New tech used for soil moisture management

John Panuska, UW-Extension natural resources specialistCenter_pivot_irrigation_Idaho
Department of Biological Systems Engineering
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 262-0605

John Panuska covers the new technology changing the way we understand soil.


3:10 – Total Time

0:23 – What is soil moisture
1:25 – New soil sensors in use
2:01 – What the soil moisture sensors do
2:29 – Increasing interest in water management
2:59 – Lead out



Sevie Kenyon: John, start off by explaining the notion of soil moisture.


John Panuska: Soil moisture obviously is a very important component for crop growth. Crops need water to grow. What we want to try to do is optimize the levels of soil moisture in the soil using some technologies that have come down significantly in price in the last ten years that the growers can use to do that. But we’re also maximizing nutrient use. For example if you put nitrogen into a soil, that water can move through that soil profile rather quickly and carry that nitrogen away with it. And we don’t want that to happen because that nitrogen costs money, and pumping that irrogation water costs money. So we want to provide growers with the information and the guidance to be able to manage their soil water so that they decrease the chance that that nitrogen’s going to be leached from the soil. And also that they get maximum water use efficiency, along with that.


Sevie Kenyon: John, perhaps you can describe some of the new technologies available to producers to manage soil moisture?


John Panuska: There’s a sensor out there for every budget. And we strongly recommend that people monitor the soil moisture so they know what they’re dealing with, they’re not guessing. And the Wisconsin Irrogation Scheduling Program which is a tool we put together; it’s a web based tool, it’s completely free of charge, and they can put their data into that tool and use it to manage the soil moisture in the plant root zone in a way that will optimize the water use efficiency and decrease the leaching of the nutrients and other chemicals in the ground water.


Sevie Kenyon: Perhaps you can describe what some of these sensors do?


John Panuska: Basically these are both mechanical and electronic devices that will interact with the soil around them and measure the volume of the water content of that soil, and then that’s the information that that you use when making decisions on whether to arrogate or not to arrogate. And using the irrogation-scheduling tool, how much to arrogate.


Sevie Kenyon: John, give us an idea of how widely used these technologies are, and what the future is.


John Panuska: We are seeing an increased interest in soil moisture management and there’s an increased interest in doing a better job of managing that groundwater and that soil moisture. So we’re seeing more people looking at soil moisture management as part of their management plan. We certainly encourage any anybody who’s not doing soil moisture monitoring and management right now to seriously consider doing it because I think they’re going to find that there’s benefits, both cost saving benefits and environmental benefits to doing it.


Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with John Panuska, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin Extension and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, and I am Sevie Kenyon.





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