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The UN World Water Report 2020 – What Does it Say About Agriculture?

agriculture irrigation

There isn’t another human need as critical as clean water. Despite this, according to the UN World Water Development Report 2020, 2.2 billion people currently do not have access to safely managed drinking water, and 4.2 billion live without carefully managed sanitation.

The UN’s Water Report says that agriculture uses the most water globally – 69%. Read this blog for our key take-aways on water usage in farming!


Global water use has increased sixfold over the past century. It is rising by approximately 1% a year.

UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, aims to guarantee access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all people within ten years.

This goal is admirable, but unfortunately, and as the report also concludes, it is threatened by global climate change, which is severely affecting the availability, quality, and quantity of water needed for safe drinking and sanitation.

Agriculture Water Usage

Agriculture is the biggest user of water. It accounts for 69 percent of global water withdrawals.

agriculture water usage

Global agriculture water withdrawal

The climate change, the increasing temperatures, and drought will hit the irrigation land used by agriculture dramatically. Although it only accounts for 2.5% of the total land area, it represents 20% of all cultivated land and generates some 40% of the global agricultural output.

This makes climate change, shortage of water resources a treat to the world’s food production. Also, water withdrawal, diversion, application, and drainage can produce long-term environmental externalities such as groundwater depletion, soil salinization, and pollution from runoff and drainage.

Water Usage in Livestock

agriculture irrigation livestock

Meat production, including beef, pork, poultry, and sheep, is expected to grow 77% by 2030 in developing countries. Also, non-ruminants, i.e., pigs and poultry are expected to see high growth rates.

Consequently, livestock water withdrawal will grow too, and not only due to the evapotranspiration on grazing land. Livestock also requires extensive watering and cooling of live animals as well as irrigation water for the production of fodder and imported protein concentrate such as soya or grain.

Given this expected growth, the extent of grazing land and its sensitivity to drought are essential, since feed substitutes such as soya and cereals are predominantly rainfed and are likely to be impacted unless production is buffered by irrigation.

UN’s Water Strategies: Adaptation and Mitigation  

The UN water report promotes two complementary strategies in resolving the water challenge: adaptation and mitigation.

While it is essential for water management to adapt to climate change and to address increasing water stress for agriculture and industry, water management can also play a vital role in the mitigation of climate change. Concrete water efficiency measures can have a direct effect on energy savings, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Specific water management interventions such as conservation agriculture, wetland protection, and other nature-based solutions can help to sequester carbon in biomass and soils.

Advanced wastewater treatment can help reduce GHG emissions while supplying biogas as a source of renewable energy.

How Can Technology Help to Combat Water Challenge?

The UN report sees that technology can have a critical role in managing the global water crisis. The integration of science, technology, and innovation policies into water development strategies can contribute to raising efficiency, improving resilience, and fostering the transition towards sustainability within the water sector.

Innovation provides more affordable and efficient technological tools, enables their implementation, and is indeed central to bringing water-related scientific knowledge and technology into practice.

Science, technologies, and innovation are rapidly evolving, and they continue to support several water-related management activities, including

  • overall assessment and monitoring of water resources and hydrological processes
  • conservation, recovery, and reuse of water resources
  • adaptation of infrastructures
  • cost reduction in treatment and distribution processes
  • the efficiency of water supply delivery and use
  • access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Several innovations in the water sector have deepened the collective understanding of climate-related challenges and provided new ways to adapt to climate change and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

How Soil Scout Helps Farmers Reduce Water Usage?

In agriculture, water can be saved by optimizing irrigation. However, you can do this only if you can measure soil moisture reliably!

Only ~ 30 percent of the significant agronomic phenomena occur above ground, while the majority (~70%) of it takes place underground. Despite this, traditional precision agriculture and farming data applications only observe how the above-the-ground weather affects plant growth. This data doesn’t enable farmers to optimize irrigation efficiently!

Soil Scout provides farmers the easiest solution for monitoring underground soil information such as moisture, salinity, and temperature continuously using a wireless solution. With Soil Scout, you can follow long-term correlations between soil moisture and crop yield, optimizing your irrigation while increasing productivity – and saving water!

