The Science

INTRODUCING DIGITAL GREEN KEEPING – THE SCIENCE OF PRECISION GRASS

FairWay Awards uses satellite technology to measure the green-ness (vigour and vitality) of sports turf grass.

Satellite imagery is a universally accepted tool for measuring the health and vitality of agricultural food crops around the world. The Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is the most common in use and was developed as standard measurement of vegetation health and vitality. Very simply it is a relationship between grass vigour and grass stress – the higher the index the greater the health and vitality of the grass.

In addition to NDVI there are two other measures Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) and Leaf Area Index (LAI).

All three measures: NDVI EVI and LAI are measures are precise, objective and a fair ways of comparing areas of vegetation across geography (the east side of a golf course vs. the west side), or across time (winter vigour vs spring vigour).

All three measures, NDVI, EVI and LAI are combined in the single vegetative vitality metric:

Kleffmann Digital Biomass Index (KDBI).

The result of this specific calculation provides information of the biomass vitality. The calculated biomass vitality has the same range for each field and date. In comparison to the sole usage of NDVI, factors of the plant canopy structure (including the leaf area index – LAI) are weighted heavier in the Kleffmann Digital Biomass Index.

Dark green indicates high health and reds indicate poor health – the images above are for the same field in 2019 (Left was April 2019 and right was January 2019)

A unique perspective on grass vitality on sports turf

At FairWay Awards we have been looking at how the Kleffman Digital Biomass Index (KDBI) measurements of sports turf can add some insights and perspectives on what we see everyday. The standardisation of measurement is in sharp contrast with the subjectivity of what I think that I may see from one day to another, let alone the inconsistency of what I remember from last year!

What we hope to do in this section is provide a benchmark against which changes can be judged in a more objective way. As we sought to do this we found unexpectedly larger differences where ever we looked: from year to year, across regions, and for example between golf courses and within golf courses.

In this section we report on historical KDBI data for the same golf fairways across 2018, 2019 and right up to date in March 2020. As this is an exploratory exercise the samples are not large but even so start to show consistencies that I suspect (as a professional market researcher) may not ironed out with larger samples. The questions that emerge at the end, will not, I think be different.

Whilst most of the website is dedicated to reporting regionally on historical evidence of golf grass vitality in Great Britain, satellite measurements using the KDBI tool can be used practically on the ground by agronomists and green keepers as a management tool. This is explored further here.

Please browse through the results for each year and add your comments and insights from the experiences and perspectives that you have.

Satellite reading of vegetative vitality has many applications, and today is mainly found in agriculture where it is core to the concept of “digital farming”. It may only be a question of time before the same technology find its way into the sports turf sector and “digital green keeping” becomes main stream. The technology is proven and easy to use and has the same practical management benefits for the green keeper as it does for the farmer.

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