Feature Article - November 2002
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Good Groundskeeping

A closer look at innovations and best practices for maintaining high-quality sports fields

By Mitch Martin


Internet to the fescue

With the proliferation of turf management programs at major universities, there are an increasing number of knowledge resources at colleges and extension offices across the country. Much of this information is easy to access on the Internet.

Ohio State University has two interrelated Web-based programs that could be a model of future online help for turf managers. The Buckeye Sports Turf 10 Point Plan is a basic outline for athletic field managers to insure basic quality for their athletic fields. (The Web address is http://hcs.osu.edu/sportsturf/.)

Designed by several staff members and faculty at OSU, the plan is aimed at high schools and other budget-conscious facilities in the state.

Pam Sherratt is an extension specialist for Ohio State and is either the first or one of the first sports turf specialists for an extension program in the country. She prepared much of the content for the 10 Point Plan. Sherratt says the driving force behind the Web-based help was the fact that so many high schools have poor-quality fields because of a lack of expertise.


Good Field Guide

The Buckeye Sportsturf 10 Point Plan lists the following topics as the basics for maintaining a safe, well-performing athletic field.

  1. Maximize Rootzone Air
  2. Seeding & Sodding
  3. Supply Turf Nutrition
  4. Water Management for Performance
  5. Mowing for Performance
  6. Professional Field Presentation
  7. Manage Pests
  8. Manage Traffic & Wear
  9. Field Renovation/Reconstruction Options
  10. Enhance Personal Development

For more information, visit http://hcs.osu.edu/sportsturf/

IMAGES COURTESY OF HORTICULTURE & CROP SCIENCE/OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

"What we see on our field visits is a basic lack of understanding of the agronomy that is causing their fields to fail," Sherratt says.

The 10 Point Plan is designed to reinforce the basic tenants of sports field maintenance. A chief aim of the plan is to avoid what Sherratt calls "the classic quagmire syndrome" of compaction, leading to loss of grass cover, in turn leading to unsafe playing conditions.

"We could have had a 13 Point Plan, or a 14 Point Plan, but we wanted to have a basic, easy-to-understand plan that would promote safe, well-performing fields in the state of Ohio," Sherratt says.

Web users can click through the 10 points to ensure they are covering the basics for a properly maintained field.

Tim Rhodus, an OSU professor of horticulture, designed the site. Rhodus had the job of making the site both efficient and accurately transmitting the scientific knowledge of the turf grass faculty and staff. He says the Web site is based on his experience crafting distance-learning education classes.

"I tried to create a site that exploited both the environment of the Web and the knowledge of our sports turf program," Rhodus says.

OSU is on the verge of going online with an even more ambitious aid for athletic field supervisors. Rhodus is creating a Web-based Field Evaluation & Diagnostic Tool (FED) that will provide online feedback and resources based on the 10 Point Plan.

"Basically, once you've gotten results from the 10 Point Plan, you'll be able to find links to articles, contractors in your area or other information that will help address your particular deficiencies," Sherratt says.

Although the 10 Point Plan is based on the clay-heavy soils of Ohio and its extreme-ranging climate and conditions, Sherratt says the plan is applicable as a reference to a lesser degree across the northern part of the United States. (A native of England, Sherratt says the climate extremes in Ohio may make turf management more difficult in the Midwest than England, for example, but few in the United States have an English turf manager's drainage problems.)

"We have a joke that it only rains 15 minutes of every quarter hour," Sherratt says.

Many southern universities are excellent resources for warm-climate athletic fields, including, for example, the University of Florida and Texas A & M.

"Cool climate or warm climate, there are some fantastic college programs out there these days," Sherratt says.