Stress Time: Soil Test To Focus On The Weakest Link

Summer stress for natural grass surfaces is on.  Its known as the “90 Days of Hell” in the transition zone and cool season climates.  Some of our clients are reporting stress.. and social media abounds with stressed grass and stressed turfgrass managers.

Currently for clients that are seeing any kind of stress or lack of growth, we are sharing 1 simple message to our clients:  Soil Test Immediately.

WHY?

Liebig’s Law Of The Minimum 

“The availability of the most abundant nutrient in the soil is only as good as the availability of the least abundant nutrient in the soil.”

Soil testing is something that seems so simple and so trivial.  Previously we have done it and/or recommended it 1-2 times per year, but with no plan on why or when.  Then 1 day it registered with me completely when a turfgrass scientist and inventor made a very simple yet bold statement:  “I can diagnose any plant growth or healthy problem from a soil test”.

My immediate reaction was to press him. “Wait.  What?  What about the tissue test? What about a pathogen test? What about…”  NO, it can NOT be that simple!

But he can.  And he does.  A soil test can diagnose a wide range of things from something as simple as salt stress all the way to disease potential. A soil test is a true diagnosis tool.

HOW?

Liebig’s Law Of The Minimum

This “law” or “principle” of the minimum was formulated by Carl Sprengel, a German botanist, as early as 1828.  It became more well know when German biochemist and professor Justus von Liebig publicized and studied it more widely starting around 1840.  Liebig’s work became the foundation for laboratory oriented teaching as its known today and earned him consideration as the “Father of the fertilizer industry”.  Simply put, Liebig’s Law of The Minimum summarizes that plant growth and health is not controlled by the total amount of nutrients available in the soil… But instead plant growth and health is control by the scarcest of the nutrients available in the soil.  Liebig’s Law many times is summarized with the icon of a leaking bucket.  The factor of which is the weakest or slowest on the bucket is where the bucket leaks.  It is also described using a chain example- the weakest link in the chain is where the chain will break.

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Using Liebig’s Law for turfgrass management… turfgrass growth isn’t driven by maintaining upper levels of nutrients, its driven by building a foundation of all nutrients.  Grass plants are prone to disease when lacking in certain nutrients as much as having excess in other nutrients.  With the stress period of summer arriving now, a soil test from March or isn’t telling us what we need to know NOW.  Soil holding can change quickly, especially in times of frequent irrigation during drought (being experienced in part of the country right now) and in times of too much rainfall (also experienced by part of the country over the last 2 months).  Thus planning forward, for this season and forever more, our simple yet important recommendation of getting a soil test in mid-June/ early July will be concrete to help preparation for stress and in diagnose turfgrass stress or lack of growth.

Seems so simple and outdated from 1828, but a basic principle such as Liebig’s Law will certainly stand the test of time!


Frequently we are asked which soil test we utilize, as many different companies work in the soil testing market. Some of these soil tests are better than others.  Natural Grass Advisory Group™ utilizes the Ana-Lync SportsTurf™ Soil test from Harris Laboratories and Analysis International™.  We use Ana-Lynch SportsTurf™ because NGAG and Growing Innovations™ helped develop this one of a kind, sports field specific turfgrass soil test in conjunction with Floratine Products Group.  With Ana-Lync SportsTurf™, we are able to provide our clients technology and information specific to sports turf  that we have been able to influence development of.  We are able to use this test independently to create our prescriptions and advice. An example of Ana-Lync Sport™: 

SAMPLE REPORT - SOCCER - 2013-05-01 (SportsTurf) (dragged)

This blog post is Copyright © JeradRMinnick 2016 and requires written                                      permission to re-use or re-post in any commercial manner.  

Transition Zone Bermudagrass: “Out of Gas” This Spring??

Mother Nature has reminded us this spring that the seasonal “average” weather isn’t always what she decides to provide us. For most of the spring, especially through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, the up and down temperatures have stressed even cool season turfgrass. After a warmer winter period and above normal temperatures in March that encouraged spring green… prolonged periods of overcast, cold and damp followed. Cool season is stressed, but bermudagrass is REALLY confused. Bermuda in many situations is acting like it just “out of gas” to be able to regenerate or transition out from ryegrass overseeding.

