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Fine Tuning with Soil Moisture Sensors

Tools in the toolbox

Soil moisture sensors are a great tool for irrigators but they are not the only tool available. The fist thing any good irrigator should do is create an irrigation schedule. The schedule should be based on the crop water demand. How can the water needed by a crop be determined? There are many resources for this but I like the Vegetable Production Handbook ( Check out Chapter 3; it covers irrigation and building a schedule in detail.

With an irrigation schedule in hand, a soil moisture sensor is a much more effective tool. This is because having a schedule helps the irrigator plan irrigation events. Imagine the weather person forecasts a 40% chance of rain in two days. The schedule can be checked to see when the last irrigation event was and when the next event should be. The soil moisture sensor can be used to see the current soil moisture status and to predict if the next irrigation event can be skipped if it rains.

Rain is free!

I like to maximize the use my soil water holding capacity by drying down the root zone (without stressing the crop) prior to a rainfall event. Soil moisture sensors are great for determining when to resume an irrigation schedule after it rains.

Any plant, crop, lawn, garden or sidewalk can be irrigated. The questions are, should it be irrigated and how much?

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Blue dye was applied to the soil surface and irrigated with 3″, 1.5″, and 0.75″. Soil moisture sensors located nearby recorded changes in volumetric water content at 5 depths.