Thomas J. Koske | 4/21/2005 9:07:12 PM
Athletic turf is often abused. Many people think that grass just grows and grows, and you can’t wear it out. The truth is that most fields are overused and undermaintained, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
Iowa State University conducted a national survey on athletic field use and resulting turf performance. Fields surveyed ranged from eight events per year per field to 656 events per field. The average maximum number of games and/or uses per year that would allow the field to recover fully was reported as 64. The average maximum number of events that lead to permanent damage was 79.
On average, field managers reported 125 events per field per year. Managers felt that this was about twice the play that a field could sustainably handle, although some reported maintaining adequate turf with as many as 150 events.
Koske says top-notch pro team and university game fields are allowed only very limited use. Often we see only eight or nine events on these football fields. Practice is held elsewhere on several other fields, such as the four high-quality football practice fields that LSU uses.
Many variables come into play in turf sustainability. These include type of grass, root-zone soil mixture, climate location, type of play and players, turf cultivation and topdressing, fertility and pest control.
A sustainable field-use plan should include good agronomic practices. Then take note of how much play can be tolerated before the turf breaks to a not-acceptable cover. This breakpoint will vary.
"With this information, you can either try more input or reduce the number of events," Koske says, adding, "A practice is still an event!"
Acceptable or "fair-rated" turf is some breakthrough of the sod, thatch beginning to wear out and a minor soil exposure. Cleats penetrate well and hold traction.
Unacceptable or "poor" turf cover is substantial breakthrough of the sod, thatch worn down to bare soil and less than 50 percent live-green coverage. This soil may be hard with poor cleat penetration producing less footing and more player leg problems.
Koske says these data help administrators make sound decisions on how many fields are needed for an expected amount of play. They also help with field maintenance schedule and budgets. The more wear you put on a field, the more maintenance it requires to be a sustainable cover within its maximum limits. Good turf cover is also a safety issue.
The LSU AgCenter provides basic athletic turf and soil maintenance recommendations in its commercial horticulture literature found at www.louisianalawnandgarden.org Web site.
For information on related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.