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Green Bermudagrass Under Grow Covers in Feb, In Washington, DC

But we are seeing some very different bermudagrass results with regeneration and/or transition. Some bermudagrass fields are fighting back strong now that we are into May, yet some continue to face challenges. But why? Temperatures across through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic came up early to support bermudagrass to pull out of dormancy early. Shouldn’t it be growing actively by now, even with the cool and overcast?

Literally, it really is just “Out of Gas”!!!

The lack of full dormancy and early spring green up, things we thought were good, are actually what is leading to the bermudagrass being “out of gas”. It can even be worse on bermudagrass that was kept under grow covers most of the winter. The covers provided temperatures for the bermuda to continue to grow. But we now are understanding that temperature alone is not enough. The importance of light for photosynthesis in bermudagrass has been overlooked. The short days w/ a low sun angle through the fall, winter and spring have a bigger impact on bermudagrass growth than we have ever realized.

Light Requirement For Bermudagrass: Bermudagrass requires more than for cool season. On average, bermudagrass varieties requires around 35 mol/ day of light for photosynthesis to produce the required energy for normal plant processes. In Raleigh-Durham, North Carloina in full sun (no winter damaged tissue or ryegrass overseeding producing shade), the sun provides (See chart below for entire year):

Fall:       Sept 10 to Oct 8 average: 39.5 mols/ day
               Oct 8 to Nov. 5 average: 28.1 mols/ day
               Nov 5 to Dec 3 average: 19.9 mols/ day
Winter: Dec 3 to Dec 31 average: 19.3 mols/ day
               Jan 1 to Jan 29 average: 19.3 mols/ day
               Jan 29 to Feb 26 average: 26.8 mols/ day
              Feb 26 to March 26 average: 33.4 mols/ day 
Spring: March 26 to April 23 average : 46.3 mols/ day   (FINALLY above 35 Mol/day!)
              April 23 to May 21 average: 48.2 mols/day

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Par Light Average In Mol/day In Raleigh-Durham, NC (www.SGLConcept.com)

From mid October until the first of April, even in full sun, photosynthesis can not produce enough energy to support regular bermudagrass plant growth. Thats over 5 MONTHS! For bermudagrass further north in somewhere like Kansas City, the light required for healthy growth would lack for nearly 6 months. Newer varieties of bermudagrass like Latitude36 and Celebration require less light than the 35 mols/ day, so we see them sustain growth later in the fall and earlier in the spring. But overall, the light for photosynthesis just isn’t there.

So what? Why does this matter to bermudagrass?  When Mother Nature provides warmer temperatures, or when we manipulate the growing environment with grow tarps, bermudagrass grass sustains green and produces growth. But because photosynthesis isn’t producing energy to keep up with that growth, late season or early spring growth, the energy reserves of the bermudagrass are burned up and the plant goes into stress and starvation mode. Some fields we have this spring have actually went dormant when they were green in January and February. Or fields that were growing in March have slowed now even into May because of the continual overcast, cloudy and wet conditions.

Now that we understand the cause, for the short term, how do we find a solution? Follow we want to share what seems to be some of the pillars of the strong bermudagrass regeneration and transition:

Get light to the bermudagrass plants: We have established the problem of the lack of light and the need for energy production. Step 1… get light to the plants! This means:

a. Lower mowing height and increasing mowing frequency. Especially on a bermudagrass field that is overseeded. In non-overseeded, mowing low (down to 1/2” if possible) will help clean out all the dead or winter damaged tissue and promote green bermudagrass to push up through.

b. Clean out/ Open up the canopy to get sun down through. Something as simple as brushing or dragging with a steel drag can open up the canopy. Verticutting, core aeration, or Universe Fraze Mowing can clean out and open up the canopy as well. Avoid topdressing with more than 1/8” of material… we want to promote light to the plants, not increase the barrier.

c. Supplement support for energy production from bio-stimulant products: Technology in plant feeding products allows us to provide the stressed bermudagrass with the amino acids and sugars that it needs to support photosynthesis for energy. A range of patented, scientifically engineered products existing to do this so all the stress isn’t on the plant and photosynthesis. Key, patented products were are recommending for stress relief and photosynthetic support include a combination from Floratine Products Group:

  • Protesyn: Formulation of amino acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. Equate Protesyn to a sports drink and/or some liquid sunshine. Helps with lack of energy and stress!
  • Knife Plus: Micronutrient product combined with a hormone loading for support of plant systems. The micronutrients cover the range for the essential building blocks for photosynthesis
  • 5.0 Cal: Blend of calcium and simple and complex carbohydrates to support the turfgrass plant during stress periods. The calcium and sugars mirror what is produced during photosynthesis.

