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What are some applications for soil moisture data?

A brief overview of how Spire's soil moisture data can be used in a variety of applications.

Pure Agricultural Applications

The majority of global crop damage is related to water - either because there is too much or too little. An accurate understanding of soil moisture conditions is therefore critical to ensure the health and quality of many crops.

To give one example, soil moisture data can enable farmers to precisely monitor their yields and determine which areas of a field require heavier irrigation. This is especially important in dry regions with common water shortages, or areas suffering from prolonged drought as a result of the Earth's changing climate.

Additionally, soil moisture data can help farmers understand the water infiltration capacity of their soil. Infiltration capacity is a key component in runoff forecasting, since runoff is essentially any water that runs over the ground without being absorbed by the soil.

Mixed Agricultural Applications

Understanding and forecasting runoff through soil moisture data has effects beyond the yield of a single crop. Polluted agricultural runoff is one of the primary sources of water pollution in lakes and rivers around the world, which eventually feed into our oceans.

Runoff contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals can build up inside of fish, thereby making its way into the food chain that humans are part of. Toxic algae blooms in coastal waters are also triggered by such runoff, and all of this can pose a direct health risk not only to wild animals and livestock but also to humans themselves.

Of course, areas with excessive runoff are also more prone to flooding. Unexpected flooding can wreak havoc on crops for a variety of reasons. In addition to immediately weakening plant defenses, flooding can also create conditions that increase the quantity of plant pathogens after the waters recede. As a result, crops statistically suffer more disease-related problems after periods of increased flooding.

Other Applications

Below is a list of examples for other applications of soil moisture data:

  • Monitoring of extreme hydrologic events
  • Early warnings for urban floods
  • Groundwater modelling
  • Landslide monitoring
  • Drought monitoring
  • Weather forecasting
  • Vegetation health index
  • Assessing risk of wildfires
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from soil
  • Climate studies
  • Dust control
  • Epidemiological prediction

    • Soil moisture could also be helpful for determining spatial and temporal occurrence of some viral diseases. This is possible because of the effect that soil moisture has on the breeding habitats of certain virus-transmitting organisms, such as some species of bacteria.

    • Another example is using soil moisture data to predict mosquitoes breeding time and rate. Most species of mosquitoes lay eggs either directly on water or in areas where water can collect, since exposure to water plays a significant role in the egg hatching process. For this reason, it is possible to use rainfall, soil moisture, and temperature data to predict the seasonality of some diseases like malaria, which are related to mosquito population sizes.