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AE437: Smart Irrigation Controllers: How Do Soil Moisture Sensor (SMS) Irrigation Controllers Work?

Figure 1. Simplified diagram showing how a soil moisture sensor (SMS) is typically connected to an automated irrigation system. The irrigation timer is connected to a solenoid valve through a hot and a common wire. The common wire is spliced with the SMS system (a controller that acts as a switch, and a sensor buried in the root zone that estimates the soil water content). The SMS takes a reading of the amount of water in the soil and the SMS controller uses that information to open or close the switch. If the soil water content is below the threshold established by the user, the controller will close the switch, allowing power from the timer to reach the irrigation valve and trigger irrigation. In this example the controller opens the switch, bypassing irrigation, because of rainfall wetting the soil around the soil moisture sensor.

Credit: Melissa Haley