Expert Opinion | So, why choose Soil Scout?
By Dr John Dempsey, independent researcher in turfgrass disease and physiology.
I wrote a piece for a previous issue of Sensor a couple of months back, in it I said: ‘So why Soil Scout? Well, the Soil Scout system is not merely a moisture meter, we’re not talking just soil sensors here, the system, when installed, is an integral part of your site, be it a golf course, sports field or research facility. What I find very attractive, is you receive real-time data regarding volumetric water content, salt levels and canopy temperatures, and when integrated with the drone option, you will also have thermal, NDVI and visual imagery, at your fingertips, ie., on your PC, tablet or smart phone.’
I mentioned I was provided with a couple of Soil Scout sensors to use at my research area here in Co. Kildare and that I intended using them during a number of trials I had planned for the summer. So how did I get on since then, how have I utilised the system? Did I find it of use? Or just a passing fad?
The first trial I want to mention involved assessment of a range of surfactants and nutritional inputs. As with most trials, treatments were applied, and data gathered. I had 64 separate plots in these trials, unfortunately I didn’t have 64 Soil Scout sensors…. that would have been excellent! What I did have was two and with these I was able to locate them in a treated and untreated control plot for a period time. Were they of value, did they add to the research in any way?
The answer is …Yes! The sensors allowed me to collect data at any time and save it directly to my office PC, this enabled me to build up a picture of how the applied treatment influenced root zone volumetric water content and nutrient availability. So, I was able to utilise the Soil Scout sensor data to produce charts comparing treatment effect on VWC to untreated control.
A second research trial I undertook began in August, in the greenhouses, as with the other trial I can’t mention specifics as yet, as they were in collaboration with various companies. But this trial involved the use of numerous pot samples, which required irrigation inputs on a regular basis. I was able to install my two Soil Scout sensors in two greenhouse pots and these gave me constant readouts, which I then used to determine when to apply my irrigation inputs. I could see at a glance the VWC prior to, and post irrigation.
This use of the Soil Scout sensors is of course not the standard method. Ideally they would be situated throughout the sports facility being managed. But hopefully it highlights the versatility and value you can obtain from their use. Ideally for me as a researcher, having numerous sensors in my trial areas would be perfect (hint, hint). But even when limited to two they were of great value. If I were managing a sports facility their use would provide me with essential data (accessible anywhere in the world I should mention) that would enable me to see exactly what was going on in my root zones and allow me to make informed decisions regarding maintenance operations.
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