Soil Moisture Brochure

Importance of monitoring Soil Moisture


Soil hydrological processes drive many natural processes in the environment and monitoring soil moisture conditions provides important data to understand and predict the impact of changes in soil moisture and water availability for agriculture, industry, domestic consumption and the environment. Measuring and monitoring soil moisture and developing a knowledge of how it varies between places, soil types and through time, is fundamental to gain an insight into likely future growing conditions and mankind’s impact on the environment. Understanding how the natural environment functions, how it responds to change and knowing that soil is a medium in which to grow plants because it provides both an anchor to the plant and vital nutrients and water. Knowing the amount of moisture in a soil is essential for vegetation to grow successfully . In a natural landscape the vegetation will be suited to the soil type, the climate and also the soil moisture conditions; too little water and plants struggle to survive and too much water can be equally fatal. In nature plants that are suited to particular conditions tend to do well. When we modify and exploit our environment and replace native vegetation with crops through intensive agriculture; withdraw water from rivers and aquifers for domestic supply and irrigation, we need to understand what impact this will have over time. For example, measuring soil moisture quantifies the need for irrigation in advance of a crop showing signs of distress. Knowing the soil moisture status enables highly efficient irrigation that provides the water as and when required and eliminates the wasteful

and costly use of water when irrigation is not needed. Water enters the soil as rain that drains through to enter the groundwater, which may ultimately lead to either streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands or the ocean. This process can be fast, taking hours to days or extremely slow, perhaps taking thousands of years, if the water drains down into a large aquifer. Soil acts as part of a storage system that regulates the passage of water from rainfall to its return to the surface. The moisture held in soils can also be lost to the atmosphere by evaporation and the evapotranspiration of plants. The more we understand about soil moisture the better we are able to recognise the plants that are suited to particular conditions, the availability of water to maintain surface waters and the impacts of modifying and exploiting nature. There are many techniques to measure soil moisture , their varied characteristics mean that different techniques are suited to different applications. Soil moisture content is shown by mass or by volume. Soil moisture content has always been one of the factors that determines optimal plant growth and crop production . But, as environmental factors like climate change, decreasing water resources, improved crop production and protecting threatened habitats have grown in importance; the need for accurate, consistent and timely soil moisture measurements has also increased. We need this information in order to deliver the data required to develop better policies to protect and improve our world.


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