Ground-breaking soil meters aid local growers

The anticipation and excitement among Horticultural growers in the Northern Agricultural Region (NAR) is rising as soil moisture meters make their way onto their properties – thanks to the NACC Sustainable Agricultural Small Grants.
Russell Speed, DPIRD, installing soil moisture meters on a property in Geraldton. Photo credit: DPIRD

It was highlighted through one of the NACC Farming Demonstrations, that very few growers know exactly how much water their crops are using and how much is being wasted – and as water passes through the root zone it is also taking all the valuable nutrients along with it. As our environment becomes more fragile, and water becomes more scarce and expensive, this information is extremely important.

Most growers can usually gauge when their plants are in need of some H2O, however, when the watering is not correct it can significantly impact fruit and vegetable growth, as well as quality and yield – and in a competitive market this is critical.

Chris and Kieran attaching the meter and solar panel of the 1st Wildeye Chris backfilling the hold to the same density

Chris and Mary Collier were just two recipients of the soil moisture meters, opting for the Wildeye with 3 probes.  This device enables them to look at the soil moisture at a variety of depths including; surface level, root level and below root level. By having a probe at below root level, it is possible to detect if water is moving passed the roots and therefore no longer available to the plants.

Not being familiar with Wildeye, Kieran Coupe from Outpost travelled up from Perth to help the Colliers install the soil moisture meter.

“As we all worked out, they are very simple to install and when you are confident with your watering in one place they can easily be moved around the property”, said Kieran Coupe.

Over the next couple of weeks, Kieran will work with Chris to help him understand the data being produced by the meters. This will help Chris and Mary on their journey to improving the environmental sustainability of their business.

Russell Speed from The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has also installed soil moisture meters at a number of vegetable grower’s properties in the Geraldton area.  The data being collected from a few of these meters has been very promising, with growers demonstrating their current watering schemes are achieving a high level of water efficiency. For these growers, it gives them the confidence to continue with their existing schedules.

Russell has also been working with Kieran to interpret the results and extend their findings to other growers.  They are also working together to improve the clarity of results – which will ultimately make it easier for growers to interpret results for themselves.

 

Soil meters have been made available to growers through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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