As our climate changes, monitoring soil moisture will become increasingly important and challenging.
For optimal plant growth, soil should be neither too wet nor too dry. Soils that are too wet can lead to nutrient leaching. Soils that are too dry can mean decreased crop yield and quality. As more farmers install irrigation across the Northeast, monitoring soil moisture is a method farmers can use to accurately regulate soil moisture and soil water availability to plants. This can improve crop yield, conserve water, and improve water-use efficiency.
However, research from 2017-2018 found that few growers invested in and/or relied upon soil moisture sensors to schedule irrigation. In tandem, the researchers also discovered that many farmers tended to either over-irrigate or under-irrigate crops. To help farmers improve their irrigation efficiency and gain greater knowledge on how to monitor soil moisture conditions, the University of Maine Agroecology Lab, UMaine Extension, and University of Vermont Extension – in collaboration with the USDA Northeast Climate Hub – released fact sheets on the topic of soil moisture. The factsheets cover the basics of soil moisture and soil water availability, the software and hardware needed to monitor moisture in the soil, and costs associated with this technology.
Soil Water Availability Monitoring
Details the process of measuring soil water availability for diversified vegetable farms and explains what to do with data once it is collected.
System Components and Costs
Breaks down the technology necessary to implement a measuring system, as well as associated costs.
How Much is Enough?
Researchers and farmers work towards efficient irrigation by comparing crop water needs to weekly applications on diversified Vermont vegetable farms.