One of its latest features is the ability to estimate soil moisture based on the ratio between water volume in the soil and the whole soil volume (in %).

Crop Monitoring estimates moisture on two different levels:

  • soil surface (5 cm (2”));
  • root zone (rhizome).

Both values are critical for the decision-making process. The significant benefit of the app is that it derives analytics from satellite data. These specifications get integrated into the single chart providing information on crop growth, precipitation levels, and vegetation indices. This way you can get the full analytic picture in one place. Crop Monitoring displays the curves in the following sequence: vegetation – root zone moisture – soil surface moisture.

Crop Monitoring soil moisture features

You don’t have to be physically present in the field to be able to regularly check the dynamics, as long as you have a PC, a laptop, or tablet with an internet connection. Unlike ground soil moisture sensors, satellite-based apps are less expensive and don’t require professionals to deploy and maintain them.

Crop Monitoring provides additional data beneficial for various participants of the agricultural business. Information on soil moisture alongside a plethora of other parameters enables farmers to create elaborate irrigation patterns and schedule irrigation events. It produces an average value for the field, and not just the data on a particular spot.

Insurance agents can trace and compare historical and current soil moisture values making decisions as to insurance payments.

We have validated satellite data for 170 sensors in Utah.

As of now, the soil moisture feature is available for the following countries:

  • the USA
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Ukraine
  • Russia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Australia.

The list is constantly updated as we are planning to go global. In the meantime, we offer Custom Projects worldwide, regardless of your country. To order a Custom Project, contact our sales department at sales@eos.com.

soil moisture monitoring with sensors

Why Is Soil Moisture Monitoring Important?

Sufficient water saturation is vital for plant development, and it is the farmers’ foremost task to maintain it. Lack of irrigation leads to fading since plants put all efforts into absorbing scarce water with their roots, having no energy left to ripen and yield good crops. Sufficient moisture, however, helps the plants to survive regular stress events, staying healthy and achieving full development. Excessive watering, on the other hand, causes root rotting and cuts off the oxygen supply, eventually destroying the plant.

As it can be seen, without keeping moisture levels stable the situation can turn unfavorable both ways. This is why soil moisture sensors for agriculture are indispensable farming tools, while online ag applications with soil moisture features are efficient, reliable, and relatively cheap. 

Satellite remote sensors are a perfect bargain when it comes to comparing the amount of input or effort required to use them and the amount and the quality of data they are capable of providing. Their integration in daily farming routine helps to improve plant growth by empowering farmers to more effectively manage water excess and deficiency risks.

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