The URNRD has had cost-share programs to incentivize the use of soil misture probes since 2011. The vast majority of the probes installed under the cost share programs have been the newest generation of capicitance probes with data transmitted to irrigators via telemetry systems. Most have software programs that provide easy-to-read illustrations of available soil moisture at varying root depths and recommendations on whether irrigations are needed. Research indicates that use of the probes can reduce irrigation applications by 1"-2" annually. Discussions with irrigators who regularly use probes verify those figures. Since 2011, approximately 185 probes have been installed on about 29,000 acres in the District.
The District's cost share programs are dependent on grant funds. In the past, grant funds have been made available by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and, primarily, the Nebraska Environmental Trust. In 2015, the Nebraska Environmental Trust approved a $100,000 grant to the URNRD to help reduce irrigators' cost of purchasing or leasing soil moisture probes. As of May 2015, all the grant funds have been obligated for approximately 85 probes.
The URNRD will continue to pursue grant funds to defray the cost of probes and will make applications available when and if additional grant funds are available.
The District sells traditional moisture probes that allow growers to pull soil core samples from a depth of up to 30". The cost of the probes is $177.67. To buy a probe from the District, call the office at 308-882-5173.
The Nebraska Environmental Trust is funded with proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery and has awarded more than $228 million to conservation projects since 1994.