To Measure Is To Know

You have not viewed any products recently.


Spectrum Blog

Soil Moisture Meters Lead to Healthier Turf


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.


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

The FieldScout® TDR 350 developed by Spectrum® Technologies uses real-time measurement technology to provide objective data that replaces traditional guesswork and intuition-based decision making with smarter results and healthier field output. Using multiple-length, replaceable rods, the portable tool measures moisture, salinity and temperature in the soil, providing accurate soil moisture readings across a wide range of soil conditions and at various depths. The meter provides accurate, objective information: For example, if one person takes a reading, and the meter says the moisture level is at 20% another person taking the reading will get the same 20% reading.

The TDR 350’s improved easy-to-read, large backlit display and ergonomic design allows greenskeepers and sports turf managers to easily, rapidly and accurately take measurements to capture Soil Volumetric Water Content (VWC), along with Soil Electrical Conductivity (EC), and surface temperature. With integrated Bluetooth and internal GPS, connectivity is easy and fast. The large capacity data logger can record about 50,000 measurements with GPS coordinates. Users can then save the data records to a USB drive. Additionally, they can send them by a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone or tablet with the FieldScout® Mobile App.

For remote monitoring, SpecConnect™ FieldScout® Pro collects in-field data from FieldScout® mobile devices, such as the TDR 350, through an internet connection with the FieldScout® Mobile App. The cloud-based data analysis tool provides a central point for viewing and evaluating real-time data instantaneously on the internet for better decision making. It allows users to view data and create maps.

Across a golf course, greenskeepers are likely to get different readings depending on where they are on the course. It’s critical, therefore, to take readings in different parts of the course to get representative readings. Some holes will have a lot of shade, others won’t — making those areas more susceptible to drying out. By taking site-specific measurements in these microclimates, users receive immediate and relevant data for their golf course or turf field. The data provides useful information to predict, manage and prompt corrective action, if needed.

A golf course superintendent or turf manager can pair the data with knowledge they have — their experience with their greens or turf, the local weather forecast or even the calendar. (Is there a big golf tournament coming up that weekend requiring top-notch playing conditions?) The groundskeepers can then combine that information to decide if any areas of a course need to be watered. Even seasonality and geography can come into play. A golf course superintendent in Michigan, for example, might know that in the spring — when it’s cool and wet — they can set a threshold of 14% volumetric water content (VWC).

If the meter is saying that the soil has a moisture reading below that, it’s time to water. In the summer, however, that same manager might move that threshold up to 19% VWC because they know that with the hot, dry summer weather, the moisture level can drop to 12% VWC rather quickly.

The FieldScout® TDR 350, which earned the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2018 AE50 Award for its innovative design, provides a rugged, yet accurate tool that allows groundskeepers and turf managers to gather data where they need it most, in the field.

To learn more about how Spectrum® Technology’s moisture meter technology can help you with better management of your greens and turf fields, contact us online or call 800-248-8873.