A NEW tool to help landholders manage their properties and livestock better, according to prevailing seasonal conditions, is now available.
The Hunter Soil Moisture Network provides real time data to support farmers to make decisions around management of climatic variability, natural resource management and seasonal conditions.
It includes nine strategically positioned soil moisture probes - at Borambil, Merriwa, Gungal, Timor, Scone, Singleton, Mt Olive and Gloucester - across the Upper Hunter.
Each probe is set to one metre depth and measures soil moisture and temperature every 15 minutes.
Hunter Local Land Services sustainable agriculture officer Sarah Giblin said the network offered real time local data to assist landholders to make pre-emptive decisions concerning feed, fertiliser and livestock management, including timing their sales or de-stocking.
"The data collected from the probes will help increase producer confidence when making important management decisions during critical stages of the season," she explained.
"They will also help increase producer's ability to minimise their risks when it comes to feed availability and matching their stocking rates appropriately.
"As we have seen during this drought, producers are keen to gain any insight into how they can better manage their land, water and feed supplies and this network is a great tool that will provide essential data for making those time-critical decisions."
The network has been modelled on the Southern Soil Moisture Network, which has been successfully running for a number of years across the south-east NSW.
Hunter Local Land Services also secured funding to further expand the network over coming months.
"We will be installing further probes across the region, including more in the Manning Great Lakes and Lower Hunter, so it becomes a truly region wide tool," Ms Giblin said.
"This will provide landholders with localised data that can assist in managing during periods of climatic variability.
"Not all the readings are currently available as the probes have been installed during drought conditions, so once we get a full wetting event we will be able to provide more detailed data."
This Soil Probe Network partnership project has been supported by Hunter LLS, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare program, Upper Hunter Sustainable Farmers Group, Singleton Beef and Land Management Association, MACH Energy, Glencore Australia, and Hunter Catchment Contributions.
Landholders are encouraged to have a look at the data collected so far by visiting https://hunter.lls.nsw.gov.au/our-region/projects-and-programs/Soil-moisture-network-project