Learn more about Soil Scout’s wireless underground soil monitoring solution!

soil moisture sensor


How to Optimize Soil Moisture for Best Crop Productivity?

optimize soil moisture for best crop productivity

As a farmer, you probably know how drought can impact your crops. But, did you know that even short periods of reduced soil moisture diminishes crop growth, and lowers your profitability?

The problem is that it is almost impossible to optimize underground soil moisture by measuring the above-the-ground weather with rain gauges, aerial images, or drones. 

There is a smarter way, though. With underground wireless soil sensors, you can monitor root-zone soil moisture accurately, and see the data in real-time. The sensors are easy to install, no cables are needed, and they run 20 years underground without maintenance.

Read this blog to learn how to optimize soil moisture by using underground sensors!  

(The findings are based on recent research on the effect of soil moisture on plant growth – you can download the full research report.) 

How Does Soil Moisture Affect Plant Growth?

There’s a common misbelief that only severe drought limits crop growth. It’s true that total crop failure only occurs when plants wilt permanently, but recent research conducted with underground soil sensors clearly shows that yield losses start to develop much earlier – immediately when root-zone soil moisture falls below the optimal range.

Even a small water deficiency has several negative impacts on plants. Less water means less photosynthesis, which means lost growth. Simultaneously, less water uptake means less nutrient uptake.

optimal soil moisture diagram

Diagram from the research: the areas with the highest yields stayed within the optimal soil moisture window throughout the entire growing season – 100% of the time. In comparison, the lowest yield area had optimal soil moisture level, only 25% of the time.

Also, when root-zone soil moisture is not optimal, plants waste energy in obtaining water from the soil, which has an inadequate water supply. In other words, the energy, which the plant would typically use for growing, is partially lost because it is now spent on water uptake.

These are the reasons why water availability is the most critical growth factor, and even short periods of insufficient soil moisture reduces growth, productivity, and profitability.

Don’t Measure Weather When You Want to Understand Soil!

Farmers have always put in their best effort to ensure that their fields provide sufficient moisture for plants. However, with the traditional methods and tools, it has been nearly impossible to measure and manage soil moisture accurately. Above-ground observation appliances do not provide the needed underground soil insight. Why?

Firstly, the rain gauges that most farms use to get even a slight understanding of their plants’ growing conditions are not good for estimating underground soil moisture. Actual root-zone water availability is a combination of initial status, drainage, capillary water rise, plant transpiration, and evaporation – and they all vary a lot even within the same field, and that cannot be measured with a rain gauge.

Secondly, the intensity of a single rain event can easily vary 50% per every half a kilometer. Different parts of a field do not get an equal amount of water. This is yet another reason why soil moisture varies a lot within a field, which results in uneven growth.

Thirdly, single-spot soil sensors are not practical because every part of the field is different. Regional ET models and water deficiency estimates are no better in revealing the huge differences within your fields, not to mention answering the essential questions:

  • How severe is the actual moisture deficiency in the root-zone?
  • Which parts of the field are affected?
  • For how long have those regions suffered from restricted growth?

Clearly, observations on what happens in the air do not give you accurate information about the underground soil moisture. These inaccurate estimations lead to management-by-guesswork, and you end up reacting to damage that has already occurred.

So, why don’t you ask the soil itself?

How to use Wireless Underground Soil Sensors?

soil moisture sensor

With the new wireless soil monitoring technology, you don’t have to settle for guesswork based on weather observations, and inconsistent sampling!

You can bury underground wireless soil sensors in different parts of your field at different depths. The Soil Scout sensors measure underground soil moisture, temperature, and salinity, and upload the data every 20 minutes. You can see the information on your smartphone or laptop.

Based on this data, you can easily follow long-term trends, compare root-level soil moisture in different areas, and treat each area in an optimized way – and improve productivity across your fields.

The wireless soil sensors are easy to install; you simply bury them. They do not have cables, so you can dig them deep enough to stay safe from your machinery. You can go on with your farming as if there were no sensors! The battery can operate up to 20 years underground; no maintenance is needed.

