Supplement Feature - October 2015
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Fields of Dreams

Trends & Best Practices in Sports Turf

By Rick Dandes

Maintenance Issues

It is important, Serensits said, that people realize synthetic turf is not maintenance-free. Just like with natural turf, synthetic fields require routine maintenance in order to provide maximum safety and playability. Field maintenance budgets should reflect this. Instead of mowing, they need to be groomed. Instead of fertilizing, infill needs to be added to high-wear areas. Proper maintenance is key to maximizing the lifespan of a synthetic turf field.

All synthetic turf manufacturers have recommended maintenance practice. These include sweeping, dragging, loosening and redistributing of infill, and cleaning. Cleaning may involve watering and the use of special solvents and cleansers. Depending on use and weather conditions, a sand-rubber mix may need to be added annually to help restore the field's resiliency. The sports turf manager will also need special knowledge in troubleshooting and minor repairs, such as seam repair and snow removal. The installer can provide this information per the manufacturer's guidelines.

"For natural turf fields," Serensits said, "one of the key maintenance practices is to constantly over-seed high-use areas. For example, down the center of a football field or at the soccer goal mouth—constantly seeding these areas is important to keep grass coverage. This idea is to create a 'seed bank' in the soil so that new plants are ready to take the place of plants that are worn away. It is also important to use the proper species. During field use, perennial ryegrass should be used due to its quick germination and establishment."

All natural turfgrass fields are living, breathing organisms that require mowing, watering, fertilizing, time off from play and, depending upon disease and pests, the application of plant protectants. To help ease compaction from heavy play, fields may be aerified multiple times a year. High sand fields require more attention to detail in the areas of watering and fertilization. They also require additional maintenance through top-dressing.

At the University of Buffalo, Titus said, students use a field owned by the town, "and both the city and the university have worked together to try to build the turf up over the past five years."

The field is used many times a day all summer by recreation and summer leagues. The university and city have spent a lot of time and money re-sodding the field after summer leagues to prepare for the university team's fall practices and ultimately the spring.

"Lately," Titus said, "we have worked with a consultant that core-tests the grass turf four times a year to make sure we are adding the proper nutrients to help the field regenerate. The town aerates and topdresses the fields multiple times every year to help build the turf. They re-sod the areas that are beyond repair. We also make sure we have the watering program scheduled appropriately."