Managing golf course irrigation with soil moisture monitoring

Friday, 03 June, 2016 | Supplied by: Outpost Central

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It is often taken for granted how well-maintained, lush and green some golf courses appear. Golf course superintendents are responsible for keeping the course green, all within a water allowance and operating budget.

Pumping water for irrigation requires power and, in Western Australia, uses the precious shared resource of groundwater (which is also a significant source of potable water). With a drying climate, pressure to use water efficiently is a must, and demonstrating or validating efficiency is not far behind.

Using tools to fine-tune irrigation can give confidence in the practices that are occurring on the golf course and will demonstrate efficiency. A wildeye soil moisture system, recently installed at Wembley Golf Course in the Town of Cambridge, has done just that for golf course superintendent Darren Wilson.

Wilson uses changes in evaporation and had a handheld probe to help guide soil moisture, so he was already doing all the right things. However, wildeye’s two sensors measure and log percentage soil moisture every 15 minutes, allowing him see the full story and fine-tune his irrigation.

A probe is placed in the root zone to show the plant available water status and can be used to determine duration between irrigations. A second probe, below the root zone, can be used to fine-tune irrigation depth to minimise drainage and ensure any water applied stays in the root zone where intended.

“Any system like wildeye that can reduce pumping hours and assist me in using water efficiently is useful,” said Wilson. “To be able to back up your experience, and see where the water is moving through the profile via a remote website, helps ensure guesswork is taken out of the equation.”

Wildeye was installed below a fairway at Wembley Golf Course with just a 100 mm valve box left as a sign that it is there. It transmits the data collected via the mobile phone network, is waterproof to an IP68 rating and needs very little signal strength to work. This allows below-surface installations.

The wildeye website provides guidance for different soil types and crops. With its simple web interface, interpretation of data is easy. Data can be viewed on any web-enabled device from any location with internet access.

Wilson has since minimised drainage, as demonstrated by the minimal movement of soil moisture at the drainage indication sensor (installed at a depth of 25 cm). By using the wildeye to check soil moisture, the next irrigation can be scheduled when moisture has fallen and irrigation is needed.

Image credit: ©Iakov Kalinin/Dollar Photo Club

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