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Evaluation of a soil moisture sensor to reduce water and nutrient leaching in turfgrass (Cynodon dactylon cv. Wintergreen)

S. M. Pathan A B , L. Barton A and T. D. Colmer A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Plant Biology (M084), Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Present address: Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Great Eastern Highway, Merredin, WA 6415, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47(2) 215-222
Submitted: 1 July 2005  Accepted: 1 July 2006   Published: 23 January 2007


This study evaluated water application rates, leaching and quality of couch grass (Cynodon dactylon cv. Wintergreen) under a soil moisture sensor-controlled irrigation system, compared with plots under conventional irrigation scheduling as recommended for domestic lawns in Perth, Western Australia by the State’s water supplier. The cumulative volume of water applied during summer to the field plots of turfgrass with the sensor-controlled system was 25% less than that applied to plots with conventional irrigation scheduling. During 154 days over summer and autumn, about 4% of the applied water drained from lysimeters in sensor-controlled plots, and about 16% drained from lysimeters in plots with conventional irrigation scheduling. Even though losses of mineral nitrogen via leaching were extremely small (representing only 1.1% of the total nitrogen applied to conventionally irrigated plots), losses were significantly lower in the sensor-controlled plots. Total clippings produced were 18% lower in sensor-controlled plots. Turfgrass colour in sensor-controlled plots was reduced during summer, but colour remained acceptable under both treatments. The soil moisture sensor-controlled irrigation system enabled automatic implementation of irrigation events to match turfgrass water requirements.

Additional keywords: bermudagrass, couch grass, irrigation, lysimeter, nutrients, soil water, turfgrass colour.


We thank Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) and Holman Industries of Western Australia for financial support of this research. Ken Cuming, a director of Watermatic Controls and inventor of the sensor, is thanked for installation of the sensors in the field plots and for advice during the study. Greenacres Turf Farm is thanked for supplying the turfgrass used in plots at the UWA Research Facility. City of Stirling is thanked for providing Lanchester Park as a research site.


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