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Soil Moisture Monitoring
24 November 2021
2021 Issue 8
In this edition:

The soil moisture monitoring project, with the use of underground probes, provides real-time soil water content data to Victoria’s farmers.
Monitoring sites have been set up in cropping regions throughout the state by Agriculture Victoria.
The sites record soil water content at one source point from 30 centimetres down to one metre as a reference point for a paddock.

Sites monitored include: Werrimul, Ouyen, Speed, Kerang, Birchip, Normanville, Lah, Bangerang, Taylors Lake, Coonooer Bridge, Raywood, Elmore, Youanmite, Hamilton, Lake Bolac, Tatyoon, and Sale.
Locations of Agriculture Victoria soil moisture monitoring sites

To access information provided in the graphs, log onto the new Agriculture Victoria soil moisture monitoring dashboard.

No login or passwords are required, and speedos are automatically updated.

Victorian rainfall deciles for October. Wimmera and Mallee received average to patches of above average rainfall in September.  The eastern side of Victoria was average.

Figure 1: October rainfall deciles for Victoria

Decile 4 - 7 rainfall for the majority of the western half of the cropping areas in Victoria during October but there are also some districts with storm cells and isolated large rain totals at the end of the month. The North East cropping area was around average and the South West, northern country and Gippsland cropping areas were wetter at decile 8  to 10 for the month.

Victoria rainfall totals for October.

Figure 2: Rainfall totals for October

Crop responses were observed with rainfall above 25 millimetres. Areas with greater than 50 millimetres in this time period had freely available water that assisted wheat progress through grain fill.

Month to date rainfall (22 November).

Figure 3. Month to date (22 November) rainfall totals for Victoria

South of Bendigo and areas in east Wimmera are on track for above average November rainfall with greater than 50 millimetres recorded (month to date and further rain forecast). There was a significant storm centred on St Arnaud and around Charlton that contributed to these high totals. The South West has been drier.

Month rainfall percentages for Moisture (month to date). St Arnaud is 200 per cent of mean.

Figure 4. Month to date (22 November) rainfall percentages for Victoria

St Arnaud has already received 200 per cent of monthly mean November rainfall and the nearby Charlton SMM site received > 50 millimetres of rain in the storm on November 3.  We observed rain infiltrate down to 60 centimetres at Charlton as an example of high rainfall impact on a ripe wheat crop

Further rain was forecast post this reporting period that could increase rainfall deciles in these areas.®ion=vc&year=2021&month=11&day=21

Speedo assessments

Soil moisture measurements collected by the Agriculture Victoria monitoring network indicate very few monitoring sites increased their deep soil moisture levels in the past four weeks despite rain during October and November (see figure 3 - 4). Birchip (paddock in fallow - nothing growing) and Gippsland are the exceptions with positive deep soil moisture changes.

The spring rain provided some freely available water to crops through the grain-fill period and grain size is expected to be large which should contribute favourably to yield.

There is still a range of low to low/moderate soil moisture conditions in the Mallee and patches of the Wimmera.  There is evidence of potentially high yielding crops in parts of the Wimmera due to isolated storms during the growing season and more recently in the past three weeks. Large crop biomass with high yield potential has consumed a surprising amount of the paddocks soil moisture reserves. Mallee crops have dried off and no more rain is required.
North Central region crops have filled well with the cool finishing weather in October and crop water use was still observed in early November. Harvest has started and no more rain is required.
North East districts still have medium soil moisture levels, and the high yield potential crops were supported by rain during October and November that has provided freely available water. Canola harvest has started, and no more rain is required.
Some South West Victoria crops have been using high volumes of moisture, driven by high biomass and high yielding potentials and may require further rain to finish to potential.  Low lying areas are still very wet, and the Gippsland monitoring site is still wet at depth.


Soil moisture speedos 16 November 2021

Note -  use to monitor the changes to the sites relevant to you inbetween the next reporting period and following rain events

Ag Vic SMM network site percentages. Werrimull 48%, Normanville 32%, Speed 53%, Ouyen 28%, Birchip 70%, Brim 28%, Sheep Hills 47%, Taylors Lake 32%.
Speedo soil moisture graphs
Werrimull soil moisture (30-100cm)
Werrimull Speedo, moisture currently 48%
Individual soil moisture trace from Werrimull, decreases at 70-90cm.

Werrimull stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2020/2021 view
The late sown wheat at Werrimull continued to deplete moisture from the whole profile but particularly at 70 to 80 centimetres in late September and early October as rainfall was not meeting crop water demands. In the district, early germinating barley is being harvested and no more rain is required.  November rain infiltrated down to 40 centimetres.

Ouyen soil moisture (30-100cm)
Ouyen soil moisture is currently 27 per cent.
Ouyen individual soil moisture traces. Moisture was used down to 60 - 70cm have been used by the wheat in September/October.

Ouyen stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021 view

Wheat at the Ouyen monitoring site finished on October rainfall as this was enough to meet crop demands. Low to moderate residual moisture still exists at many depths. Rainfall in early November was enough to infiltrate down to 30 centimetres.

Speed soil moisture (30-100cm)
Speed speedo showing 53%

There has been some moisture depletion by the wheat crop at Speed and 18 per cent of the moisture profile was used in the last three weeks of October.  Rainfall in early November has paused this deep moisture depletion as the crop obtains the freely available water from the top horizon of soil and should benefit crop yield.

Normanville soil moisture (30-100cm)
Normanville speedo moisture currently 30%

Some residual moisture has been left at depth after the vetch hay crop was cut in late September, effectively stopping crop water use.  Despite the rain since, there has been no moisture increase to rebuild soil profiles.

Birchip soil moisture (30-100cm)
Birchip speedos moisture currently 70%
Deep soil moisture changes/improvements down to 70cm.