The fields we are seeing in the strongest condition are receiving supplemental bio-stimulant applications to support energy production. Simply… The applications are supporting plant processes to keep the plant from running out of gas!!

d. Avoiding N to drive growth, Instead using hormones to push natural, healthy growth: With getting sunlight to the plants and reducing plant stress by using plant feeding technology, its time to push the bermudagrass to start to grow and recover. Go go go! But another theme of the best fields we are seeing currently are NOT turning to just nitrogen to push growth. Historically, spring time growth and bermudagrass fill in comes from simple applications of 46-0-0 and 21-0-0. But we now know that excessive nitrogen drives unhealthy growth and burns up energy reserves. Yes, we just built up our energy reserves! Lets not burn through them already. Instead, for a granular fertilizer, turn to an organic product to feed soil microbes or a Poly coated product such as Polyon to give you control of release. Then turning to a hormone package to increase cell division and drive healthy, natural growth at this point in time. Temperatures, soil and air, continue to be low. Even if you are set on using N for your re-grow, its too cold for bermudagrass to metabolize N in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Hormones, in combination with the energy support we discussed previous, really is the best ticket to get strong re-generation and transition through ryegrass in this stressful time.

Recommendations on products? We recommend our clients turn again to Floratine Products Group for some of their patented bio-stimulant products:

  • High 5: Warm-season grass specific nutrient product with hormones and micronutrients
  • Per4Max: Hormone and nutrient product designed specifically to increase GA production to promote cell division for bermudagrass to spread rapidly
    – With that combination, a potassium phosphite product also is helpful to support energy production along with .05 lbs/ of true foliar N in the spray.

De-compacted the soil!! De-compacting soil is the #1 key cultural key in the successful bermudagrass regeneration and transitions observed this spring. Wet soils compact more quickly from play than dry soil. These consistent wet conditions have led to some extreme compaction conditions. Those compacted soils need opened to:
Allows air into the soil profile, promoting both soil microbes and bermudagrass roots. The soil air and microbial activity on a de-compacted soil are essential for support growth
Allows water to move down through the soil profile faster. The water moving through reduces rain cancellations. It also allows air to come back into the soil faster. Where there is water, there is no air. Once the water can move through and air is back into the soil, both soil microbes and the bermuda roots can be stronger.

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Air2G2 Decompacting Football Sidelines with NO Disruption

Ultimately, the lessons of a challenging spring here in 2016 will help us avoid the same challenges in the years ahead. Because of the mild winter through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, it was assumed that the spring and summer would be much easier with winter kill totally avoided. But the damage done from semi-dormant bermudagrass attempting to grow when it is typically dormant may cause just as many challenges as winter kill could. But overall, with as aggressive as bermudagrass can be, as soon as you are able to 1) get light to the plant and 2) supplement to support energy production, the plants will recover and begin to grow. Then at that point you can 3) push healthy, strong growth with hormones and utilize slow release N to support the growth process.

And remembering the key, none of it works at all on a compacted soil! Fields need to be used, we just have to respond in new and different ways to support them. Even when Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate.

Keep up the great work, and share your examples of success with us if you are having them! Cheers to #GrassCanTakeMore™!!!

JM


Copyright © 2016 Growing Innovations, LLC All Rights Reserved.  

SGL MasterClass Wrap Up

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MasterClass 2016 proved to be a thought provoking and educational event. MasterClass is an invitation only, education event put on by Stadium Grow Light (SGL) specifically for their over 180 stadium customers around the globe to come together. 2016 MasterClass was entitled “Back to the Future” to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the unique event. MasterClass #1 was also held in Holland, Home of SGL.  A full detailed break down of the event can be experienced here on the live blog of MasterClass 2016, “Back to the Future”.

Day 1 of MasterClass took place at the world famous Amsterdam Arena. Day 2 featured a visit to Porta Nova, the 25 acre rose growing operation that has been in SGL inventor Nico van Vuuren’s family since the 1890’s. At Porta Nova, MasterClass participants also were exposed to ongoing research being done by the SGL agronomy team. After Porta Nova, MasterClass moved to Rotterdam, Holland’s Feyenoord Stadium for a pitch tour and to wrap up the education and sharing.

