Florida’s sandy soils mean that water management is a key component of growing crops in The Sunshine State, and UF/IFAS Extension agent Dr. Charles Barrett, a Regional Specialized Agent specializing in water resources, wants growers to know that soil moisture sensors can really make a difference, concerning both water management and nutrient management. He presented on soil moisture sensors at the 2020 Citrus Expo and spends his working hours educating growers and connecting Extension agents and interested growers as part of an initiative he introduced and managed that lends sensors to growers interested in trying out the technology. His most important piece of information to share? Really learn how to read the data from soil moisture sensors to reap the full benefits.
Learning the Ins and Outs of Soil Moisture Sensor Data
Dr. Barrett maintains that there is a lot of data that can be gleaned from the data from moisture sensors, but that it does take some time and effort to interpret the data. “I get it. If I’m a grower and I’ve got a lot of acres to cover, I want something that I can glance at and not spend a whole lot of time on,” he said, but added that “The growers who take the time to look at the stuff will learn so much more about plant physiology, where exactly the plant is in its annual life cycle, and what’s going on with the plant.”
Soil moisture sensors can impart a numerous amount of valuable data. “You’re going to learn so much more about it by looking at your data from your soil moisture sensor because you can tell exactly where the roots are, you can tell how much water they’re taking up, and where in their root zones are they taking up the most water,” Barrett shared.
He maintained that growers can even know what’s going on with the plants long before the plants show signs. He pointed to peanut plants, explaining how moisture sensor data can allow growers to know when plants are near to harvest time. “As the plant shifts from putting its resources into making new roots to instead making peanuts,” Barrett explained, “you can watch that happen in your soil moisture sensors because your bottom roots will stop pulling water out on the sensor. It’s a good indication before you even see anything on top because you can infer the peanuts are maturing, and it’s a good indication it might be time to get out there and check what maturity level your plants are at and see if you might want to start to harvest.”
Local Extension agents are also a good resource for those interested in water sensors.
BIO: Mike Roberts is the Vice President of the Frostproof, Fla.-based Griffin Fertilizer Co. Roberts joined the company in November 2011. He has spent the majority of his career in the fertilizer/agchem industry. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com.