Proximal sensing technologies on soils and plants on Eyre Peninsula


Research organisatons
Funding source

Trial details

Researcher(s) Fabio Arsego (SARDI), Andrew Ware (SARDI), Helena Oakey (Uni of Adelaide)
Year(s) 2018
Contributor SARDI Minnipa Agricultural Centre
Trial location(s) Site 5, Lock, SA
Proximal sensing technologies on soils and plants on Eyre Peninsula locations

This research has developed predictive formulas that can be used by growers to estimate in-season soil moisture at different depths and crop nutrient content from proximal sensing (PS) data.


The upper Eyre Peninsula (UEP) is a challenging environment for growers, due to the Mediterranean-type of climate, where irregular and infrequent winter rainfall patterns are coupled with low soil fertility. Additionally, poor soil structure, low water holding capacity and limited nutrient availability provide challenging conditions for plant growth, as growers currently use granular fertilisers which require good soil moisture conditions to enable the uptake of nutrients. Topsoils from calcareous soils may dry quickly after rain events, which may explain poor water use and nutrient extraction efficiency.


Proximal sensing technologies have the potential to support grower’s nutrient management decisions by monitoring in-season soil and crop water and nutrient content (Allen et al. 2017, Arsego et al. 2017). Compared to the Green Seeker/normalised difference in vegetation index (NDVI) device, newer PS technology can use a wider range of wavelengths to predict soil and crop nutritional status in a non-destructive, quick and inexpensive way. Until recently, PS technology was limited to laboratory use given the size and robustness of the machinery necessary to perform the analysis. The development of small, portable PS devices has now allowed the use of this technology in the field, allowing for the potential for PS to be utilised by growers in their paddocks in the near future. In this research, two years of UEP trials have been combined to calibrate PS for crop nutrient content, and one year of data has been examined for soil moisture and nutrient content.

Key messages
  • Proximal sensing reflectance data predicts soil moisture with reasonable accuracy at depths (0-10, 10-30, 30-90 cm) on upper Eyre Peninsula in 2018.
  • Reflectance data may also be useful for predicting the amount of soil nitrogen and crop macronutrients, including but not limited to nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur.
  • Further experimental data is required to use soil and crop reflectance as a means to predict nutrient content because environmental parameters can confound results.
Lead research organisation South Australian Research and Development Institute
Host research organisation N/A
Trial funding source GRDC DAS00165
Related program N/A

The present project is part of the bilateral investment initiative between SARDI and GRDC (scope study DAS00165). Special thanks to Douglas Green, Stuart Modra, Ian Burrows, John Montgomerie, Tim Howard, Jake Hull and families for providing the location of field trials. Thank you to Brenton Spriggs, Sue Budarick and Katherina for their collaboration with field activities. Thank you to Sean Mason for reviewing this article.

Other trial partners Not specified
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Crop type Wheat
Treatment type(s)
  • Variety: Type
Trial type Experimental
Trial design Replicated

Lock 2018

Sow date 22 May 2018
Harvest date 28 November 2018
Plot size 5 m x 1.6 m
Plot replication 3
Plot blocking randomised complete block design
Plot randomisation randomised complete block design
Paddock history 2017: Pasture-vetch-clover 2016: Scope barley 2015: Mace wheat

120 kg/ha Triple Super Phosphate


Boxer gold® 1.5 L/ha, Avadex® 1.5 L/ha, Treflan® 1.7 L/ha, Round up® 2 L/ha, Hammer® 100 ml/ha, Sulphate Ammonia 800 g/ha

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Trial source data and summary not available
Check the trial report PDF for trial results.
Observed trial site soil information
Trial site soil testing
Not specified
Soil conditions
Trial site Soil texture
Site 5, Lock, SA Red sandy clay loam
Derived trial site soil information
Australian Soil Classification Source
Trial site Soil order
Site 5, Lock, SA Anthroposol
National soil grid Source
NOTE: National Soil Grid data is aggregated information for background information on the wider area
Actual soil values can vary significantly in a small area and the trial soil tests are the most relevant data where available

Soil properties



Site 5, Lock SA 2018

Observed climate information

Rainfall avg ann (mm) 390mm
Rainfall avg gsr (mm) 294mm
Rainfall trial total (mm) 311mm
Rainfall trial gsr (mm) 231mm

Derived climate information

Site 5, Lock SA


Some data on this site is sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology

SILO weather estimates sourced from
Jeffrey, S.J., Carter, J.O., Moodie, K.B. and Beswick, A.R. (2001). Using spatial interpolation to construct a comprehensive archive of Australian climate data , Environmental Modelling and Software, Vol 16/4, pp 309-330. DOI: 10.1016/S1364-8152(01)00008-1.

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Trial last modified: 13-05-2019 12:37pm AEST