Recently Turfhugger learned of a company called TurfScout. So I asked Darryl James of Arbor Turf Solutions (Turfhugger.com's "Irrigation Guru") to give Yale Leiden, President at TurfScout LLC, a call to find out more. Check out the interview Below.
Turfhugger - First of all, tell me a bit about the Turf Scout?
TurfScout - TurfScout is a service that applies cutting edge spectral data technology to commercial use in turf production, turf management and chemical development and testing. We use several types of on-the-market sensors that measure light reflectance from plant tissues, allowing us to calculate a health index such as NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). NDVI has been studied since the mid 1960’s as a way to measure plant health, but more recently sensors have been developed for field application.
There are two main components to our service, the sensor and the second is the Geographic Information System (GIS) component. We record a latitude and longitude position with each sensor measurement. Using this data we create color-coded maps depicting turf quality and produce quick summary charts to let the turf manager see trends in turf health. After we have set up a location for our service, results from following data collections are available near-immediately online.
Turfhugger - From your point of view, how can you help Superintendent’s better use their resources?
TurfScout - We answer the question “Is turf health improving, declining or staying the same?” using an objective measurement. What a superintendent can do with this information is only limited by their creativity. Some examples include tweaking irrigation for better uniformity and reduced water use, following response to chemical treatments, optimizing fertility, setting management targets and shifting to a more pro-active management strategy.
In addition to comparing changes over time we allow comparisons between different areas of turf. Superintendents can apply precision agriculture type practices with area-specific management. They can compare fertility treatments on two different fairways or greens to find the best treatment, or most economical treatment. Our maps are even being used as a tool with hand-watered greens; areas that show stress on the map get a little extra water and the improvement can be seen on the map the next day.
Even more benefits to superintendents will come from other aspects of the turf industry. Our service is in use by universities, and the turf breeding and chemical industries. TurfScout service makes experimental studies so much easier, more efficient and immediate, that the model for product development is changing. The end result is a shortened product development cycle with more effective products available to superintendents.
Turfhugger - What is some of the feedback you’ve been getting from Superintendent’s?
TurfScout - I really enjoy demonstrating the service to superintendents; it can be an eye-opening experience for them. There is a “gee-whiz” aspect and a lot of skepticism as to whether or not it works. But, when you hand them a color-coded health map of a green, they want to go out and ground-truth it. Typically, they know about the good spots and bad spots but they don’t visually notice the differences in between that can be signs of impending stress. Commonly, what they thought was their best green is not the healthiest. Health maps also make it very clear that superintendents are not managing 2 or 3 acres of greens, they are managing 18 greens in unique microcosms.
Turfhugger - Is Turf Scout available in Canada?
TurfScout - TurfScout service is available anywhere that receives GPS (Global Positioning System) coverage and internet access.
Turfhugger - What are the long-term goals for Turf Scout?
TurfScout - TurfScout will continue to innovate and provide our customers with the most effectively and useful spectral data tools, data management and health analysis. Our long-term goal is to be able to predict turf stress and its cause so that turf managers can act pro-actively to prevent health problems.