Using Probes for Agronomic Trial Comparisons

Soil moisture probes are traditionally used for irrigation decision making, but they also offer additional capabilities for crop growth and development monitoring. We will briefly explore examples of each situation below. 

Soil moisture probes have proven to be valuable technology that not only monitors real-time soil moisture through-out the growing season, but provides growers data driven insights to make reliable irrigation decisions. These advanced, but simple to use tools have allowed irrigated growers to improve their water and nutrient efficiency, conserve energy, and often increase yields.

The above graph is a standard example of the full profile’s soil moisture change over time. Each spike represents an irrigation or precipitation event, while the downward trends are the crop’s water use. When the black line nears the bottom red dotted line (refill point), this is the indicator on when to irrigate. The green circle represents a typical “stair-step” action of a mature crop’s daily water use. The crop will pull down water during the day, while tapering off at night as the plant relaxes creating the stair-step action. The CropX platform is able to gather all of the data combined with years of machine learning to deliver added “Insights” that summarizes all of the information and presents it in a simple format the grower can easily decipher. 

Aside from the full soil profile view (Sum graph), we can also dive deeper into viewing each individual sensor that makes up the 1 probe. Probes come in differing configurations ranging from 2 to 9 sensors for a three foot probe length. Each individual sensor will provide accurate indication of rooting activity at that specific sensor depth. In the example below we look at 2 different management practices and how the crop is performing below the soil surface.

Here we zoom into the 14”-30” sensor depths for a soybean crop. These 2 probes are located in the same field, same variety but under different management practices. Similar to how we tissue/soil test different management zones in the NL365 program, the probes allow us to make comparisons below the surface. In this example, the “Treated” involved progressive management intended to push higher yields, while the “Control” is the grower’s standard practice. 

By viewing this dataset, we can evaluate crop water use and rooting activity at each depth. In the treated plants we are able not only see steeper downward trends in soil moisture, but also much more aggressive rooting activity down to 30”. In comparison, the Control is only showing good rooting activity down to 18” but then slight downward trends in soil moisture at lower depths where the crop is slowly pulling moisture. The excelled rooting activity in the Treated plants also creates higher nutrient utilization throughout the deeper depths that the Control plants may not achieve.

This is a great example of how soil moisture probe technology can be further used to evaluate product or management trials at a “deeper” level. 

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