Assessing the new generation

Assessing the new generation

GCI’s Terry Buchen breaks down Toro’s 3rd generation Precision Sense technology.

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July 11, 2011
Terry Buchen
This portable data collection implement was developed to perform golf course site evaluations that influence agronomic turf practices by assessing the variability and importance for soil moisture, soil compaction, turf vigor and topographic characteristics. The 2004-2005 first generation machine automated soil sampling and spectral research prototype with GPS developed and used for site assessment R & D. The 2006-2010 second generation R&D had iteration with electronic improvements and penetrometer measurements added also used for R&D. This new third generation 2011 Toro Model PS6000 has added soil salinity measurements and enhanced on-board data processing and logging. The Precision Sense process occurs in the following steps:
  • Define the golf course site assessment objectives with the superintendent.
  • Data Collection using the PS6000 sampling equipment, which normally takes 1.5-2 days per 18 holes.
  • GIS data processing and analysis at Toro, which normally takes 2-3 days
  • Communication and field implementations of results to the superintendent

There is an array of sensors and electronics, GPS, an on-board computer and an operator control/Interface panel. Data collection is a continuous, constant speed sampling process that produces approximately 800-1,200 geo-referenced data points per fairway for each soil attribute sampled on an 8’ x 10’ grid – and 3,000-4,000 reflectance data points per fairway. The data for all of the attributes is collected simultaneously and the data is transmitted to Toro for processing and analysis using current GIS software and methods.

The sensors and measurements process includes:
Soil Moisture
 Calculates ratio of water volume in the soil to total volume of the soil, e.g. Different textured soils are capable of holding different amounts of water. Fine textured clay soils have more pore spaces as a percent of soil volume and can, obviously, hold more water.
Soil Salinity: The calibrated Salinity values are reported as Electrical Conductivity in units of deciSiemens per meter (dS/m).

Soil Compaction
Measured by a penetrometer. As the soil moisture probes are inserted into the soil, a sensor measures the force in pounds required for insertion to a depth of 4 inches. Soil compaction limits plant root function by reducing the amount of pore space available to hold oxygen and water and by restricting root penetration and growth – and it also reduces the soil’s water holding capacity, reduces infiltration and percolation rate and increases runoff on slopes.

Turf Vigor
The measurement is responsive to physiological changes in turf plants caused by factors such as moisture stress, nutrient deficiency or disease or insect damage, which are frequently short-term in nature – and by turf canopy architecture and turf density which often reflect long-term or chronic conditions affecting turfgrass performance.

GPS Referencing of Data Points
Specific geographic location to each data point collected. In addition to latitude & longitude, GPS reports altitude and vehicle speeds. Toro also uses a Differential GPS, which produces more accurate positions and they also use a sub-meter DGPS for data collection.

The data produces accurate site data that produces color coded contour maps with supporting statistics for each primary site and a series of application products designed to meet the superintendent’s specific management objectives, e.g. Increasing irrigation efficiency and reducing water usage, which are delivered in electronic files viewable in Google Earth and in a report document.

The Precision Sense is a site assessment service through two Toro distributors in 2011, Smith Turf & Irrigation in the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee and by Turf Star, Inc. in California. This service will be expanded through additional Toro distributors in the future.