With permanently buried soil sensors, installed in the root zone, below the plants, your soil moisture management becomes fast, easy, and accurate. When sensors are placed in carefully chosen locations, they allow you to observe and learn moisture trends from season to season, and improve productivity, year by year.

Download the Soil Scout solution description.

In Conclusion

Soil moisture varies significantly in different parts of a field, which causes variable yields, and reduces overall efficiency and productivity.

You can only manage what you measure! With Soil Scout underground sensors, you can find the root cause of low yield areas, identify regions, which require improved water-holding, or better drainage, see when irrigation is needed, and observe correct dosage, and add fertilizer only where plants benefit from it.

In other words, you can finally manage soil moisture! 

The findings are based on recent research on the effect of soil moisture on plant growth – you can download the full research report. It provides actionable guidelines for using Soil Scout to collaborate with your soil, to produce the best possible crop!

Learn how accurate underground soil data enables you to increase crop productivity! Contact our sales team!

Optimize Sports Turf Irrigation and Maintenance with Underground Soil Data

optimize sports turf irrigation

The primary challenge in Sports Turf Irrigation, is: how to ensure a safe, durable, and high-quality playing field while optimizing water consumption and maintenance costs?

The irrigation is often scheduled based on inaccurate information. As a result, Turf Managers cannot achieve optimal turf conditions, water is wasted, and repeated maintenance activities increase costs.

There is an alternative – by using Underground Wireless Sensors; you can easily monitor soil quality data in real-time in multiple spots, detect the infield soil variations and irrigate each part of your turf in an optimized way – saving costs, time, and water! 

Soil Scout provides wireless soil monitoring at many sports and golf turfs globally – including the iconic venues, the Wembley Stadium, and Philadelphia Phillies.

In this Blog, we explain how to optimize sports turf irrigation and maintenance with underground soil data!

Download our whitepaper – Data-driven Sports Turf Maintenancefor 10 Tips for using underground soil data to improve turf quality!

What’s the Main Challenge in Sports Turf Irrigation?

Lack of accurate underground soil data, which would also provide an insight into the infield soil variations, makes irrigation optimization difficult for Turf Managers.

The turf maintenance staff often use hand-held measurement instruments to collect soil data. However, poor repeatability of the exact measuring spots reduces the consistency of manually collected data. Further, collecting enough samples to compensate for this inconsistency, not to mention covering an entire field properly, becomes an excessively laborious task.

Automated irrigation is usually scheduled according to evapotranspiration (ET) models, which are unable to expose local differences such as uneven precipitation – let alone providing enough granularity to detect the infield variations in soil moisture.

How Unoptimized Irrigation Affects Turf?

sports turf irrigation

Unfortunately, scheduling Turf Irrigation based on inadequate information causes several problems.


Under-watering a turf results in a hard field surface, which increases the risks of shin splints, and shoulder and knee injuries, and slows down turf growth. Increased salinity, on the other hand, reduces grassroots’ ability to take up water and nutrients.


On the contrary, over-irrigation intensifies unnecessary turf growth and results in lush turf, which doesn’t tolerate heavy use. Wet soil surface compacts quickly and the roots’ ability to access water deeper in the soil. Many weed problems emerge due to over-irrigation. Over-irrigation increases leaching of nutrients, and denitrification (nitrogen is lost into the air).

Unbalanced Irrigation

The ET-models cannot provide sufficient detail for detecting soil moisture variations between different parts of the field. Hence the irrigation is applied uniformly across the entire field – even though the parts exposed to most sun and wind would require more water compared to the areas which stay most time in the shade or receive more intense natural precipitation.

You end up wasting the maintenance budget on reactive care, rather than investing in proactive, long-term turf development!

Consequently, it is impossible to achieve optimal field conditions without accurate underground soil data. Instead, extra maintenance actions are required throughout the season. Consumption of fertilizers and water surfactants increases, much water is wasted in the process, and, consequently, you end up wasting the maintenance budget on reactive care, rather than doing proactive, long-term turf development.

