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Testing Soil Moisture Sensors in Florida; Five Years of Results

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  5th National Decennial Irrigation Conference Proceedings, 5-8 December 2010, Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, Arizona USA  IRR10-9600.(doi:10.13031/2013.35898)
Authors:   Bernard Cardenas-Lailhacar, Michael D Dukes, Mary Shedd McCready, Melissa B Haley
Keywords:   Soil moisture sensor, Irrigation scheduling, Automation, Irrigation water, Water use, Potable water, Turfgrass, Turf quality

Recently developed soil moisture sensor systems (SMSs) for residential irrigation control have been introduced into the market. This paper describes and summarizes research carried out in central Florida, evaluating different commercially available SMSs. The goal was to find out if SMSs could reduce irrigation water application, compared to typical residential irrigation systems without sensor feedback. Different thresholds settings and irrigation frequencies were considered. The effect of these variables on the turf quality was also evaluated. Results on turfgrass plots showed that the 7 days-per-week irrigation frequency significantly reduced the water applied, compared to the 1 and 2 days-per-week scheduling settings. During rainy periods the SMSs tested cut irrigation by 42 72% on average, depending on the testing site, while maintaining good turf quality. However, during dry periods, the average savings decreased to 27 54%, and the resultant turf quality was sometimes at the minimum acceptable level. Therefore, run times, irrigation frequency, and /or low threshold settings should be increased under sustained dry weather conditions. Results of more than 2 years of study under residential conditions show that SMSs decreased the water application by 65%, compared to homes with automatic irrigation systems without sensor feedback. These results clearly demonstrate that the use of SMSs in Florida when properly installed, set, and maintainedcould lead to important irrigation water savings while maintaining good turf quality.

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