Research Project

Advancing Adoption of Soil Moisture Sensors Through On-Farm Training and Demonstration

Investigators: Drew Gholson, Himmy Lo, Alex Deason, Mark Henry, and Dillon Russell

Funding Agency: Sponsored partially by Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board under project 13-2022, by Mississippi Corn Promotion Board under project 03-2022, and by Cotton Incorporated State Support Program under project 17-526MS.

Date: 2022

Project Summary


On-station and on-farm research have shown that soil moisture sensors can help producers irrigate less while maintaining or even improving yield and profit. However, hesitation to adopt soil moisture sensors remains common in Mississippi and nationwide. Some producers assume that their irrigation scheduling is already near optimal and thus will not benefit from the information reported by sensors. Some other producers are reluctant to continue using sensors because of a negative past experience, such as suspicious sensor readings and malfunctioning telemetry systems. In either case, one-onone guidance from MSU Extension professionals over multiple seasons can assist Mississippi producers in gaining the skills and confidence necessary to adopt soil moisture sensors on their own.


To empower producers to integrate soil moisture sensors fully into their farming operations, we launched an agent-led, multi-year on-farm education program. With generous funding from Mississippi commodity promotion boards and NCAAR, we give telemetry-enabled soil moisture monitoring systems and technical support to interested MSU Extension county agents. These agents recruit producers from their respective counties and provide participants with hands-on training and troubleshooting to deliver the best user experience. Agents then gradually decrease their involvement with day-to-day sensor data interpretation until the participants become active and capable independent users of soil moisture sensors. More than 30 producers across Mississippi participated in 2022, and the crops at the sensor locations included soybean, corn, cotton, and rice. (Figure 1).


Some program participants were convinced of sensors' usefulness so quickly that they bought soil moisture monitoring systems before the first year was over. Some participants ignored the sensors during the first year and were shocked to discover at their end-of-season meeting how much they had overirrigated. This realization motivated them to pay closer attention to the sensors during the second year.

In 2022, 33 producers were in the program and 7 of those were year three participants. Post-training evaluation data not only indicate 100% of participants increased their knowledge and trust in soil moisture sensors. All also intend to adopt soil moisture sensors into their operation while around 30% had already adopted prior to the completion of the program. The program aims to help growers use less water and spend less money irrigating and to understand their role in protecting their water supply and groundwater resources.

  • Topic:
  • Decision

Contact NCAAR

General Information
Kaye Sullivan

Showcase Demo
Drew Gholson, Coordinator
Himmy Lo