The Solution: Optimize Sports Turf Irrigation with Underground Soil Sensors

sport turf soil monitoring solutionThe solution is underground soil monitoring using wireless sensors, which are easy to deploy and can measure moisture, salinity, and temperature in multiple spots at your turf in real-time. With the data provided by the underground sensors, you can determine precisely, which parts of the turf need to be treated, and when – and where do you need more sensors to support your agronomical problem assessment!

Why Should You Monitor the Infield Soil Variations?

With the underground sensors, you don’t have to settle for inaccurate information based on a single average moisture value for the entire field. Instead, you can place multiple underground sensors across your field in the locations you know are different by experience, monitor different parts of the field separately, and apply an individual management plan for each of them.

By capturing the infield variations in your field, you can apply the right site-specific maintenance activities, identify the optimal areas and replicate the conditions, eliminate quality variations, avoid unnecessary maintenance activities, and refocus your maintenance efforts and budget on more pressing issues and proactive turf development. So, by monitoring infield soil variations, you can avoid unbalanced irrigation!

The Benefits of Underground Soil Monitoring

sports turf irrigation soil data

When you monitor the soil quality below the field surface, you can avoid the problems of under-watering and over-irrigation. Here’s a rundown of the benefits:

  • Improve the field quality and minimize infield quality variations
  • Optimize the field hardness and minimize injuries
  • Increase the maintenance work efficiency
  • Reduce water consumption
  • Avoid leaching – use fertilizers more efficiently
  • Diminish the need for expensive water additives and surfactants
  • Optimize turf growth pace
  • Reduce reactive maintenance costs and invest in proactive development instead!

Why should you choose Soil Scout’s Wireless Soil Sensor?

sports turf wireless soil sensor

Soil Scout is a highly accurate underground wireless sensor, which provides you with soil moisture, salinity, and temperature data in real-time on the Cloud – on a smartphone, or your irrigation system among the many alternatives.

The sensors are easy and quick to install, and you can monitor the soil conditions with any number of sensors buried in the field. You can start with a small number of sensors, and simply dig in more whenever the need arises.

The cost-efficient system allows you to cover an entire field, collect data from multiple spots, and to capture the infield variations in soil moisture, salinity, and temperature accurately.

Soil Scout sensors are entirely maintenance-free. The sensors are fully buried, allowing for obstacle-free turf maintenance – the battery lasts for more than ten years of continuous operation.

The unique, patented radio technology of Soil Scout is developed and optimized for underground wireless data transmission. The underground antenna autonomously adjusts itself to the soil’s electromagnetic conditions providing the highest performance in the market – reaching the antennas hundreds of meters away!

No SIM card is required on the sensors. A simple above-the-ground antenna picks up the sensors’ signals and transmits the data to the Cloud via a cellular modem.

Soil Scout is not just a simple soil moisture sensor without a cable. The complete system allows you to gain a deeper view with rich, accurate data to collaborate with your agronomist, to find out even better practices for pesticides and nutritional regimes, following the recorded moisture, salinity, and temperature levels from a season to another. It is a multi-faceted agronomic tool – you can decide on the way to use the data!

In Conclusion

Sports Turf Irrigation is only as accurate and efficient as the data behind it!

With Soil Scout, you don’t have to settle for outdated and inconsistent soil moisture information anymore. Soil Scout provides you with a smooth and cost-efficient wireless solution for monitoring real-time underground data with unprecedented accuracy. Now, you can be sure that your turf is going to deliver a safe, high-quality arena for sports until the end of the season – with less water and lower costs!

Learn how accurate underground soil data enables you to Optimize the Turf! Contact our sales team!

Download our whitepaper – Data-driven Sports Turf Maintenance – it gives turf professionals 10 Tips for using underground soil data for optimized turf maintenance!

Mississaugua Golf relies on Soil Scout

‘We are using Soil Scout to provide us with up to the second data on what is happening below the turf surface. We have remote access from anywhere in the world at the touch of a button and have quickly become reliant on the convenience that this service provides. The product was easy to install and the Soil Scout team has been very quick to help us get set up and when we have needed support we have had no issues. We look forward to building on our infrastructure and expanding beyond our current use’

Jon Smith
Golf Course and Property Manager
Mississaugua Golf and Country Club, Ontario, Canada