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Soil Moisture Meters Lead to Healthier Turf

Soil Moisture Meters Lead to Healthier Turf

2021-06-18

The level of moisture in golf course greens or in a sports turf field is an important and highly variable component that can affect a course or playing field’s environment and quality. Modern measuring technology has enabled turf managers to better manage the health of their putting greens or turf playing fields.

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Turf fields and golf course greens are supported by a strong root system, which is developed through access to adequate air and water in the soil. It’s critical therefore, for turf managers and golf course superintendents to monitor soil moisture over time with in-ground sensors located in multiple locations, or with portable soil moisture meters. The information helps them better manage irrigation, fertilization, salinity and pressures from disease while maintaining golf course greens and turf sports fields to optimize playability; firm and fast greens, for example, are dependent on the right soil moisture.

While it might seem simple, determining what is the right level of moisture can be a tricky proposition. Turf fields and greens have shallow root systems. So, if the moisture is five inches down, the roots from a golf course green or a high-end athletic turf field can’t reach it. Further complicating the matter is that most of those fields are also sand-based to allow for better drainage, so over-watering just wastes valuable resources that will just drain away. However, over-watering can occur, and turf or greens that are constantly wet and warm are susceptible to funguses, mold and some turf diseases.

Prior to the advent of measurement technology, groundskeepers and turf managers relied only on manual or visual inspections to judge soil moisture. But such readings provide very subjective information. For example, groundskeepers can conduct what is called a ribbon test. Using a knife, they cut some soil out of the green and squeeze it between their fingers, judging by feel how moist the soil is. Experienced groundskeepers or golf course superintendents still might use this method and can glean a pretty good idea of moist soil conditions from that manual test. But the information is still subjective: What one person might call extremely wet another person might say is somewhat wet. Others might use visual assessments to determine when it’s time to water: If the turf is yellowing, curling or drooping, it’s under stress and needs water.

Using technology, groundskeepers and turf managers can now match their visual and manual inspections with objective readings from a soil moisture meter. Such technology can:

  • Provide real-time measurements, replacing traditional guesswork and intuition-based decision making for smarter results and healthier turf or greens conditions

  • Enhance efficiency and provide for labor savings in irrigation management

  • Eliminate waste of valuable resources

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