With water usage and water conservation becoming increasingly important issues, sports field managers have stepped up their quest to find the most efficient, most effective methods for precise irrigation. In seeking input from suppliers on their newest introductions, it’s clear the irrigation industry is leading the way, with advancements in technology that have the power to improve irrigation programs no matter what the budget or number of fields within a management program.

Toro’s T7 Rotor has visual indicators on the top that show the arc pattern before water pressure is applied.
Photo courtesy of Toro.
Toro’s TS90 Rotor has a large radius throw, from 53 to 95 feet.
Photo courtesy of Toro.
Toro’s Turf Guard Soil Monitoring System utilizes underground sensors that transmit moisture, salinity and temperature data in real-time for viewing through the Web-based interface or through the stand-alone software.
Photo courtesy of Toro.
A Hunter irrigation system is running on sections of this ballpark in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Industries.
A Hunter irrigation system in operation on this football field shows the even distribution that is so important to the field management program.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Industries.
A Hunter irrigation system is in operation on the outfield of this baseball field.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Industries.
This close-up view shows Hunter Industries’ easy-to-use I-Core Controller.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Industries.
The Micro Rain system’s new turbine drive utilizes all of the incoming water for field irrigation with none expelled or wasted during the retraction process.
Photo courtesy of Toro.
AuditMaster catch cans are strategically spaced on a field to monitor coverage. Catch cans indicate the amount of water applied at each interval.
Photo courtesy of Underhill International.
The AuditMaster pressure gauge checks water pressure on a rotor.
Photo courtesy of Underhill International.
The AuditMaster flex tube and pressure gauge verify water pressure on a rotor.
Photo courtesy of Underhill International.
Kifco Water-Reels are simple to operate, with automatic retraction and sprinkler shutdown, so they can be left unattended, saving time and labor costs.
Photo courtesy of Kifco.
Kochek’s Water Movement line.
Photo courtesy of Kochek Co., Inc.

Toro

Toro’s T7 Rotor has a 5-inch pop-up height to clear taller grasses. The nozzle design uses water flow wisely to achieve the farthest distance while providing uniform coverage. Product manager Jeff Miller says, “Visual indicators on the top of the rotor show the arc pattern before water pressure is applied. Its anti-vandal features include a slip clutch and our SmartArc.”

The TS90 Rotor has a ratcheting riser to aid in installation, and part and full circle in one rotor to minimize inventory. Miller says, “Its main nozzle trajectory can be adjusted from 7 to 30 degrees to improve wind performance and avoid obstacles. It has a radius throw from 53 to 95 feet.

Toro’s TriComm Remote Site Management enables access to Toro’s TMC-424E Controllers via the Web for programming, monitoring and operation by computer or Web-enabled cell phone.

Toro’s Sentinel Water Management System enables control from a centralized computer. It can utilize Web or weather station data to adjust cycles and provides e-mail alerts to system problems. Product Manager Brian Ries says, “It features flow optimization to ensure programming runs within water windows without exceeding hydraulic capacity of the system. It’s hand-held remote ready for on-field station control. It also can display Turf Guard Soil Monitoring System data. It centralizes daily reports and provides year-over-year tracking of water usage.”

Toro’s Turf Guard Soil Monitoring System utilizes sensors buried beneath the surface to transmit moisture, salinity and temperature data in real-time for viewing through the Web-based interface or through the stand-alone software.

Michigan State University Turf Manager Amy J. Fouty has been using the system as a monitor in the softball skin area to help manage moisture more efficiently and maintain a consistent playing condition. She says, “We’ve also used them in grass areas to monitor soil temperature and volumetric soil moisture content to improve water application efficiency and maximize the impact of our cultural practices and applications. I hope to install them in all my athletic fields in the next year.”

Hunter Industries

The Hunter I-Core Controller allows the manager to increase stations from six to 42 by adding modules. Lynda Wightman says, “The user can program a main schedule, make changes, then later return to the original schedule stored in the controller’s memory and can program in “no water windows.” The total run time calculator provides full review of run cycles at a glance. Real-time flow monitoring shows actual flow though a zone and reveals flow overload in a particular valve.”

Hunter’s IMMS ET Central Control System provides systemwide access via computer. Wightman says, “With the ET System, the individual stations, per controller, are updated daily as to the climatic conditions, turf/landscape variety, soil types and performance of specific sprinklers (uniformity). With additional flow management, reports note any valves/sprinklers using excessive water and automatically shut it down.”

The MP Rotating Nozzles are actually a rotor, working in a spray body regulated to operate at 40 PSI. Wightman says, “With distribution uniformity of 80 percent and a radius range of 8 to 30 feet, they provide efficient small area coverage. With precipitation rates similar to the larger rotors used in the outfield, installing these heads around home plate makes it easier to schedule the controller.”

Hunter’s Solar Sync sensing device provides automatic daily scheduling adjustments to existing program run times. The Rain-Clik, Flow-Clik, Wind-Clik and Freeze-Clik features won’t allow the controller to run during those conditions.

California Sensor Corp. (Calsense)

The Calsense Central Control System provides advanced flow monitoring and systemwide management with the capability to adjust irrigation run time and scheduling based on real-time ET or soil moisture sensing. Ewing Irrigation Specialist Kevin Oglesby says, “The software can generate system alerts, water usage, station history and field adjustment reports, among others. The RRe radio remote function gives field management personnel the ability to see real-time flow and amps drawn on the system while running multiple stations and make adjustments directly from the hand-held device.”

