In response to growing concerns over water management and pesticide use, the EU funded a project to develop the WaterGolf system, an intelligent system for the maintenance of large areas of turfgrass. While artificial intelligence has been used in agriculture in the past, WaterGolf is the first system specifically for turf, designed to optimize water use while providing turfgrass disease management and prevention, as well as prevention and management of weed growth and fertility problems.
Using a wireless sensor network and embedded AI to support irrigation, it is currently estimated that WaterGolf will cut annual water use by one third. The systems underground sensors are capable of measuring soil humidity, salinity and temperature, while traditional evaposensers measure turfgrass evapotranspiration. Measurements are then transmitted wirelessly through nodes to a coordinating device, where the AI can the offer “suggestions for irrigating different regions of the course, as well as informing of potentially looming turfgrass diseases and weeds.”
The desktop user interface is designed with greenkeepers in mind, allowing for remote access, while a mobile application allows read-only access to notifications and data.
Using research on etiology parameters for a variety of common disease, the system is primed to monitor for Pythium blight (Pythium spp.), Yellow patch (Rhizoctonia cerealis), Dollar Spot (Sclerotinia hoemeocarpa), Anthracnose (Bipolaris spp. & Drechslera spp.), Pink Snow Mold (Michrodochium nivale) and Red Thread (Laetisaria fuciformis).
“The system outputs for fungal disease forecast and management comprise both a disease and turfgrass specific probability calculation equations, and the issue of a compedium of available chemical products for fungal disease treatment and prevention, including their dosage.”
The system also uses Growing Degree Days and soil/air temperature to forecast “the eagerness of the most common green course weeds,” which, for the system, were defined as crabgrass, foxtail, goosegrass, white clover, daisy, dandelion and annual meadowgrass/bluegrass).
The first prototype was installed in summer, 2014, at the Motecchia Golf Club in Padua, Italy, and was able to predict the onset of Dollar Spot on the overseeded Patriot hybrid bermudagrass fairways and bermudagrass and bentgrass greens, supplying accurate data for irrigation throughout the summer.
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