Moisture sensors are devices that will determine the level of moisture in soil, and allow the turf manager to make better decisions about then to irrigate.
Though sensors have been used in the turf industry for a long time; the technology has not always been applied properly, and the overall success of using sensors is varied.
For sensors to be of value to the turf manager, the following is critical:
Select an appropriate sensor for the job at hand.
Install sensors in the right place (s), so they are representative of the soil(s), turf species and environmental conditions of the whole area being irrigated. (Poor site selection is not uncommon).
Install sensors properly. They must be sensing moisture within the layer of soil where roots are actively growing; and that root depth depends on many things including soil type, environment and plant species in the turf.
Review the use of sensors periodically after installation.
Data from sensors needs to be interpreted properly by turf managers, if it is to be understood and applied appropriately.
Sensors must be calibrated through field site inspections, and core soil sampling; to verify that data collected relates to actual conditions in the soil.
Water Resources are Scarce and Need Better Management
Water resources for turf irrigation may be readily available in some places; but more often, water is a scarce and valued resource, and it needs to be used wisely. The aims of turf managers when planning for irrigation are commonly:
To achieve a consistently high quality turf; able to withstand wear and tear and recover between periods of use.
To get the optimum benefit from water resources.
To reduce the financial and manpower inputs required to sustain a quality turf.
To be accountable to all stakeholders (eg. the club or government authority who owns the turf facility, the players and spectators who might use the facility, the employees who work on maintaining the facility).
When water resources are limited and their use is restricted; the turf manager will need to make decisions not only about how much water to use, but also when, where and how to apply it. Sensors can be aq very important tool in making such decisions. They can tell you very accurately what the affect of different ways of irrigating a site are. Over time sensors can help the manager get to know their site much better; provided they are used appropriately.