Improving Soil Moisture Assessment of Turfgrass Systems Utilizing Field Radiometry
Roberson, Travis Leon
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The need for water conservation continues to increase as global freshwater resources dwindle. In response, many golf course superintendents are implementing new methods and tools to become more frugal with their water applications. For example, scheduling irrigation using time-domain reflectometer (TDR) soil moisture sensors can decrease water usage. Still, TDR measurements are time-consuming and only cover small scales, leading to many locations being unsampled. Remotely sensed data such as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) offer the potential of estimating moisture stress across larger scales; however, NDVI measurements are influenced by numerous stressors beyond moisture availability, thus limiting its reliability for irrigation decisions. An alternative vegetation index, the water band index (WBI), is primarily influenced by water absorption within a narrow spectral range of near-infrared light. Previous research has established strong relationships between moisture stress of creeping bentgrass (CBG) grown on sand-based root zones, a typical scenario for golf course putting greens. However, this relationship characterizes only a small portion of total acreage across golf courses, which limits widespread adoption. In our research, �007� CBG and �Latitude 36� hybrid bermudagrass (HBG) were grown on three soil textures, USGA 90:10 sand (S), sand loam (SL) and clay (C), arranged in a 2 x 3 factorial design, randomized within six individual dry-down cycles serving as replications. Canopy reflectance and volumetric water content (VWC) data were collected hourly between 0700 and 1900 hr using a hyperspectral radiometer and an embedded soil moisture sensor, until complete turf necrosis. The WBI had the strongest relationship to VWC (r = 0.62) and visual estimations of wilt (r = -0.91) compared to the green-to-red ratio index (GRI) or NDVI. Parameters associated with non-linear regression were analyzed to compare grasses, soils, indices, and their interactions. The WBI and GRI compared favorably with each other and indicated significant moisture stress approximately 28 hr earlier than NDVI (P = 0.0010). WBI and GRI respectively predicted moisture stress 12 to 9 hr before visual estimation of 50% wilt, whereas NDVI provided 2 hr of prediction time (P = 0.0317). When considering the time to significant moisture stress, the HBG lasted 28 hr longer than CBG, while S lasted 42 hr longer than either SL and C (P �� 0.0011). Nonlinear regression analysis showed that WBI and GRI can be useful for predicting moisture stress of CBG and HBG grown on three diverse soils in a highly controlled environment. Our results provide substantial evidence and direction for future research investigating how WBI and GRI can expedite moisture stress assessment and prediction on a large-acreage basis.
General Audience Abstract
Managed turfgrasses provide several benefits including filtering pollutants, cooling their surroundings, generating oxygen, preventing erosion, serving as recreational surfaces, and increasing landscape aesthetics. Intensively managed turfgrass systems, such as on golf courses and sports fields, require more inputs to maintain acceptable conditions. Freshwater use is often excessive on intensively managed turfgrasses to maintain proper plant growth. Drought conditions often limit water availability, especially in regions with limited rainfall. Turf managers tend to over-apply water across large acreage when few localized areas begin to show symptoms of drought. Additionally, turf managers sometimes wrongly identify stressed areas from other factors as ones being moisture-deprived. Advancements such as the use of soil moisture meters have simplified irrigation decisions as an aid to visual inspections for drought stress. While this method enhances detection accuracy, it still provides no solution to increase efficiency. Expanding our current knowledge of turfgrass canopy light reflectance for rapid moisture stress identification can potentially save both time and water resources. The objective of this research was to enhance our ability to identify and predict moisture stress of creeping bentgrass (CBG) and hybrid bermudagrass (HBG) canopies integrated into varying soil textures (USGA 90:10 sand (S), sand loam (SL) and Clay (C)) using light reflectance measurements. Dry-down cycles were conducted under greenhouses conditions collecting soil moisture and light reflectance data every hour from 7 am to 7 pm after saturating and withholding water from established plugs. Moisture stress was most accurately estimated over time using two vegetation indices, the water band index (WBI) and green-to-red ratio index (GRI), with approximately ninety percent accuracy to visible wilt stress. The WBI and GRI predicted moisture stress of CBG in all soil types and HBG in SL and C approximately 14 hours before the grasses reached 50% wilt. While light reflectance varies on exposed soils, our research shows that underlying soils do not interfere with measurements across typical turfgrass stands. This research provides a foundation for future research implementing rapid, aerial measurements of moisture stressed turfgrasses on a broad application of CBG and HBG on constructed or native soils.
- Masters Theses