Let’s look at some of the key thoughts and points of the events education and sharing:

IMPROVEMENT: SGL is the world leader in the supplemental light technology sector, a sector that they (SGL) created. Supplemental light research and technology reached the sales market during the early 2000’s when SGL successfully completed its first trial at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in the UK. Since they have grown to have over 180 stadiums around the world using supplemental light for natural grass growth and recovery. But even as the world leader, SGL continues to evolve and improve.

Three examples of that improvement were on display at MasterClass:

LU440: The LU440 is a new, full size light unit with aluminum construction. The aluminum reduces the overall weight of the unit dramatically. It also allows the unit to fold up much easier, which saves time on set up and break down of light rig. The LU440 overall is a dramatic improvement on an already fantastic full size light unit, the MU360. While the LU440 is still in limited supply, the MU360 is still am amazing tool for supplying supplemental light!

IQ55: The IQ55 was considered by many as the star of MasterClass 2016. The IQ55 is a full climate controlled tent unit to provide natural grass field managers with a tool to control all components of plant growth. Temperature, humidity, moisture, CO2, O2, light… any and all factors leading to plant growth, health, and recovery… can be controlled with an automated system. And all of it mounted on a standard, MU50 type light rig frame for simple movement. As the playing season now is nearly year round, the IQ55 provides a tool that can support growth and recovery at any time.

Modeling Improvements/ Additional of Disease Pressure: SGL provides a high level of data and support models to its clients around the world. The model inputs include hours of play, weather conditions, and the expectation of field quality to dictate potential fertilizer needs and to supply the needed hours of lighting. SGL agronomists and engineers continue to evolve the growth and lighting models to best to supply clients with the correct lighting recipe to 1) use the light amount of light required and 2) meet the demands of field quality set by the client. A new addition to the models this year is disease modeling and alerting. The models will provide clients with on-demand data on potential diseases that their fields could be prone to. This data will greatly reduce the guessing that sometimes goes into spraying for disease suppression.
TECHNOLOGY: Technology is always evolving and improving. Especially with products involving energy and light. SGL is working closely with several companies to provide the latest in lighting innovation. These include the world leader in lighting, Phillips.

LED: LED is the most popular topic in the world in reference to lighting. Where LED is breaking into the stadium flood lighting market, for plant growth (and specifically grass growth) LED is still in development. The SGL research and development team is working closely with the green house development team at Porta Nova rose green houses to create the best system possible for LED and plant growth. The LED light spectrum can provide plants light. But heat is needed in combination with light to provide the most efficient growth. Currently the high pressure sodium lights provide that needed heat. Eliminating the high pressure sodium bulbs could reduce energy use, but then infrared heat is required to be added to provide the best growing conditions. The additional infrared heat actually increases overall energy costs.
In the end, it seems some sort of hybrid option with a mix of LED and high pressure sodium will be worked out. But as demands on natural grass increase, the need for light intensity and heat increases as well to encourage regeneration of the grass plants.  IMG_0598

IQ55: Back to the IQ55. The technology involved in the IQ55 controlled growing environment is a new level for anything ever seen in turfgrass growth. The automated sensor system inside the IQ55 allows a natural grass field manager to have complete control of the growing environment. Though somewhat small compared to a full size field, the IQ55 is large enough to treat and repair quickly high traffic areas such as the front of a baseball infield, between the hash marks on an American football field, or through the PK area on a soccer field. As the IQ series evolves, this will become a valued tool to win against high use.

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INNOVATION: To innovate is defined as to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”. SGL was founded on innovation when it introduced the first supplemental turfgrass grow lighting solution into the market. No longer were shade or short day length limiting factors for natural grass growth. New solution, old problems.

Innovation is again a description with the UVC180 introduction. Turfgrass managers spend more time on disease pressure/ disease management than about any other turfgrass challenge. Many times budgets for fungicides match or even dwarf other budget categories. Thus, the potential that UV light could treat diseases to reduce the stress on turfgrass managers and/or reduce their budgets is ground shaking. No doubt there is much more to come in reference to UV light and diseases, but the initial introduction is extremely exciting!!!

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SGL MasterClass certainly was the thought provoking and educational event that participants had hoped for. Well done SGL, and CONGRATULATIONS on 10 years of such a unique and successful educational event.

