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Using soil probes to solve your soil moisture mystery

By Spencer Myers
Staff Writer

Looking around at the wet conditions, at first glance you could think our moisture levels are more than adequately stocked going into the 2020 crop year. Unfortunately looks can be deceiving, and the same goes when looking at your soil profile.

When it comes time to plan your planting timing and strategy, knowing the actual moisture content can lead to better crops and more money for you come harvest.

Whether it’s snow, sleet, hail or rain, looking around the Prairies right now we see an abundance of moisture causing harvest headaches throughout the industry. While there’s more than enough to go around right now, those moisture levels will be dramatically different next spring.

“Just because you kick some soil around and guess that you have enough moisture, you really have no idea what’s actually going on until you dig down and take a look,” Guy Ash told the Co-operator recently.

Ash is global training manager with Pessl Instruments, and a well-known expert on soil probes and utilization of their data. I recently joined him on a tour at Kellburn Farms south of Winnipeg, where he showed us two different soil probes being used in their test plots.

One of the moisture probes was a model from John Deere connected to a remote weather station from Metos, while the second was the Sentek Drill & Drop Triscan Probe from Pessl Instruments.

Slightly more advanced than a rain gauge and the boot test, the Sentek Drill & Drop probe uses capacitance-based technology to provide precision monitoring of temperature, water and salinity at multiple depths in a soil profile. It’s available in 10-cm, 30-cm, 60-cm, 90-cm and 120-cm lengths with sensors fixed at every 10-cm increment.

While the Drill & Drop provides you with salinity and temperature readings, the John Deere model only provides a moisture reading.

Ash says using a soil probe will give you a much more accurate reading of your soil’s moisture content. He said having this information be accurate is critical during the planting and fertilizing stages, and knowing your soil salinity and temperature helps you that much more…

Click HERE to read the full article originally published by The Manitoba Co-operator.