Personnel from the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) are now gathering data for their annual joint pre-plant soil moisture survey.

High Plains Water District and USDA-NRCS personnel use moisture meters to gather data at more than 200 permanently-installed soil moisture monitoring sites within the district's 15-county service area.

Readings are taken at six-inch intervals throughout the five-foot soil profile by lowering a probe into an aluminum access tube at the site. These data are later processed to calculate the moisture level in the soil (available moisture) and how much moisture the soil can still hold for plant use (deficit moisture).

Maps are constructed illustrating the location of soil moisture monitoring sites within the district and the crop type, irrigation application method, and amount of soil moisture in the upper three feet and upper five feet of the soil at each site.

"This information allows producers to review soil moisture conditions for several sites in their area, and then make pre-plant irrigation decisions based upon information from those sites and their own on-farm soil moisture test," said Scott Orr, agricultural group supervisor.

The High Plains Water District and the USDA-NRCS strive to provide timely soil moisture information to assist producers with management decisions for the 2009 growing season. Results of the 2009 pre-plant soil moisture survey will be provided to news media and published in The Cross Section, the Water District's newsletter.

Additional information about the 2009 pre-plant soil moisture survey is available by calling the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District at (806) 762-0181 or visiting the water district's web site at http://www.hpwd.com/programs/MoistureSurvey.asp.