Pulling Soil Moisture Sensors, Wrapping up NAWMN Season

Pulling Soil Moisture Sensors, Wrapping up NAWMN Season

October 4, 2013

With irrigation wrapped up and harvest starting across the state, those involved with the Nebraska Ag Water Management Network (NAWMN) should remember to pull their Watermark sensors and store their ET Gage for the winter. Taking time to do this now is easier than rushing to pull them in front of the combine and ensures that your sensors and ET Gage are in good working order next spring.

Removing watermark sensorsRemoving Watermark sensors now can help ensure they aren't damaged by harvest and can be used again next year.

When pulling Watermark sensors, be sure to take your time if they don't pull easily. Most of the time, problems arise with sensors in the third foot or deeper, especially in soil textures with high clay content. Removing sensors shortly after a rain, digging down beside the sensor, or using a manufactured puller are all steps that aid in removal. Once sensors are removed, wash them off, and store them somewhere that you will remember next spring. The sensors will not be damaged by freezing so heated storage is not necessary.

When pulling sensors:

  • Mark any that have been giving strange readings and need to be replaced.
  • Take note of the location of the sensors. If the area represented the rest of the field well during the year, make plans to install sensors in the same location next spring. If the numbers didn't match well with moisture conditions over the rest of the field, make a note to try a different location next year.

If you used a data logger, be sure to download the data to your computer so you can analyze it this winter. One challenge when downloading data is that most computers don't have a serial port, so you will need a USB to serial port adapter to connect to the data logger. If you don't already have one, they are readily available at computer stores or online.

If you used an ET Gage to help schedule your irrigations, remember to put it away before the first frost to avoid breaking the ceramic top. Simply drain any remaining water and store until next spring. As with the Watermark sensors, when pulling take note of whether the location gave good readings over the season. If not, make plans to try a different location, possibly farther away from trees or corn fields.

Aaron Nygren, Extension Educator
Gary Zoubek, Extension Educator
Chuck Burr, Extension Educator