UgMo

The UgMo wireless, underground monitoring system utilizes digital frequency domain technology that uses a specific frequency to measure soil moisture, soil conductivity (salt activity) and soil temperature separately from each other, performing with less than 1 percent margin of error in precision and accuracy.

Sales Representative Eric Fetscher says, “The sensor is designed to cause the least amount of disruption around the sensor probes, which eliminates skewing of moisture movement by physical disruption. Precise positioning of the sensor matches it to the soil and surface conditions specific to the property. UgMo indicates in live time what is actually in the soil and what the variables mean for plant performance at the surface. Alerts and daily reports can be transmitted to any computer or Web-enabled mobile device for off-site monitoring and irrigation system control.”

Precise moisture readings indicate the potential for runoff or leaching, two important environmental factors to consider for fertilization and other necessary applications. Fetscher says, “Knowing what the soil moisture is in the upper profile (from sensors at a 2-inch depth) versus the lower soil profile (from sensors at a 6-inch depth) guides irrigation strategy. If the soil is saturated below but very dry up top, a light watering might be necessary to build uniformity. Deep watering in that situation would result in loss of water throughout the entire soil profile. On the flip side, if too much water is located in the upper soil profile, the risk of runoff is even higher.”

Dr. Clint Waltz, extension turfgrass specialist for the University of Georgia, is conducting studies of inground soil moisture sensors for water conservation at the Griffin research facility using the UgMo system. He says, “The series of testing, with the first steps started in August of 2009, focus on improving irrigation efficiency and include examining the impact of fertility practices on plant water use with the goal of refining best management practices (BMPs) for turfgrass water conservation. While these studies are targeted to home lawns, it’s anticipated that the data generated will extrapolate to other turfgrass areas, including sports fields.”

Dr. Waltz says, “In a separate study using the UgMo probe, we’re evaluating the correlation between soil moisture content and surface hardness on simulated-traffic athletic fields. We’re gathering data at this stage, just six months into what will be at least a three-year study.”

Rain Bird

Rain Bird’s new Integrated Control System (IC System) has the control built into the rotor. No field controller, decoder, secondary wiring or unnecessary splices translates to fewer areas that could break down, wear out or malfunction. According to the company, it requires up to 90 percent less wire than traditional satellite control systems and 50 percent fewer splices than a traditional decoder system.

Each of Rain Bird’s Hose-End Nozzles comes in a different flow rate for different applications and offers fully adjustable spray patterns. With quick-connect couplers, it’s easy to switch out nozzles for specific applications.

Micro Rain

The Micro Rain traveling sprinkler will self-retract at the sports field manager’s chosen speed for the amount of water they want to apply and shut off automatically when finished. Destry Suthers says, “The Micro Rain system’s new turbine drive utilizes all of the incoming water for field irrigation with none expelled or wasted during the retraction process. For most sports fields, there’s a model that can cover the field evenly in a single pass. Portable, flexible, easy to use and cost effective, a single unit provides irrigation for multiple fields.”

Underhill International

New from Underhill International, the AuditMaster kit. President Ed Underhill says it streamlines the on-site irrigation auditing process by providing all the necessary tools in one portable kit. Underhill says, “Poorly performing sprinklers are a major cause of inefficient irrigation on sports fields and recreation complexes. There are a range of reasons: internal mechanisms may be old and worn out; nozzles may be corroded or clogged; heads could be poorly spaced or require adjustments; landscaping may have ‘grown in’ hampering coverage.

“With our kit, sports field managers can perform an audit and evaluation based on the Irrigation Associate Guidelines, which are covered in IA audit classes. They can identify poorly performing sprinklers and either replace or adjust them, eliminating over watering, soggy spots and related turf diseases, and saving money through increased efficiency.”

Kifco

Kifco Water-Reels are simple to operate, with automatic retraction and sprinkler shutdown so they can be left unattended, saving on time and labor costs. Ledena Clark says, “Many Kifco Water-Reel models can irrigate sports fields in a single pass. All models are portable, allowing irrigation of multiple fields with one machine. There are no inground sprinkler heads on your field to repair or winterize.”

The new B-Series E110 utilizes the electric motor drive option, which can irrigate from almost any residential water source (5 GPM and 23 PSI). The motor is powered by a 12-volt rechargeable battery with a run life of approximately 30 hours. This allows users to irrigate using a low-quality water source without a booster pump. The Kifco Web site shows field layouts for different sports and Kifco model recommendations. The E110 can be used wherever the B110 is shown.

Kochek Co., Inc.

Kochek’s Water Movement Line features Ultralite hose for easy handling, full flow couplings and hose end nozzles with high versatility in flow patterns, allowing sports field managers to apply precise amounts of water to specific areas. The high-volume nozzle series cuts the time needed to condition the infields. Kochek wetting agents promote conservation by giving irrigation water the molecular advantage of penetrating hydrophobic areas in turf without using excess amounts of water.

Obviously, there’s much to consider now in the marketplace, with even more on the horizon. As Wightman says, “With the advanced technologies in today’s irrigation equipment offerings, saving water has become much easier to accomplish. Healthy, safe fields are our assets and using the correct amount of water ensures that plants are given the best opportunity for sustained growth.”

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.