Jaramas Foundation Landcare Grant funds soil moisture probe network to benefit farmers and land managers
Landowner checking the rainfall in the gauge.
In 2020, a Jaramas Foundation Landcare Grant provided funding for the Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group (HMLG) to commence its Under the Fence Line project in the Hilltops Region of NSW.
The aim of the project was to expand the Group’s ability to provide technology for measuring drainage that enables growers to understand the impacts of their land management practices on deep drainage and dryland salinity; and make adjustments accordingly.
Over the past year, HMLG was able to install two Terrasonde soil moisture probes to provide with real-time water measurement data to more farmers and land managers in the region.
The moisture probe network provides data on water content, stacked water content, plant available water, stored water, changes in stored water, soil electrical conductivity, soil temperature, soil depths and rainfall.
The probes are connected by underground cable to a solar-powered data logger located at the fence line. The sensors take measurements every 30 minutes, which are transmitted in real time that, along with the availability of historical data, enables the prediction of water use patterns at critical times of the growing season, as well as the prediction of likely crop yield outcomes and pasture growth.
HMLG placed moisture probes across a range of soil types and land use practices in the Harden Murrumburrah district to ensure that data has wide relevance to community users. The two new probes are in sections of the catchment where the production is more toward grazing management/pasture growth, and information provided by the probes will assist with carrying capacity planning and planned/rotational stock movements to enhance ground cover and capitalise on plant growth.
Project Outcomes to date:
With a newly created website hosting the soil moisture probe data (funded through a Jaramas Foundation Landcare grant in 2019); HMLG have continued to engage with landholders to support their understanding, interpretation and uptake of the data. Through a combination of information workshops and individual support with property management plans; HMLG supported 20 landholders in the catchment to use this data.
Uptake of new technology is continually improving the management and monitoring of soil fertility, development of livestock feed rations and predicting pasture growth. There is potential for this data to improve sustainable land management across 250,000ha in the Harden Murrumburrah catchment.
Adopting new technologies plays an increasing role in farming efficiency. Supporting farmers to adopt technology has a reach beyond the individual farmer, it supports the time-tested way that farmers gather information to better manage their land by looking over the fence and see what their neighbours are doing.
“The moisture probes are a great tool for us to make evidence-based decisions on soil moisture regarding the season and how our growth rates and potential yield are tracking, says Jon Bassingthwaighte, Manager of Garangula, one of the properties where a soil moisture probe is now operating.
Completing Under the Fence Line Project:
In mid- 2021, HMLG received additional funding from the Jaramas Foundation, managed by Landcare Australia, that will enable them to complete the soil moisture probe network project.