Athletic Fields and Growth Products
Outside of professional and college sports fields, most athletic fields are owned by high schools or municipalities. With limited resources, the managers of these fields need to get the most for their money. We’ve been working with these fields and managers for over 30 years, and in this newsletter we’ll focus on how Growth Products can help create great fields with better maintenance and lower costs.
More so than most turf types, athletic fields are impacted by heavy use. High school and municipal sports fields are often used not just for athletics, but for concerts, arts festivals, band practice, gym classes, and more. With such high usage, fields get very compacted.
Many consultants suggest multiple rounds of aeration, but that’s rarely an option due to the expense. We take a different but effective approach.
When called on to help with school and municipal fields, we start by evaluating all the issues involved, including factors such as whether the field has good drainage. Is there puddling? Is there proper crowning on the field? Those are design issues that can only be addressed mechanically. Beyond that, Growth Products has a number of solutions that can greatly assist with keeping athletic fields in good condition.
Silicate, when applied to perennial ryegrass, may significantly suppress gray leaf spot, according to a study by Rahman, Wallis, and Uddin. (See footnote for complete reference.)
Soil Compaction, Root Depth, Water Quality, & Nutrition
We always take a soil test to check for any nutrient deficiencies, an irrigation water test, and a paste extract test to see how the soil and the available water interact. Often, we’ll take a core sample to reveal the extent of the soil compaction.
The best product to reduce compaction is Essential Plus™ , a liquid soil amendment and biostimulant. It is easy-to-use and 100 percent organic – so it’s totally safe for playing fields.
With three applications of Essential Plus™ a year (in spring, summer and fall), compaction can be immensely reduced. We remember one field that had a turf root depth of only ½ inch. After two years of Essential Plus applications, the root system extended to over 12” in depth, which is really quite amazing. A better root system improves everything, and provides a safer playing surface for athletes.
Another factor for turf and root health is the quality of the water applied to the field. With changing climate patterns and increasing periods of drought across the country, many areas are turning to effluent water for turf and landscape use. Effluent water has a much higher salt index than what we’ve experienced in the past – to the point the water can actually kill trees and turf – and green industry professionals must make changes to accommodate for it.
Growth Products’ liquid fertilizers have long had some of the lowest salt indexes on the market. As the use of high-salt, high-bicarbonate effluent water increases, these low salt indexes becomes increasingly attractive and important when selecting a fertilizer.
Moreover, when soil pH or soil bicarbonate levels are too high – either from the use of effluent water or from years of use of high-salt granular fertilizers – soils can no longer uptake the nutrients from additional granular fertilizers. Since Growth Products’ fertilizers are foliar-applied liquid solutions, they are absorbed through the leaves for immediate uptake, and do not rely on system uptake.
Most granular fertilizers lose their efficiency by 40 to 80% just by volatilization and leaching, whereas Growth Product’s slow release nitrogen fertilizers have less than ½ of one percent of loss from these factors. (When comparing prices, you should ask how much nitrogen are you really getting for your dollar??)
For the most part, the nitrogen in Growth Products’ fertilizers is a special type of slow release nitrogen that we call “smart nitrogen.” Our products let you go anywhere from spoon-feeding turf, to applying fertilizer only every 12 weeks. None of our fertilizers go above a 30 salt index, which is a big advantage.
For athletic fields, I like Nitro-30, which is 85% slow release nitrogen, or Nitro + K 22-0-16. Our Classic 18-3-6 with micronutrients is also an excellent choice, and includes 100% chelated micros for immediate uptake.
Growth Products also has two products specifically formulated to reduce or reverse damage caused by high saline content in soils. One is HydroMax™, a natural wetting agent and soil penetrant derived from the Yucca plant. Using surfactants such as Hydro-Max typically allows turf managers to get excellent results with water savings of up to 35%.
Sodium Knockout® is a calcium drench product with a wetting agent that will reduce salt build-ups in soils. We’ve used Sodium Knockout® on a number of municipal athletic fields, and have had excellent success with it.