FOR THE TIMELINE OF THE ENTIRE EVENT, VISIT HERE

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“Let There Be Light” Follow Up

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There has been great idea exchange and feedback stemming from a recent article in SportsField Management “Let There Be Light”.  Thank you for that!! The article examines the introduction and use of supplemental light units for natural grass fields, back to its introduction from SGL in Holland.

What an enjoyable piece to put together! It stems from an “ah ha” moment during a recent visit to the UK.  A training ground was using the SGL light system for growth and recovery on high-use area on the training fields.  But wait?  Isn’t supplemental lighting just for stadiums with big roofs and shade?

NO!

When turfgrass growth slows in the fall/ winter/ spring, we concede the loss of growth to the time of the year.  The growth is slowed, yes by temperature in cold areas, but just as much by sun angle and day length.  8 hours of day length with the sun low on the horizon is not enough for grass to grow.  Thus is goes dormant.

And grasses themselves are grouped and described as “shade tolerant”.  Yet ultimately it really has nothing to do with shade.  “Shade tolerant” grasses simply require less light for maximum growth.  A great example is from the initial success of Latitude 36 bermudagrass in the transition zone.  In its first few year, Latitude has dramatically out performed other cold tolerant bermudagrass varieties in fall color and growth in the transition  zone.  Why does Latitude 36 sustain growth in the fall as temperatures fall and day length gets shorter?  Because it is a cold tolerant variety right?

Not all the case!  Latitude 36 is a very cold tolerant variety of bermudagrass. But via a new study from the USGA on “Development of Shade-Tolerant Bermudagrass Cultivars”, Latitude 36 now looks to be the most shade tolerant of all bermudas.  But again, its not just about shade… its about light requirement.  Latitude 36 stays strong with growth well into the fall because 1) yes, its a cold tolerant variety, BUT also 2) it requires less light to sustain growth.  As day length gets shorter and the sun angle gets lower in the sky through the fall, Latitude 36 is able to keep growing.

I reference the article “Pour Some Light On Me” from Dr. Karl Danneberger.  Dr. Dannenberger put all of these points into perspective magically several years ago.  THANK YOU for that!  Dr. Dannenberger references another study that caught my attention from Dr. B. Todd Bunnell and Dr. Bert McCarty on light requirement for TifEagle putting greens.  (Their study started in 2001, not 2004 as SportField Management referenced.  The GCSAA article was published August, 2004).  The article, “Sunlight requirements for ultradwarf bermudagrass greens” is tremendous.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Ultimately, turfgrass plants need light.  And supplemental light provides the opportunity for growth and recovery year round, where Mother Nature does not provide for year round growth from sunlight.  Hence, a training ground using supplemental light to promote growth and recover on high-traffic fields is not wasteful, but instead GENIUS!

That unique situation and the “ah ha” moment was a first, but there is no doubt that it will NOT be the last! With this type of innovation and technology, GrassCanTakeMore™!!!

See the full article here:  “Let There Be Light”, SportsField Management

JM

Always Improving! University of Portland’s Merlo Field Universe Fraze Mow #2 Results

This week University of Portland’s Merlo Field became the first cool season turfgrass field in the United States to employ Universe Fraze Mowing for a second time.  In April, 2014, Field Manager Jordon Montgomery also was the first, as the first ever USA Field Manager to turn to the process for cool season turfgrass to remove:

70% poa annua population
– 1″ layer of thatch
– Reduce a thick layer of organic matter accumulated on the top of the sand based soil

The 2015 results of the Universe Fraze Mowing process were superb.

Universe Fraze Mowing of Merlo Field, U of Portland

Universe Fraze Mowing of Merlo Field, U of Portland

Poa Annua Plants Removed From Strong Stand of #RPP Ryegrass and #HGT Kentucky bluegrass

Poa Annua Plants Removed From Strong Stand of #RPP Ryegrass and #HGT Kentucky bluegrass

Poa Annua Patch Removed

Poa Annua Patch Removed

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Poa Annua plants and seed have been removed, along with 2014’s thatch and organic build up to keep the field surface from becoming slick.  Now new ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass seed will be sewed.  But even more importantly for durability and increased field use, the improved turfgrass varieties of RPR Ryegrass and HGT Kentucky bluegrass seeded last year following the Universe Fraze Mow can re-generate.  This will encourage the grasses to spread, ultimately increasing the tensile strength of the base surface to reduce divoting and wear.

