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A high-functioning automated irrigation system utilizes data from several sources to make the most accurate and efficient watering routine. Learn more about the benefits that soil moisture sensors could provide your irrigation system:

What is soil moisture sensing? How does it work?

Soil moisture sensing involves using a sensor to measure soil moisture levels in order to prevent an irrigation system from watering when not needed. A soil moisture sensor is placed in the soil below the active root zone, which then communicates to an irrigation controller or system before scheduled watering. This is done through testing the electrical conductivity of the soil, as water is a good indication of soil electrical conductivity due to charged ions present from various minerals and chemicals in the soil and water. If the sensor determines that there is sufficient moisture content through its electrical resistance readings, the irrigation will be minimized or bypassed. This helps to prevent over-watering plants and minimizing water waste, including skipping irrigation during rainy periods.

Why do we need to know soil moisture values?

Not all plants are equal, with many varying in the amounts of water needed for healthy plant growth and maintenance. Some are conditioned to living in regions with plentiful water, so their capability to absorb and release water is different than those accustomed to living in arid regions. Plant size and type also affect varied water needs. Watering all your plants equally without considering their specific water needs can result in poor plant health either from drowning or starving the plant.

Soil moisture sensors pair well with the use of hydrozones within your landscape. Hydrozones group plant types with similar water needs within your landscape so that your irrigation system can perfectly meet its water needs. Without hydrozones, an irrigation system will apply water at the same time and rate which is a wasteful use of water.

What are some benefits of soil moisture sensing?

There are several benefits to utilizing a soil moisture sensor. Soil moisture conditions vary from the topsoil down to the root zone, where plants intake most of their water. Your topsoil could look a tad thirsty and might seem to need your regularly scheduled irrigation. However, the conditions could be much more saturated at the root level, which means that your regularly scheduled irrigation cycle is actually giving your plant too much water, putting it at risk for drowning. By providing accurate water needs for your varied plant types via soil moisture sensing, you are simultaneously preventing wasted water, which saves you money (if you pay for your irrigated water). This is especially important if your irrigation system is running on a limited water or dollar budget, such as a university abiding to drought restrictions or a city reducing its water bill costs.

A place with little to no rain may benefit more from utilizing a soil moisture sensor compared to a rain bucket. If no rainfall is occurring, your irrigation system may believe your soil needs additional moisture due to your customized schedule, when in reality your root soil could still be quite saturated. Soil moisture sensing and rain buckets used together provide the most accuracy as to the true moisture needs for your landscaping.

Beyond traditional landscaping, sports field turf areas can also benefit from the use of soil moisture sensors. Instead of having a person physically travel out to your sports field to check on playability conditions, or relying on a person who may not be able to provide accurate updates- your soil moisture sensor could do that work for you remotely. This allows your field to maintain ideal moisture conditions while saving you time and labor.