Deep soil moisture changes down to 70 centimetres at the medium/heavy soil type at Birchip. Paddock is in fallow and has an opportunity to allow greater moisture infiltration if there are further rain events as forecast.

Brim soil moisture (30-100cm)
Brim speedo moisture currently 27%

The vetch crop was cut for hay in September.  Rainfall has been sufficient to provide a small increase to soil moisture conditions in the 30 - 50 centimetre zone. Surrounding grain crops would have utilised this rain.

Sheep Hills soil moisture (30-100cm)
Sheep Hills speedo 45 per cent.
Sheep Hill stacked individual sensors that used moisture at depths of 90-100 cm during late November. Deep moisture use has now paused while the crop uses the water from recent rain and crop maturity.

Sheep Hills summed and stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021 view

The crop being monitored is canola and is displaying high moisture requirements. All the moisture reserves built up over the winter were consumed during September and the crop was using residual moisture from the paddock history of vetch hay last year.  During late October, the canola was sourcing soil water from 90 - 100 centimetres and dried that zone down to levels not seen since 2015.

Taylors Lake soil moisture (30-100cm)
Taylors Lake speedo soil moisture currently 31%

There was 30 per cent of moisture used in the past two months by the clover at the Taylors Lake site with additional rain providing ideal conditions for pasture production.

North Central
Coonooer Bridge soil moisture (30-100cm)
Coonooer Bridge soil moisture speedo at 73%.

Moisture has moved down to 50 centimetres with a storm event on 3 November. There is enough moisture for grain fill in this district and paddocks are banking moisture for next season.

Elmore soil moisture
Elmore soil moisture speedo is 30 per cent.

Elmore stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021 view

The monitored canola crop flowered for seven weeks (from 16 August to 5 October) and experienced peak water use during this time. Moisture for pod-fill, was predominately accessed from rainfall and provided four weeks of freely available water for finishing this crop. Windrowed on 9 November, the crop is just days away from harvest.

Serpentine soil moisture (30-100cm)
Serpentine speedos current soil moisture 25%

Acknowledgment to Raywood Regen Ag group for this soil moisture site report from Central Victoria. Over the past seven weeks, the wheat crop has only depleted 10 per cent of the residual moisture as the cool wet spring has provided the moisture for the crop to progress through the end of flowering and grain fill.

Raywood soil moisture (30-100cm)

Raywood soil moisture profiles are at 32 per cent.

Despite good rain events through October and early November, this wheat crops water demands have been large as a high yield potential exists.  At times there has been evidence of wheat using moisture down at 1 metre. The crop has matured, and further rain will provide no benefit to the crop.

North East
Youanmite soil moisture (30-100cm)
Youanmite speedo moisture currently 40%
Youanmite individual sensor soil moisture graph has had soil moisture use at the depths of 60 - 100 centimetres.

Youanmite stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021 view

The wheat crop has been consuming large amounts of moisture in the past month at a range of depths. In early November, the roots were predominately using moisture from 70 - 90 centimetres as it was drying above this depth.  Rain on November 12 (which was predominately located in North East Victoria) has provided the moisture for finishing grain fill. Potential yield calculations were determined to be 5.2t/ha with 418 heads per metre, again showing high yield potential crops have very high water requirements and deep soil moisture reserves are critical.

Dale Boyd in a crop of wheat at the Youanmite site, yield estimate is 5.2t/ha
Gippsland cropping
Gippsland (Giffard) soil moisture (30-100cm)
Gippsland speedo moisture currently 90 per cent

The Giffard West site still has a wet deep profile and some of the deeper sensors are saturated.  Shallow moisture starting to be used by the wheat.

South West
Lake Bolac SMM (30-100cm)
Lk Bolac soil moisture levels at 8 per cent

Lake Bolac has used large amounts of sub-soil moisture in the past two months. Spring rain has had no impact with building soil moisture reserves, just pausing the depletion from the deeper root zones.  Inspection of the crop on 18 November identified a dense wheat crop with high water requirements. The long season wheat was still progressing through flowering and requiring more water to support filling the large heads. The soil profile when cored was confirmed as being dry to depth. Crop yield calculations determined there were 600 - 700 heads metre and heads up to 11 florets long, providing a potential yield of 8.2t/ha. It was still too early to determine the success of grain fill in all flowers.

Lake Bolac stacked seperate trace soil moisture graph. Moisture is being used at 90 - 100 centimetres.
Photos of the wheat crop at Lake Bolac. Yield potential is 8.2t/ha.
Hamilton soil moisture (30-100cm)
Hamilton soil moisture speedo 32%

Canola at Hamilton has used 60 per cent from full in the past two months, progressing through flowering and pod fill.  During that time there has been rain supporting the crop production, but it has not met crop water requirements.  Some moderate deep soil moisture reserves exist.

Yalla-Y-Poora soil moisture (30-100cm)
Yella-Y-Poora summed soil moisture sensor moisture graph. Shallow soil moisture is starting to be used.

Yalla-Y-Poora stacked individual soil moisture graph – 2021 view

A new commissioned site at Yalla-Y-Poora to validate an existing monitoring point reached field capacity numerous times during the year. The wheat crop accessed moisture down to 60 centimetres and rain on 12 November was still used by the crop for grain fill.

Photos of Yalla-Y-Poora SMM site with wheat growing and a yield potential of 6.6t/ha.

Crop yield calculator (using the GIAV app) for the 2021 crop tour. Crop density ok (wet year could have reduced tillering) head development good with head length consistently averaging 7 -– 8 florets long and filling 4 wide with up to 5 in places.  Yield estimate for the Beaufort wheat variety is 5.5 – 6.6 t/ha depending on final grain number and grain size.


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