Feature Article - January 2011
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Maintenance Series: Sports Turf

Toughen Up Your Turf

By Dawn Klingensmith

When properly applied, antimicrobial sprays provide a long-lasting protective layer against infectious bacteria, mold, mildew and germs. The sprays also kill staph and MRSA.

Other maintenance procedures, such as G Max (hardness) testing and deep cleaning, should be outsourced, with contract terms based on such factors as type of sport and climate conditions.

However, on a day-to-day basis the three basic components of field maintenance and preservation include keeping the surface free of debris, keeping the fibers in an upright position and preventing the infill from becoming compacted. "I would say another main concern is keeping the amount of infill at a consistent level," Maynard said. "We've come across fields that were under-filled or have settled over time and the owners are unsure how much rubber to put back in the field."

Synthetic turf manufacturers provide owners with additional "super sacks" of infill, Maynard added, but turf managers often lack the equipment or knowledge to put it in. As a result, his company now offers a top-dressing service that makes use of the super sacks left behind.

Responsible turf maintenance includes brushing the field at least once a week to raise the turf fibers and re-level the crumb rubber; de-compaction with a tine rake at least four times a year to soften the top quarter-inch of field for a safer playing surface; and regular site inspection.

"The sports turf manager will also need special knowledge in troubleshooting and minor repairs, such as seam repair and snow removal," Maynard said.

Athletic technicians inspect Pinsonneault's fields daily for unevenness, debris and other hazards.

In addition to this type of regular monitoring, "Have an outsourced, certified contractor visit your field before football season to check for loose seams, provide an infill depth report and conduct a G Max test," Maynard recommended.

All playing fields need to be periodically inspected, with five main objectives in mind. "We identify loose or torn seams, presence of debris, consistency of infill, field hardness and fiber wear," and then redress any problems, Maynard said.

Regular grooming, or brushing, is necessary to keep turf fibers in an upright position. There are drag brushes that can be pulled using a tractor or mower. Brushing improves footing, redistributes infill, reduces static electricity and improves the look of the playing surface.

Fallen leaves may seem harmless enough, but they should not be allowed to remain on the surface for any length of time because if they decompose into the infill system, drainage could be impeded.

The Association of Synthetic Grass Installers recommends that power washers never be used on artificial turf.

After any treatment applications, the turf should be rinsed in order to dilute the treatments and help flush them through the turf backing and into the base and soil materials, the association recommends. This also helps spread the treatments throughout the depth and breadth of the field.