New app monitors soil water
Growers now have access to locally specific soil water modelling using the new IOS SoilWater app, funded by the GRDC.
University of Southern Queensland soil scientist David Freebairn says the locally specific information sets SoilWater apart from other available apps such as CliMate.
"SoilWater was essentially a spin-off from CliMate. CliMate provides great information, but it is quite general, so in SoilWater we have a program which is much more locally specific and gives growers more useful information" he said.
Soil water estimates will allow growers to better estimate their yield potential at sowing, and make decisions accordingly. For instance, if there is more moisture than usual, growers may choose to increase their inputs, or if soil moisture is low, growers may consider reducing up-front fertiliser application.
Up until now, the only way to have access to local soil water information has been using soil moisture monitoring equipment, which generally has initial costs in the thousands.
"The SoilWater App uses a water-balance model to calculate water inflows and outflows through a soil profile on a daily basis. Local weather data including rainfall, temperature, solar radiation and evaporation are used to simulate crop growth, runoff, drainage and stored moisture levels in each soil layer" Dr Freebairn said.
Using mobile phone location information, the app uses weather data from the nearest Bureau of Meteorology station to estimate soil moisture. Growers can override this data with actual rainfall where relevant to improve the accuracy of predictions. For example, if a grower’s own rain gauge shows they received significantly different rainfall than their local BoM station in a summer storm they can override the BoM rainfall with their own.
The app is primarily designed to estimate soil moisture at the time of sowing, though it does also estimate soil moisture during the growing season.
The team are developing a wireless rain gauge which will work together with the app to make the information even more localised.
"We have a prototype working at the moment and are hoping to commercialise it soon. The rain gauge data will automatically feed into SoilWater so growers can estimate quite accurately how much moisture is in their soil" Dr Freebain said.
The app is available from mid-February from the SoilWater App website.
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Paddock Practices: Get started with soil moisture monitoring
GRDC Project Code USQ00014