ACROSS THE FENCELINE
Real-time Soil Moisture Data in Harden Murrumburrah
A time-tested way that farmers gather information to better manage their land is to look over the fence and see what their neighbours are doing. The Across the Fenceline initiative began in 1999 as a collaboration between HMLG, CSIRO and the Grains Research & Development Corporation.
This project provides local growers with real-time plant-available water measurements from soil moisture probes installed across the Harden district.
The aim of the original study was to investigate the possibility that leakage of excess water from beneath crops was contributing to groundwater recharge, elevated water tables and consequently, the extensive dryland salinity observed in the Jugiong Creek Catchment.
It all began with leaky soils...
Drainage meters developed by CSIRO were used to monitor deep drainage at selected trial sites; the first being the Harden Tillage Trial site. The ability to measure drainage would enable growers to understand the impacts of their land management practices on deep drainage and dryland salinity; and make adjustments accordingly.
Using funds from a National Heritage Grant (2001), five on-farm paddock comparison sites were established to compare soil moisture and deep drainage in two paddocks under different management regimes. However, with the onset of drought coinciding with the start of the trial, the project soon evolved into one monitoring plant available soil water alone.
Our soil moisture probes are located at various farm sites across Harden Shire
Soil measurements are collected at each farm site in two adjacent paddocks. The soil moisture probes have been installed 20 m on either side of the fenceline to ensure they are unaffected by firebreaks and headlands.
Soil water content (i.e. volume) is measured at five depths at each location at depths of 0.2, 0.5, 0.8, 1.2 and 1.5 m below the soil surface. The shallowest depth was chosen to ensure that the sensor is below the depth of cultivation.
The sensors have been buried at least 30 cm deep. These are connected by underground cable to a solar-powered data logger located at the fenceline. The Sentek EnviroSMART® sensors take measurements every 30 minutes. A rain gauge is also located at each site.
This project was funded by Riverina Local Land Services Strategic Partnerships and undertaken in collaboration with Young District and Eastern Riverina Landcare Groups, Murrumbidgee Landcare Inc, Cross Property Planning Groups, Riverina Highland Landcare Network and Temora Agricultural Bureau.