Soil moisture best in five years at sowing

Recent rain could have given Victorian croppers one of the best seasonal starts for years.

Up to 100 mm of rain across parts of the state during April 2017 has continued to add to the soil moisture already there from Spring 2016 which already produced some of the best soil moisture banks for five years.

Latest soil moisture monitoring done by Agriculture Victoria shows that soil moisture values, as a collective, are higher than usual for this time of year compared to the past five years of monitoring.

Agriculture Victoria agronomist Dale Boyd said there was variation in soil moisture levels and the largest contributing factor was which crop was grown in 2016 and its yield.

“Generally good residual moisture remains if the crop was cut for hay or the yield expectations were not met for the rain received in 2016,” Mr Boyd said.

“That compares to the high yielding crops – some that were the highest yielding recorded on farms – had done so by using all the available moisture that was in the profile.

“Soil monitoring will again play a vital role in 2017 to understand soil water reserves as we go through the year and will assist with decision making for inputs during the growing season.”

Mr Boyd said recent rain would especially help out those areas where record crops were grown in 2016 and soil moisture was depleted, but is now being built up again. Some of those monitoring points have gone from 25 per cent full to 50-75 per cent which is different to the 2016 season.

“In 2016, the season started very dry and it took a series of rain events through autumn and winter to wet up the top soil horizon,” Mr Boyd said.

“It then started to infiltrate down through the profile in greater amounts in the spring, filling the soil profiles.

“In the Mallee, rain events in September 2016 and October 2016 boosted soil moisture, however some crops were already flowering so that rain infiltrated past the root-zone and was not able to be used by the crop.

“Moisture in these paddocks still remains at depth.

“Recent rain in April 2017 has linked up this deep soil moisture as it moves down through the profile and it presents as a full profile, raising enthusiasm in the cropping districts.

“Most districts now have excellent conditions for sowing crops with healthy moisture reserves for this time of year.”

Soil moisture levels are monitored by Agriculture Victoria as part of a rain and grain project.