Measuring Soil Moisture

In addition to our work to measure pasture production by satellite, our researchers have been measuring soil moisture as part of Aquanty‘s South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) project.

The moisture readings we collect are being compared to data produced by Aquanty’s HydroGeoSphere simulation platform to see if their computer-generated results are matching up with what we are seeing on our sampling missions.

Taking moisture readings is a simple process. As illustrated by PastureTech researcher Tom Crozier in the images below, the researcher simply needs to walk through a selected pasture and stop to stick the pronged ThetaProbe into the ground at random intervals.


The ThetaProbe sensor delivers a signal to the HH2 Moisture Meter, which provides the researcher with a moisture reading from 0 (no moisture) to 100 (complete saturation).


Multiple sample readings need to be taken across the pasture, then averaged, to get an accurate and complete sense of soil conditions. The average moisture score is the number that is ultimately compared with figures from Aquanty’s HydroGeoSphere platform.

This year, it has been easy to see the effects of sufficient—even optimal—moisture. Near Wainwright, the soil was soft and in low areas saturated under foot. Grass was thick and long, and the countryside very green. Our soil moisture readings reflected these observations.


If Aquanty’s model and technology provide an accurate representation of what pasture producers are seeing on the ground, Aquanty could help insurance providers create a model that includes set premiums based on history-based risk assessments of individual ranches. These assessments would take into account past large-scale climate related events (excess moisture, flooding and drought) to determine the likelihood of similar events recurring at the same location down the road.

Yesterday, Aquanty presented the SSRB project at the Australasian Groundwater Conference in Sydney, Australia. As stated in their presentation abstract, “results from this work demonstrate that comprehensive physically-based hydrologic simulation platforms are becoming increasingly relevant and feasible tools for addressing water related challenges facing global agriculture.”

“Once complete, the SSRB modelling platform will facilitate large-scale spatially-distributed projections of flood, drought, and other water-related risks to crop production at unprecedented detail, over temporal intervals ranging from days to decades.”

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