Over the past few decades, soil monitoring has become increasingly important. Environmental factors such as climate change, dwindling water resources, and threatened habitats are driving the need to monitor the environment and implement better policies to protect it. Many natural processes in the environment are driven by or in some ways related to soil hydrological processes. Monitoring soil moisture conditions provides important information for the protection of, and in the understanding of local and regional water resources.
Soil is an important natural resource, just as the air and water that surround us are. Unfortunately it has been overlooked in the past and taken for granted with disastrous results, such as the North American dust bowl of the 1930s. Today, the role of soil health on our climate as a whole is taken more seriously, with researchers at organizations such as the USDA-ARS (US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service) looking into how exactly soil interacts with the rest of our environment.
Receiving accurate and instantaneous information on soil moisture content, salinity, temperature, and other parameters, soil sensors are an important tool for anyone involved with soil.
Irrigation of crops represents 90% of the water used worldwide. Monitoring soil moisture in the root zone of crops will optimize irrigation. The benefits of optimizing irrigation scheduling with soil moisture sensors includes increasing crop yields, saving water, protecting local water resources from runoff, saving on energy costs, saving on fertilizer costs and increasing the farmer profitability.
Irrigation plays an increasingly important role in agriculture. Irrigation is essential but so is the proper management of the irrigation. Soil moisture monitoring is the key to ensuring good irrigation management decisions are made to maximize the benefit of irrigation.
Irrigation is not the only use for soil monitoring. Each year, erosion from changes in land use causes millions of dollars in damage to property and natural water systems. In order to understand the causes of erosion and make predictions about when and where erosion will occur, hydrologists need to record rainfall, sediment and soil moisture. The water infiltration rate of soil is a function of soil moisture—if the soil is dry, the infiltration rate will be sufficient to prevent run off. Overland water flow may occur if rain events happen at a time when soil is saturated. Monitoring soil moisture is an important input parameter into erosion prediction models.
Regional drought can severely affect the economy and even lead to starvation in some areas of the world. With advances in computer processing and environmental modeling methods, scientists are beginning to understand regional water budgets and hydrological processes. An important input into drought forecasting models is changes in regional soil moisture. Long-term soil moisture data over large regions can be used to predict and characterize harmful droughts.
Soil monitoring is also critical to dust control, biofuel production, phytoremediation, reservoir recharge from snowpack, soil carbon sequestration studies, watershed hydrology studies, satellite groundtruthing, landslide studies, and is used in mesonets and weather station networks around the world.
HydraProbe is a rugged soil sensor with patented technology that provides continual, consistent accuracy measuring the three most significant soil parameters simultaneously—moisture, salinity and temperature. The most scientifically researched soil sensor in the world.
The Stevens GroPoint Profile provides cost-effective measurement of volumetric water content over multiple depths using a single probe, eliminating the cumbersome excavation required for multiple sensors placed at different depths.
Stevens soil monitoring stations will typically use either cellular or GOES for telemetry. For cellular (CDMA/GSM/HSPA), both Avo and eTracker are cellular gateway which provide “virtual” cloud-based data logging, and therefore don’t require a physical data logger. All data is sent to the cloud for storage (with a backup stored locally) and the station can be configured remotely.
Stevens offers 4 different options for connecting you with your system’s data:
Because it is an all-in-one solution requiring only sensors, Avo is a great solution if the station is going to be only temporary, where a simple and quick station setup is important or where data reliability is critical. Avo sends data directly to the cloud (via cellular) where it is logged, so does not require a separate data logger.
eTracker also sends data directly to the cloud via cellular where it is logged, so it doesn’t require a separate data logger. Choose eTracker if you want to customize what power system components are used, or will be using a greater number of sensors than Avo supports.
Cell-Net is a good choice if you want a 2-way cellular connection to your sensors and ability to access your data on the cloud (like Avo and eTracker) but want to use a separate data logger or already have smart (logging) sensors.
If your station is in a very remote location without a cellular signal, then GOES is the best option. It also may make sense if you don’t want monthly service charges, your data payloads are small and you don’t need access to data more than once per hour. You can use a separate logger, or it’s available with one integrated.
Retrieving data is simple with Stevens-Connect, our cloud-based software that requires no infrastructure to scale to any number of stations or users. Use it to configure your station, visualize your data, analyze measurements, manage alarms, perform calculations, and set up data routing. Alternatively, you can have the data sent to any other HTTP or FTP destination or 3rd-party software like Aquarius or WISKI.
Stations built on a platform other than Avo require a power source (battery and solar panel is typical for remote deployments) and a power regulator. SOLO is great choice because it’s a solar charge regulator, intelligent power manager and power system sensor all-in-one (it also allows remote power cycling through eTracker).