Irrigating During Heat: Reesink Turfcare’s Robert Jackson discusses irrigating during warm weather.
2018 was certainly the year irrigation systems across the country had their work cut out. It delivered the hottest weather the UK had experienced since 1976 and in some parts of the country months passed without rainfall.
Many clubs react to extreme weather by seemingly panicking that their irrigation system isn’t up to scratch, and then as soon as the weather’s back to normal quickly forgetting the frustration. My advice would be, don’t! Have an extreme weather programme in place and invest now to ensure that if the same happens again, you’re prepared.
An irrigation system is designed to supplement rainfall, not replace it. Even the most advanced and expensive irrigation systems may have dry and wet areas, particularly during prolonged dry spells. The proper irrigation management goal is to provide water based on the wetter not drier areas. When the system has completed its cycle, and if needed, dry areas can be supplemented with spot or hand watering, typical, for example, with greens and surrounds.
It’s long been recognised that a blanket application of water is not only wasteful, but during a heatwave sometimes not possible, and tackling this in practice is now made easier with improved sensor technology, control software and advanced sprinkler designs. The ability to accurately tailor water application to precise conditions and requirements can help ensure turf will respond as expected in relation to its localised environment.
Measuring changes in moisture, temperature and other variables such as salinity is not new. What modern technology can do is make this monitoring not only easier but integrate it into how the irrigation system is controlled. Take the wireless Toro Turf Guard soil monitoring system. The system employs self-contained sensor units that can be positioned without the need for wiring. Each sensor sends signals to monitoring software, repeaters and a powerful base station allowing large areas to be covered.
Data is recorded and enables more informed adjustments to irrigation schedules to be made. As well as water-saving benefits, accurate monitoring can help alert users to the conditions that can lead to other problems, drainage issues and turf stress. As the wireless sensors are not static, they can be moved around to easily optimise their positioning, taking into account changes in shading on a pitch through to moving to a different position on a green.
It follows that soil monitoring systems were primarily developed to prevent over- and under-watering. Equally important, information recorded by soil monitoring provides valuable data over extended periods. Using this information can help ensure an irrigation system can be adapted over time to make the best use of applied water, with the potential to decrease consumption and help maintain sward health.
Computer-based software, such as the Toro Lynx system, can be employed to deliver not just irrigation control, but detailed information when it’s in use. With portable tech, it allows the irrigation system to be ‘interrogated’ while other tasks are carried out.
For example, those systems programmed to set off the sprinklers late at night can be monitored remotely, with the software detailing which sprinklers are running and for how long. The system can be set up to work with soil sensors, to include Turf Guard wireless units, providing an alert when the sensor picks up a change in moisture that may need attention. This provides the information to support the decisions required to programme the irrigation control system.
The problem with an outline like this is that it can over simplify what’s on offer. The Toro Lynx programme is advanced enough to provide full mapping of a golf course, but equally at home looking after a single stadium football or rugby pitch. It is designed to fit user needs and be upgraded to take advantages in developing technology.
In conclusion, a modern irrigation system can deliver not just the correct volume of irrigation water to specific areas of turf, but also provide detailed information that can be of great help in monitoring overall turf health. The best irrigation systems optimise available irrigation water to reduce costs and will deliver reliable and upgradeable performance over its lifetime, no matter what the weather!
For more information, visit: reesinkturfcare.co.uk
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