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Shane R. Evans, Kelly Kopp, Paul G. Johnson, Bryan G. Hopkins, Xin Dai, and Candace Schaible

Recent advances in irrigation technologies have led many states to incentivize homeowners to purchase United States Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense-labeled, smart irrigation controllers. However, previous research of smart controllers has shown that their use may still result in excess water application when compared with controllers manually programmed to replace actual water loss. This study compared kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) irrigation applications using three smart irrigation controllers, a conventional irrigation controller programmed according to Cooperative Extension recommendations, and the average irrigation rate of area homeowners in Utah during 2018 and 2019. Of all the controllers tested, the manually programmed controller applied water at amounts closest to the actual evapotranspiration rates; however, smart controllers applied from 30% to 63% less water than area homeowners, depending on the controller and year of the study. Kentucky bluegrass health and quality indicators—percent green cover and normalized difference vegetation indices—varied between years of the study and were lower than acceptable levels on several occasions in 2019 for three of the four controllers tested. Compared with the results of similar studies, these findings suggest that the effects of smart irrigation controllers on turfgrass health and quality may vary by location and over time.