Global farmers could get better decision-making help as refinements are made to North Alabama soil moisture modeling research being done by an atmospheric science doctoral student at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The models indicate how much added moisture would be needed in a given area versus historical data to achieve various crop yields, and they could aid in making expensive infrastructure investments by helping to determine their economic viability.

UAH researcher James Cruise (left) and doctoral student Vikalp Mishra work on soil moisture modeling. (Michael Mercier/UAH)

In areas where water is in short supply, irrigation infrastructure can be expensive and the model could help to determine its economic cost effectiveness. The model uses satellite data to determine the amount of soil moisture present and then estimates yields based on available moisture. The model encompasses all inputs into the crop, including weather, plant spacing, cultivar, fertilizer, soil type and fertility, and others, except precipitation.

At this point, soil moisture profiles are input, and yields can be modeled in kilograms per hectare based on how much soil moisture is available to the crop. The model can provide daily estimates of grain weights as well as water and fertilizer needs within a growing period. The work could prove especially valuable for farmers and government officials in the more arid countries of the world.