in-field sensors & monitoring
Effective irrigation starts with an accurate picture of soil moisture.
Why measure soil moisture?
Directly measuring the moisture in the soil gives a clear picture of how much water your plants have at all times, which helps your team make more effective irrigation calls.
Every crop uses water differently. Every soil takes water differently. Every irrigation system delivers water differently. That means there's no one-size-fits all way to irrigate effectively. If your team is only relying on estimates, or ET, to know how much water your plants have access to in the soil, it's tough to know when to irrigate.
How is soil moisture measured?
Sensors that measure soil moisture are buried within the wet pattern of a selected plant. There are a few technologies out there, and the best ones let you see the changes over time from irrigations, plants using water, evaporation, rain and drainage.
Common Site Setup
TELEMETRY TOWER & POWER SOURCEThe tower & power source (typically a solar panel) are the easiest way to recognize a probe site. They’re also the easiest to damage, and must be protected from heavy equipment.
TELEMETRY BOXThe telemetry unit inside collects the data from the soil moisture sensors and sends it to the “cloud” where it can be accessed from web-enabled devices (phone, ipad, computer)
SOIL MOISTURE PROBEThe probe houses the sensors and protects them from damage. The length of the probe is determined by the number of sensors and how far apart they are.
SOIL MOISTURE SENSORSSoil moisture sensors are spaced so that when buried, they measure the soil moisture at the desired depths, often at 12" increments, from the shallowest to the deepest roots.
WET PATTERN FROM IRRIGATIONThe wet pattern of your specific irrigation system determines where the soil moisture probe is buried. It goes right where the wet pattern and the tree/vine roots overlap
How do I use the data to make decisions?
1. Know when your plants are running low on water
2. Catch infiltration issues early
3. See if your schedule is over-irrigating; if so, adjust
4. See if your schedule is under-irrigating
5. Decide how deep you need to irrigate, based on root pull
6. Confirm that irrigations are reaching your desired depth - and no more
7. See when irrigations don’t happen as scheduled; plan to compensate
To learn more about decision making with data, download our free guide here
Learn to read a soil moisture sensor chart in 3 minutes
BOTTOM OUTIf no irrigation takes place, the stair steps become so shallow that the curve flattens or “bottoms out,” indicating that the plant has used all available water at that depth
STEEP INCLINEShallow sensors typically show a steep incline at the start of an irrigation. This shows the moisture level changing very quickly from low to high.
DRAINAGESmooth drops typically indicate that moisture is draining. Check the sensor below, it probably shows moisture increasing.
STAIR STEP - DEEPStair step drops show daily plant use, i.e. root pull. You can see the plant “drinking!” Deep steps mean high plant use - plentiful water and/or hot days
STAIR STEP - SHALLOWShallow steps mean low plant use - little water and/or cool days
IRRIGATION PEAKShallow sensors typically show a sharp peak at the start of an irrigation. This shows that the irrigation system is shut off and the soil is draining.
INFILTRATION DELAYShallow sensors show immediate moisture increases at the start of an irrigation. Deeper sensors take longer to show moisture increases due to the time it takes for the water to infiltrate.
IRRIGATION PLATEAUIf the irrigation system is left on after the shallow sensors have reached saturation, instead of a peak, you’ll see a plateau.
LITTLE-NO CHANGEPeriods where the line is flat show that there’s little-to-no change in the moisture level at that depth. Irrigations aren’t reaching that depth, and roots aren’t pulling from that depth.
IRRIGATION EVENT BOXThe line that makes box-like shapes at the bottom is from the pressure switch. Each box marks when the irrigation system was running so you can track the times and system pressures for each irrigation event.
A. Telemetry Tower & Power Source
B. Telemetry Box
Soil moisture sensors are spaced so that when buried, they measure the soil moisture at the desired depths, often at 12″ increments, from the shallowest to the deepest roots.
C. Soil Moisture Probe
The tower & power source (typically a solar panel) are the easiest way to recognize a probe site. They’re also the easiest to damage, and must be protected from heavy equipment.
D. Soil Moisture Sensors
The wet pattern of your specific irrigation system determines where the soil moisture probe is buried. It goes right where the wet pattern and the tree/vine roots overlap
E. Wet Pattern from Irrigation
The probe houses the sensors and protects them from damage. The length of the probe is determined by the number of sensors and how far apart they are.
Learn to read a soil moisture sensor chart in 3 minutes
–When the moisture reached a particular depth
–When the soil is drying out at a particular depth
How do we help you?
- We help you get the right system, in the right location: Our team has years of experience in helping farming companies get the best possible setup for their irrigation management zones.
- We install the equipment for you. Our experienced technicians make sure it’s done right the first time.
- We help you learn to read the charts, match it up to what you see in the field, and make irrigation calls.
- We make sure you’re getting quality data. If there are glitches or bad readings, we’ll help you troubleshoot.
Click here to see the brands & products we offer.
Why work with us?
We help you determine the best setup for your operation including getting the right probes, depths, and locations for your needs.
Our local technicians make sure your equipment is installed correctly and working properly and are there to help when problems arise.
We understand the importance of having good quality data, and hardware that works with as few hiccups as possible.
We provide training (link to in-field training page) so that your in-field team knows how to properly care for and maintain the probe site.
frequently asked questions
No. With the sunsetting of all 3G cellular services, updating your telemetry equipment to a 4G/5G service is the only way to guarantee you will not see a lapse in your data reporting.
Probes are needed per management zone, not per acre. Management zone accounts for water source, variety, soil texture, etc., and an irrigation specialist can determine the best set up for you.
The typical lifespan of a probe is 3-5 years . Manufacturers often promise a longer lifespan, but in our experience that is unlikely with newer technology becoming available, and the older technology becoming obsolete.
The maintenance on probes is very minimal. Once they're installed, the probes shouldn't be handled. It's important to make sure the batteries are maintained in the telemetry box, and that the site is protected.