2014 reduced the poa annua population from 70% to 20%.

2014 Merlo Field Before Universe Fraze Mowing w/ 70% Poa Annua

2014 Merlo Field Before Universe Fraze Mowing w/ 70% Poa Annua

2015 Poa Reduction and Surface Improvement

2015 Poa Reduction and Surface Improvement

The 1″ thatch layer was also removed along with the top of a thick organic layer.  The removal yielded a dramatically better playing surface.  The clean and re-generated surface is tight and strong, leading to nearly no divoting even when being used in the rain.  After 3 months of camps in Summer of 2014, a full men’s and women’s college schedule in the fall, and 13 spring matches, the field was nearly perfect when the 2015 Universe Fraze Mowing took place.

Thick, Dense Stand Even Through Goal Areas After 13 Spring Matches,  Full Men's and Women's Season in the Fall, and Summer Camps in June, July, and August

Thick, Dense Stand Monday, Even Through Goal Areas After 13 Spring Matches, Full Men’s and Women’s Season in the Fall, and Summer Camps in June, July, and August

When Merlo Field is/ was in such excellent condition and the poa annua had been dramatically reduced, why Universe Fraze Mowing in 2015?

Simple.  Improvement.

From Field Manager Jordon Montgomery… “We want to continue to improve the playing surface while increasing use. The introduction Portland Timbers 2, the USL pro team calling Merlo Field home is an example of that.  All our home teams and events need the best playing surface we can provide while being environmentally and budget conscious.  That all leads to Universe Fraze Mowing”.  

#GrassCanTakeMore.

AMAZING EVOLUTION & Quick History!  Universe fraze mowing cool season turfgrass was first performed at Paris St-Germain’s Parc des Princes Stadium in July of 2013.  New Head Groundsman Jonathan Calderwood chose the bold method, previously only used in the United States on bermudagrass, to remove the poa annua plants in his pitch and leave behind the existing desirable Kentucky bluegrass and Ryegrass.

PSG Renovation July 2013 (32)

So yes… Universe Fraze Mowing is DIFFERENT than basic fraise mowing.  Fraise mowing was introduced in 1996 by Mr. Ko Rodenburg, Superintendent of Parks Maintenance in Rotterdam, Holland when he invited the KORO Field Topmaker.  Rodenburg invented the machine to clean the poa annua seed off the top of his playing fields and to encourage some basic regeneration.  Fraise mowing was born!

With the introduction of the KORO Universe® Rotor for the Field Topmaker in winter of 2012-2013; allowing stolons and rhizomes on spreading grasses to remain while removing organic, thatch, and weed seed; lead to Universe Fraze Mowing directly from this blog to Mr. Allen Reed and Mr. Miles Studhalter’s bermuda fields at FC Dallas.  See for details: Summary of a new concept; Fraze Mowing & Concept to Active Practice; Fraze Mowing Debuts at FC Dallas.   The use on bermudagrass had started, then Mr. Calderwood working with Mr. Simon Gumbrill from Campey Turf Care, took the lessons from bermudagrass and implemented them to cool season. Now Jordon Montgomery in Portland as taken it even further with repeated use.  AMAZING how it continues to evolve with creative minded Field Managers ready and willing to try to new things!  #GrassCanTakeMore!

XtraGrass at Lakewood Memorial

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XTRAGRASS

In search of new ideas for natural grass surfaces, Growing Green Grass visited JeffCo Schools Lakewood Memorial Stadium last week in Denver, CO. The Lakewood Memorial field features a new version of synthetic reinforcement for natural grass called XtraGrass. The field is a RPR/ HGT seeded field, and has had 60 soccer matches played in 60 days.  The condition of the field was fantastic. Great work by Sports Field Manager Chris Gray and team at JeffCo Schools!  Thanks Chris for having us!

What is XtraGrass:
XtraGrass is essentially synthetic turf that is infilled with sand and grass instead of rubber, sand, cork, etc. Once XtraGrass is installed, the carpet “backing” begins to biodegrade and the natural grass roots through into the soil below.

