Save Water With Soil Moisture Sensing

Keeping turf healthy on sports fields and green spaces can be a challenge, especially when you have a large area to manage under a variety of conditions. You don’t want dry spots to turn into problems, but you don’t want to overwater, either.

When it comes to reducing waste and maximizing the efficiency of your irrigation system, information can make a big difference. With the right data, your central control system can help you make informed decisions about when and how much to water — saving money and precious resources in the process. And one of the most effective ways you can measure and monitor how much water your turf needs is with soil moisture sensing.

What Is Soil Moisture?
The moisture level within the soil is important to maintain its chemistry and preserve the health of the turf or plant material. In general, soil moisture is defined as the water occupying the pore spaces between soil particles. At optimal levels, the moisture content of the soil allows the plant material to readily absorb water within the soil. That said, not all of the water held within the soil is available to the plant material, as the water serves a number of vital roles. For example, the water in the soil:

  • Serves as a solvent and helps carry nutrients that encourage plant growth,
  • Helps regulate soil temperature, and
  • Helps control the exchange of water and heat between the landscape surface and the atmosphere through evaporation and plant transpiration.

The Value of Soil Moisture Sensing
Soil moisture sensors provide a convenient way to collect continuous, real-time soil moisture data. Having this data can lead to improved irrigation planning, water savings, and a healthier landscape or field.

How valuable can this data be? Just consider the results of a recent three-year study by the University of Florida comparing the water-saving performance of soil moisture sensors to that of rain shut-off sensors. In wet years, rain sensors helped users save up to 30 percent more water than irrigation systems without any type of sensor. Soil moisture sensors, on the other hand, saved an average of 72 percent over the same period! In fact, across all brands tested and using data from both wet and dry years, soil moisture sensors saved, on average, two to three times more water than did rain sensors.

The results of the study are clear: one of the best ways to conserve water and use it most effectively in your irrigation system is to employ the use of soil moisture sensors.

Soil Moisture Sensor Options From Toro
Toro’s Pro Series™ Soil Sensors and Turf Guard® Soil Monitoring System take moisture measurements from the soil to help groundskeepers automate or manually adjust their irrigation system based on moisture level trends in the soil. Both products are designed to work in conjunction with the Toro Sentinel® central irrigation control system, allowing users to set upper and lower moisture level “trip points” in the software to regulate when irrigation is allowed. Users can also view the trends over time on an at-a-glance dashboard. Here’s a quick overview of both soil moisture monitoring solutions.

Toro Pro Series Soil Sensors
This wireless soil moisture sensor can take moisture measurements from just below grade to up to 3.5 feet below the surface from a unique tethered probe. The probe design and tether make it suitable for a wide range of settings, from turf to large trees.

Pro Series sensors communicate wirelessly to the controller base station. No trenching or wiring is required back to the control system. Up to 16 sensors can be used with any Sentinel controller, transmitting real-time moisture data every five minutes.

Toro Turf Guard Soil Monitoring System
Toro’s Turf Guard Soil Monitoring System measures soil moisture, temperature and salinity, providing even more data about what’s going on beneath the surface of your turf. This data can help you reduce water usage and improve playability on sports fields without risking turf quality.

With the Turf Guard system, tracking salinity levels allows you to know when to schedule flushing and how much water to use. In addition, daily soil temperature data can help you predict peak soil temperatures early in the day, so you can start remediation activities before an emergency. This can also help with scheduling fungicide and pesticide applications for optimal effectiveness.

The wireless Turf Guard system is easy to install with no trenching required. Sensors measure two distinct depths in the soil profile, and sensor readings are sent every five minutes. The system also comes with free SiteVision™ software, which plots trends and displays a graphical overview of the data.

Learn More
A number of variables go into understanding the nuances of a particular landscape or field, and soil moisture is certainly one of those variables. Installing a system-based soil monitoring system like Toro’s Turf Guard or Pro Series solutions can simplify the task of soil monitoring — not only ensuring healthy turf and plant material, but also saving water and the costs associated with delivering water to the site. To explore the options available from Toro and how they can help maximize your irrigation system’s efficiency, contact your local Toro distributor or visit