Farmers who have relied on the "kick the dirt" method to estimate soil moisture have a lot to gain by deploying precision monitoring technology in their fields, says Tom Devol, regional sales manager for Rain Bird. Soil moisture monitors allow farmers to view real-time data, share it if needed and make irrigation management decisions before you take a single step into the field.
Any first-time user of a new technology can find it intimidating, so Devol offers the following three rules that farmers should follow to ensure they use soil moisture monitors to make smart, profitable management decisions.
1. Sensors observe and report their observations. They cannot change what they observe.
"All the sensor does is sit in the ground and observe what’s going on," Devol says. "Its goal is just to tell you what it sees."
It’s the user’s job to then interpret the data and make proper management decisions, he says.
2. Many times, the observations are not what we expected or wanted.
Devol recommends that farmers not make management changes right away after installing new soil moisture monitors. That way, they can establish a quality baseline of data so they can begin to look for patterns and opportunities to make better-informed irrigation timing decisions.
3. If you do not agree with the observations, verify them.
Although farmers can receive data remotely, it’s still critical they regularly scout their fields, Devol says. When the data isn’t making sense to you, it’s especially critical to make an immediate field visit, he says.
"If you’re confused by the data, close the computer and go out to the field to see what’s really going on," he says. "If you check, it will build your faith in what you’re doing tremendously."
Farmers who follow these three steps will have confidence they are using soil moisture monitors properly and making sound irrigation decisions, Devol says.