Canola School: Determining what available moisture looks like in the field

Every year across the country, there can be a significant difference in not only what moisture looks like, but what is considered to be the “just right” of soil moisture.

So, how do we determine what available moisture looks like?

Jack Payne of South Country Co-op joined this Canola School episode to discuss some of the tools available for both dry and irrigated cropland, to determine exactly what is available for moisture.

Soil type and texture is of course going to play a huge role in this, so understanding what you are working with and sampling different parts of the field is key.

“A sandy soil isn’t going to hold as much water as a clay or clay-loam soil. If you’ve got two feet of moist sand, you’ve got about three inches of plant available water. If you’ve got two feet of a clay soil, you’ve got five inches of plant-available water,” he explains. “The soil texture and the soil type determines what I call the ‘drinking glass’ and the size of it. You’ve got a bigger glass on a clay soil versus a sandy soil.”

Another parameter to consider, says Payne, is what field capacity looks like. What does that specific soil type look (and feel) like when it is fully charged — or at the maximum amount of water it can hold against gravity.

“We need to determine where we are at in terms of per cent of field capacity,” Payne explains. One way to do this, is through a hand-feel moisture test, with the assistance of a Dutch auger. “The auger is great because it allows you to basically cut through samples, and you get some soil that you can actually hand-texture.”

For some visual examples of the different tools you can use, including how to do a hand-texture test, check out the full Canola School video, below:

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