In The Field Review of Toro Turfguard

Here at Turfhugger we like to learn of products from an independent perspective, from those who use new technologies out in the field because sometimes it's nice to hear from those in your shoes vs those selling the product or a competitor. That's why we asked Chris Greene, the IPM Manager at Toftrees Golf Resort in State College, PA for his opinion of the Toro Turfguard System

Last year was a tough year all around for golf courses and everyone was looking for a way to manage their turf better and more efficient. We have a green that was rebuilt and our water supply was primarily effluent water. We had shallow root issues all summer due to heat, like many others, and poor, algae-laden and high salt content water. We had crusty greens due to salts and plugged the green seemingly all summer to keep it playable. Soil samples revealed a high pH and salt content that we had to control better. We ended up installing a separate well water line for irrigation and decided to change the watering strategy to more of the deep and infrequent route to force the roots deeper.

After consulting with the Toro rep, we decided to upgrade our irrigation central from one of two  remaining “TouchNet” units in PA and add a “Turfguard” sensor to monitor the salts and moisture.

The process took about 2 hours to install the sensor, transmitter antenna to the power supply on an adjacent satellite, and the receiver next to the irrigation central.

We marked the sensor with a paint dot and will triangulate the distances for permanent mapping.

After we installed the “Site Vision” software, we were eager to see the data. After about a week of rain, it finally stopped and we could start to see the graphs reflect the conditions. The data displays Moisture, Temperature, and Salinity.

 You can set your display to show a range of dates, change your view to overlay sequential days, set thresholds to alert you when you reach threshold levels for the parameters. The displays are easy to read and scales are customizable or can be set to “auto scale”.

“Site Vision” also comes with remote software where you can download the software onto your home computer and access the software exactly as you would from your central. Also, if you have “NSN Connect”, you can access the software on your iPhone via the free “NSN Connect” app, as I do, to view the program.  A big plus as more and more of us use these phones for all sorts of turf related things.

Since the sensors are wireless, they can also be moved to other locations within the range of the transmitters (approx. 500ft). We had to have 2 transmitters installed on the side of existing satellites to span the distance from the central to the desired location, but it allows for future expansion with the addition of more transmitters anywhere you can get power. We have the ability to move the sensor to another green that is within range and can add more transmitters in the future to monitor other parts of the course.

The only concerns I have found have been that the Toro network can be faulty and congested at times and the NSN rep told me that from time to time on the weekends they can have network issues and I
may see flatlines in the graphs where there is no data and I also found there can be what seems like
congestion or software glitches that manifest as erratic activity as shown that show up when you shorten the timeline.

All in all, there are a lot of great things about these sensors and can be a great tool for managing soil characteristics. We can see that we can extend the duration between watering, driving the roots downward, and monitor the moisture, salt, and temperature of the soil at different depths.

It prevents over watering, giving you the ability to conserve water and see where the saturation point is and where you max out the moisture curve if you are flushing or just deep watering. I think this can be a real valuable tool for turf managers and shows where technology can take us to make us better at our jobs.

Turfhugger would like to thank Chris Greene for giving us all a look in to his experience with the Turfgaurd System. Chris is an Ohio State Turfgrass Science graduate, an Assistant on courses all over Eastern US and currently IPM Manager at Toftrees Golf Resort in State College, PA. Chris started working on golf courses as summer job and liked it enough to pursue his degree and make a career of it. He's gained most of his useful turf knowledge from working on construction projects. Avid Buckeye fan, movie watcher, and tech junkie. Loves his job and using new social media to make work easier and more enjoyable.

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