August 10, 2011

The following is a post from Zach Simons. Zach is working on a masters degree through the master of Ag. program with a specialization in turfgrass science. He is working this summer with Dr. Van Cline at Toro in Minneapolis on a very interesting project that involves the mapping of soil conditions in turfgrass areas using remote sensing and GPS (global positioning system) technology. This is part of his creative component for his MS degree.

If you get Golf Course Management, you will find an article on this technology by Dr. Cline and Dr. Carrow of the University of Georgia in the August issue.

From Zach:
The increased emphasis on reducing water usage in the turf industry has increased the need for site-specific management. Toro has been developing a product called the Precision Sense 6000 (PS 6000) that can give site-specific soil information in turfgrass. The PS 6000 is a mobile sensing machine that measures soil moisture, soil salinity, soil compaction, and turf vigor. It is designed to be used on golf course fairways and athletic fields. A sensor that measures soil moisture, soil salinity, and soil hardness is attached to a rotating arm on the machine. A spectrometer measures the turf vigor by measuring reflected energy from the turf canopy at a wavelength in the red area in the visible spectrum and a wavelength in the near infrared portion of the spectrum.

The PS 6000 is pulled by a heavy-duty workman set to a speed of 1.9 miles per hour (mph). The machine moves at a speed of 1.9mph so samples are taken every 8 feet with a spacing of 8 to 12 feet between adjacent passes. Data on an average par 4 fairway can be collected in 45 minutes and it takes a day and a half to 2 days to collect data on an entire golf course.

A GPS system is used on the PS 6000 to give the specific site where data was collected. Once the data is collected and processed the results are displayed on Google Earth. Google Earth allows a person to zoom in on a specific hole on the course to analyze the data. Multiple layers can also be displayed on Google Earth so a person could compare the relationship from soil compaction to soil moisture.

Data collection with the PS 6000 should occur at a time when the golf course or athletic field is relying on the irrigation system to water the turf. This is so the data collected reflects the coverage of the irrigation system. When data is collected at that time, it can show areas on fairways that are getting over-watered or under-watered by the irrigation system. An irrigation audit can be performed with the data collected. The audit is performed by determining if the soil has the desired volumetric water content from irrigation. The audit can show many irrigation heads around the golf course that may have problems and the superintendent can make the proper adjustments.

The service that the PS6000 provides will be sold through Toro distributors once it is ready for commercial use. A distributor will have a machine and when a golf course buys the service the distributor will come to the golf course or athletic field and sample the turfgrass. When the PS6000 is ready for commercial Toro’s distributors in California and in the Carolina’s will offer the service first. Toro plans on expanding this service so that more distributors in the U.S. and worldwide will have machines and more customers will have access to the PS6000.

The pictures attached show the results of the data the PS 6000 collects. The first picture is soil moisture, the second picture is soil compaction, and the third picture is turf vigor.

Soil Moisture and Soil Compaction Data


The video attached is of a previous version of the PS 6000. The version of the PS 6000 that will be sent to distributors is equipped with a foamer so the user of the machine can see the previous passes


Nick Christians Professor

Nick Christians, Ph.D. – University professor of turfgrass management, Iowa State University, Department of Horticulture, Ames, IA, and adjunct faculty, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, IA. Dr. Christians received his B.S. from the Colorado State University ...