Monday, July 20, 2015

Taking Its Talents North: Smartirrigation Turf App Under Study in Gainesville

Following successful trials in South Florida that established its water saving potential at between 30 and 40 percent, the Smartirrigation turf app begins testing on the UF campus in Gainesville this week. 

Part of a suite of weather data-informed irrigation apps, the turf app was released in fall 2013. The app works with user location and irrigation system specifics to recommend an appropriate irrigation schedule while also sending notifications about incoming or recent rain events. 

Turf app scheduling will be compared to that of weather-based irrigation controllers 
Trials in 2014 at a test site on the IFAS Tropical REC campus in Homestead compared app scheduling to that of widely available time-based and weather-based controllers. The app demonstrated water savings between 30 and 40 percent.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio is leading the North Florida turf app trial
Why North FL?
“The differences in North Florida and South Florida have to do with rainfall and temperature,” said lead researcher Kati Migliaccio, associate professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE). “The variation in temperature is greater in North Florida, and the variation in precipitation is greater in South Florida.”

The turf app’s water saving potential will also be compared to timers controlled by three different brands of soil moisture sensors.

Right in the root zone: installing a soil moisture sensor at the research site
Study Site
The app trial is taking place on an irrigation plot on the UF campus. In preparation for this study, the Bermudagrass in the plot was rehabilitated during most of 2014. More recently, the research team has replaced older, worn parts on the irrigation system there and determined the distribution uniformity (DU) of the sprinkler heads in use in the plot.

Dr. Jason Kruse leads the Bermudagrass sprig application during summer 2014
Day to day research tasks will be executed by ABE graduate student Ian Hahus. “In contrast to my other work related to large-scale water conservation through water supply with municipalities, this project is more about what each homeowner can do to manage their water,” Mr. Hahus said. “All those little incremental savings can add up to big changes hopefully.”

Graduate student Ian Hahus assists with setting up catch can grids during DU testing
Try It Yourself
While the Smartirrigation turf app proves its mettle under trial in Gainesville, it’s also available now for download on Android and iOS devices. Any Florida or Georgia resident can use this informative guide to learn about the app and begin making weather-based turf watering decisions today.

“A lot of times when you’re setting a controller you aren’t exactly sure how many minutes to program,” Ms. Migliaccio said. “What the app does is it tells you based on evapotranspiration how many minutes you should set your controller to get the best water-use efficiency out of that water and also to keep your plants healthy.” 

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