There are two pieces to the system, one is the soil probe itself that is inserted into the ground and the other is a small radio transceiver that is mounted inside our current VP controlers and draws power from the controller for operation. There is a small base station in the Turf Office that receives the signal and is viewed through the Sitevision software on the computer in the office. The main display screen, seen above, shows a quick overview of the readings of each of the sensors. Currently we have 9 sensors deployed in locations throughout campus. The main display screen shows soil moisture (top) soil temperature (middle) and the soil salinity(bottom) in a easy to see quick glance.
In the picture above you can see the upper set of probes and the lower set of probes. Each probe is responsible for a different reading. The install is pretty easy. We used a golf course cup cutter to create a clean hole so the sensor can be inserted into undisturbed soil. We chose to place the upper probes at a depth of 2 inches from the top of the soil profile. We recieve readings at 2" and 7" depth in the soil profile.
In the pictures above you can see the sequence of the installation. The cup cutter makes the perfect hole to insert the device into as well as provides us a clean sod plug to put back on top when we are finished. Once the hole is cut to the proper depth to put the top probes at 2" below the soil surface, the probe is then pushed into the side of the hole into the undisturbed soil profile to ensure good tight contact with the soil profile. To make sure we were able to find them we took exact measurements to triangulate the location of each sensor as well as put a large metal washer on the top of the sensor allowing us to use a metal detector to pin-point their exact location.
The real power of the system though is in the data monitoring. I am able to pull up the individual sensors in the field and look closer at the data and determine the profile situation.
This is going to be a great tool in the tool bag to help support the knowledge and decison of the turf staff with scientific data. As we have these systems longer we will continue to learn what a % moisture content truly is like in the field and this will help us to gauge the proper uses of the field and what damage is received from the different types of events at that moisture level.
We will continue to deploy more sensors as funds become available and continue to refine our irrigation practices even further with the use of this new tool.