Research Matters - Why measure soil water tension?

As concerns grow over whether water will continue to be readily available for irrigation purposes, so it becomes ever more important to use irrigation water precisely. The review cited below is concerned with basing irrigation schedules solely on measurements of soil water tension (SWT).

Such measurements are particularly suited to areas where the soils are uniform, a definition that includes containers of standard compost mixes. Measurements of SWT then provide an accurate estimate of the force needed to extract water from the soil and can be directly related to crop yield and quality.

Of the various devices available to measure SWT, tensiometers probably provide the most direct measure and they can easily be connected to electronic data-capture systems.

The position of the sensor within the soil is critical in order to get a reliable measurement of SWT and knowledge of the soil type is also important when relating SWT to irrigation schedules. When used correctly, SWT measurements should also reduce leaching of nutrients.

The review cites the recommended SWT for various crops in various soils, including onions and potatoes. It suggests that the SWT should be between 1kPa and 6kPa for ornamental crops in greenhouses, but that it should rise to 150kPa when subjecting vines to "restricted deficit irrigation".

Soil Water Tension, a Powerful Measurement for Productivity and Stewardship by Shock and Wang (2011). HortScience 46 (2): 178-185. ISHS members can view HortScience from the website

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

What is being done to develop biocontrols against orchard pests?

What is being done to develop biocontrols against orchard pests?

The SIVAL horticultural trade show in Angers, France, this week (16-18 January) heard about several initiatives to promote more environmentally sustainable orchard growing.

What does the 25-year plan mean for growers?

What does the 25-year plan mean for growers?

Published on 11 January, the Government's long-awaited 'A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment' brings together a number of policy strands into a single framework that will impact many sectors, not least fresh produce, over the coming decades.

What will 'embracing change' mean for horticulture?

What will 'embracing change' mean for horticulture?

At the Oxford Farming Conference, whose theme was "embracing change", Defra secretary Michael Gove expanded on what a post-Brexit UK agriculture and land-use policy will look like and how it will impact farmers and growers.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon