Soil moisture probes for Whangawehi

James Barringer and his team from Landcare Research are coming to Mahia on the 11th of March 2020 to deploy an array of soil moisture probes as part of the “Hill Country Futures” lead by B+L NZ. The long term goal will be to develop a soil water holding capacity model linked to a legume growth model for Mahia.

This research theme is designed to link with the broad national scale mapping of legume suitability (objective x.1).  It recognizes that hill country farms are diverse landscapes and seeks to give farmers tools to make robust decisions at the farm-scale about suitable locations for various forage legumes.  It seeks to use micro-scale indicators – soil moisture and soil temperature – to help guide farmers to identify where on their farm different forage mixes are most likely to do well.  The information is likely to be valuable beyond this specific goal.  Success in this project should lead to farmers being able to monitor these indicators at a few sites on their farm to predict conditions across the whole property, leading to more effective and timely decisions that lead to improved economic, environmental and social outcomes.  In the future, sharing data across the farming community could lead to even more robust predictions across the whole hill country environment.

This exercise will involve us coming to several farms to establish a sensor network with 20 moisture/temperature sensors attached to a LoRA data logger which would be run for 2 years from June 2020.  Each data logger signals back to a LoRA gateway that is established at a site with cell network coverage – though note the cell reception does not have to be sufficient to hold a verbal cell phone call – just to transmit small data packages.  All the LoRA data loggers must be set up roughly in line-of-site of the LoRA gateway – although the latest LoRA technology does well at seeing into partially hidden parts of the landscape.

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