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

Stay Sharp

Your athletic field could be suffering from a rare and incurable disease. Or it may simply be the victim of poorly maintained mower blades.

That's the conclusion of a recent short article written by Matt Williams, a grounds supervisor at Cynergy Field, the home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Williams says he was inspired to write the article when a local high-school football coach approached him about his disease-ridden football field.

"He was very worried that the field looked terrible, and nothing was working to make it right," Williams says.

The football field suffered from a white discoloration that somewhat resembled Pythium blight from afar.

The real problem was something much simpler, Williams discovered. Dull, even blunt, mower blades were shearing off the grass, exposing their white centers. Williams noted that soft fescue is particularly prone to shearing.

"Shearing can make a field look really bad, really quickly," Williams says.

He says it is easy for grounds maintenance staffers to simply underestimate how much blade sharpening is required.

"Mower blades should be sharpened every 10 hours of use," Williams says. "For a basic homeowner, that's twice a summer. For even a high-school ballfield, it means sharpening as much as three times a week."

Williams says mower blades can be sharpened at a repair shop or honed with a metal file (which can be time-consuming) or a grinding stone attached to a drill or rotary tool or with a grinding wheel.

Williams, an Ohio State University alum, submitted his article to OSU's "SportsNotes" section of the OSU sports turf program Web site, available at http://hcs.osu.edu/sportsturf/notes/index.lasso.