Soil moisture sensors – in a variety of forms and products – are used in agriculture and horticulture to support crop and plant production systems, residential and commercial landscaping, grounds maintenance and land management, sports turf, weather forecasting, forestry, construction, and with all kinds of research (i.e., environmental, natural resource conservation, turfgrass science, etc.).
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From a forecast period of 2015 to 2020, the “global soil moisture sensor market” is projected to reach over $200 million by 2020 (sources: www.newaginternational.com and RnRMarketResearch.com). Although the business forecast indicates that applications in agriculture are expected to account for the largest use of soil moisture sensors due to benefits in farm productivity, the turfgrass market has their attention as well. The forecast report specifically states, “…the increase use of soil moisture sensors by turf managers to manage golf turf is the key reason for growth of soil moisture sensors in sports turf applications.”
Volumetric soil moisture sensors include those categorized as Probe, TDR (time-domain reflectometry), and Capacitance-types. Volumetric soil water content is expressed as a percent, and represents the proportion or percent of the total volume of soil measured that is occupied by water. In turf management applications, these volumetric soil moisture sensors are the most popular and widely used.
The sensors that measure soil water potential are categorized as Tension Meter (or Tensiometer), Gypsum Block, and Granular Matrix-types. Soil water potential is expressed in pressure terms as bars or kPa (kilopascal), and is a measurement of the potential energy per unit quantity of water relative to a reference soil water potential. In other words, do you need to exert force or work to move water through the soil rootzone? Whether you are measuring in bars or metric kPa units, the soil water potential is typically a negative number thus indicating force is needed to move water through the soil.
Of note, the USA represents a major market, but increases are noted in all global regions. The leading “players” in the soil moisture sensor market are, in alphabetical order:
These soil moisture sensors can provide turf managers with valuable information. It is important to understand what that information tells us, or convert data to knowledge, in order to make even more valuable and sound turf agronomic decisions.