Creston Orchard Benefits from 24/7 Soil Moisture and Temperature Data

Soil moisture and temperature information is available at 3 soil depths, at all hours of the day on the Smartphones of Molly Thurston and Greg Evans, owners of Kokanee Fruit Tree Company in the Creston Valley. After successfully finding a lease property through the Young Agrarians Land Matching program in 2021, Molly and Greg planted a commercial cherry orchard and installed unique digital soil moisture and temperature sensor probes in their two fields of fruit trees. 

Soil moisture and temperature information is available at 3 soil depths, 8, 16 and 24 inches and the data is available at all hours of the day on their smartphone. 

The probes are a way to become more efficient in using resources like water and fertilizer. By being able to more accurately measure the soil temperature and moisture, there is both environmental and economic benefit. “The monitors help to pinpoint that we are in the right range, using the resources most efficiently,” However, the trees in the orchard are still checked on daily: “It doesn’t replace going to monitor it in person,” says Greg. 

Water usage is already being optimized with the help of the sensors. Greg recalls the hot days in August this year: “At the peak of the season, the hottest days in August, we watered 45 minutes a day; splitting it into three 15 minute cycles at night. The neighbouring block growing the same trees planted at the same time was watering 12 plus hours a day.”

On those hot summer days, the easily accessible data is a sense of relief that the irrigation is working. “Here, you can see on the graph when the water turns on for 15 minutes. You can do the percentage and change in the soil rising. You can see that you’re getting water, and that it’s staying there,” says Greg. 

Would the soil probes be useful for other industries, outside of fruit trees? Absolutely. 

“Using double drip watering to get consistent irrigation across the area, we are able to pinpoint the perfect amount of water usage in the orchard and three trees reflect that,” says Molly, noting that the growth in trees this season left them stunned. “The timing of water and fertilizer applications are critical for growth.” 

The soil moisture and temperature sensors are a useful tool to help use resources as efficiently as possible. “It’s another option. Always use the data to make decisions,” says Greg.

The new weather stations in Creston will be another tool to layer on top of the soil moisture and temperature data. “We’ll look at evapotranspiration data, from the weather stations and compare to what we are observing.” says Molly. 

For next spring, the soil moisture and temperature sensors will be a useful tool to plan the irrigation and fertilizer schedule. This helps Molly and Greg estimate the timing of root growth and plan fertilizer application when the roots are growing and active in the spring. 

Molly concludes: “We are only starting to scratch the surface of monitoring.”

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