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 How Does It Work?
The synthetic fibers coming up through the sand protect the crown of the grass plants. When a player stops, plants, turns, or pushes off, the synthetic fibers assist in footing and provide reinforcement to reduce shear and divots. Many of the 60 matches at Lakewood Memorial have been played in the rain, and absolutely no divots or tears were evident. Especially telling as the field was seeded only in late June and opened in late August. When the field begins to wear, the synthetic fibers provide continued stability and supply a green cast to the field. XtraGrass on its own without sand and grass infill achieves a FIFA 1-star rating.

Graff Turf on XtraGrass Installation 

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

How Is It Different?
The initial question that comes to mind is “how is XtraGrass different”? Different than SportGrass in the 90’s, different than the product distributed by Motz currently, different than even Desso’s GrassMaster. Those are all questions that have to be answered by the producers of each of those products. But certainly it seems that XtraGrass could be just as its advertised.. Different. The biodegradable backing on the field at Lakewood is showing signs of break down, and roots are starting to push through into the native soil below. And as mentioned, absolutely no divoting was present on the surface of the field

 Graff Turf on Grow-In 

Maintenance
Maintenance of an XtraGrass field is relatively similar to any other high traffic grass field. Lakewood Memorial is not a big budget field; rather Mr. Gray is on a small budget with challenges that most all field managers can relate to.

In regards to specific XtraGrass maintenance, regular aeration with solid tines/ deep tines to keep the field de-compacted is important. Core aeration is not possible because the backing will not go through the tines, but the top layer is sand and the grass is grown in from seed so there is no organic layer need to be opened up w/ core aeration. Dry-Ject, Air2G2, and such seem possible. As is slicing or spiking to promote rooting through the backing.

The main maintenance key in the long term will be thatch management. Thatch/ organic build up will have to be limited to keep the synthetic fibers in play. If the build up gets above the fibers, they will be useless. Regular, light verticutting and yearly to bi-yearly Universe® fraze mowing will be required. The Universe® rotor for the KORO Field Topmaker was originally invented to clean organic from Desso Grassmaster to avoid this very thing, so it is ideal for XtraGrass. Ultimately though, XtraGrass requires little special treatment than any other grass field

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Conclusion
At initial introduction, XtraGrass seems to be exactly what it is advertised to be. A natural grass/ synthetic hybrid system is scary to many because of the failures of products in the past. But because those failures in the past are understood, it is possible for such a product to work in the present and future. The Lakewood Memorial field is a high traffic, low maintenance example of how XtraGrass could help high traffic fields, especially in cool season climates where stability is an issue. Sports field managers and users are in need of a bridge product between full synthetic and standard natural grass… XtraGrass very much could be that bridge.

We will continue to observe and update you… more to come!

See the XtraGrass website: http://www.xtragrass.com/en/

#ThinkDifferent: 3 Keys to High Traffic Fields

Grass Fields CAN Take More! Positive thinking and “thinking different” have established that.  The possibilities of grass fields are endless.

BUT HOW??? When it comes to current maintenance and real practicality, what changes to move forward and have your grass fields take more? 

Think Different.   Yes.  We are back to that! 

Each field’s current condition is created and maintained with an established approach.  How much has that approach changed from last year to this year? What about in the last 3 years?  5 years? 

Remember:  “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got”

Meeting the demands of increased traffic is stressful.  It can even be overwhelming to know where to start on changing a maintenance plan.  What a challenging task!  Walt Disney might have been right when he said “It is kind of do the impossible”.  But he left out the part about it being such hard work right?!  

In order to meet the demands of high traffic with grass fields and to evolve the maintenance approach, lets take a step back and simplify the challenge.  By breaking a maintenance approach into 3 keys to focus and “think different” about separately, the challenge becomes more manageable 

1)  Aggressive Cultivation

2) Nutrient Management

3) Traffic Management 

Jerad Minnick and Sarah Hardy wrote an article for SportsTurf magazine in October of 2012 that lays the foundation for these 3 keys.  Have a read of that article:  THREE KEYS to managing high traffic, high quality athletic fields

Did the concepts in the article create any new ideas for you?  Yes… it is still overwhelming to think about all of those things isn’t it?  Each key has so many actionable parts to think differently about.  With the challenge still looming and the ideas of that article being nearly 2 years old, let’s break down the 3 keys again.

Over the next week, together let’s break down each topic and share ideas, possibilities, and examples of implementation where it has been proven:  Grass fields CAN take more! 

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