Supplemental Light & Bermudagrass: An On Field Trial Upcoming

 

image1

Reflecting back over our sharing during the last year, we have realized that a pair of posts referencing two different topics at two different times inadvertently are extremely related. Their relation has lead to a trial about to begin utilizing supplemental grow lights to sustain bermudagrass growth through the fall.

“Transition Zone Bermudagrass Out of Gas This Spring” looked into/ shared lessons we were learning during spring and early summer bermudgrass struggles following a mild winter. Bermudagrass didn’t go into full dormancy with the mild temperatures. But instead of mild being a positive, lack of dormancy was a negative because the green and growing bermudgrass didn’t have the required light level for efficient photosynthesis. Carbohydrate/ energy reserves in the bermudagrass plants were burned up and the bermuda could not give a spring surge for growth and recovery.

In the “Let There Be Light Follow Up”, we took a look at bermudagrass light requirement and discussed the decrease of natural light from the sun in the fall season. By October, the sun does not produce enough light to sustain efficient bermudagrass photosynthesis and the grass slows down. Temperature change then follows to fully induce dormancy. Supplemental light could have a positive impact on bermudagrass growth then to sustain growth.

These two pieces are very much related, even though we were looking at different things at different times.  And there was a strong hypothesis coming from both:  Supplemental grow lighting will sustain bermudagrass growth late into the season.

img_1143

Supplemental Light On Celebration Bermuda Sod Just Installed

To test the hypothesis developed from these pieces, a trial utilizing supplemental grow lighting will start in just a few weeks at Duke University. Duke, located in the transition zone in Durham, NC and growing Latitude 36 bermudagrass, is the perfect location for such a trial. Their forward thinking field management team, lead by Scott Thompson and Ian Christie, have already made the move away from ryegrass overseeding and focus all their skill on sustaining bermdagrass growth through football season. Thus such a trial is a natural progression. This trial will track total light levels for the field on the top of the stadium, light levels under the lights, soil temperature, growth, and recovery from game traffic both with and without light.   Also documented throughout will be the ability to hold sheer strength and durability on the surface.

We took at look at the Par natural light from the sun in “Out of Gas”. Here is the chart:

image003 copy (1)

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

 

The results of this trial should be clear, much like the original USA supplemental light trial carried out in Green Bay using light to sustain cool season grass growth into December. To back up our current hypothesis with bermudagrass, we have dug into the research to find previous trials involving bermudagrass growth and supplemental light. Interestingly enough, the single research trial we found was found was directly examining the relationship of light and temperature in bermudagrass growth.

Effects of temperature and photoperiod on postponing bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon [L.] Pers.) turf dormancy. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22465814. The research summary includes a basic and simple statement:

“Practically, the problem of bermudagrass turf’s dormancy could be solved via increasing the photoperiod in months with short day lengths. This treatment would be efficient and useful for turfgrass managers to apply in landscapes and stadiums.”  

The research was performed in growth chambers and was carried out over 2 years. It explored a range of temperature and light amounts. The conclusions of the study support the previous theme that has developed that supplemental light will delay bermudagrass dormancy even in colder temperatures. Ultimately, the conclusions of the study lay the ground work for confidence that the Duke trial will succeed in sustaining bermudagrass growth through the end of the season. In the bigger picture, the results of sustained growth could yield in reducing or eliminating ryegrass overseeding on many American football fields. Or even more helpful for field conditions and field safety, could reduce and/or eliminate sod repairs during late season play on grass fields.

The study also reinforces that the new installation of lights at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore will yield great success in sustaining bermudagrass growth late into the NFL season. Even with Baltimore being further north and having a much more harsh winter climate than Duke, the results should be dramatic because of the under soil heating system that Sports Field Managers Don Follett and Sean Kauffman are able to utilize. Maintaining a desired soil temperature in combination with supplemental light through the fall will maximize growth and recovery to the fullest extent.

From hypothesis to research and now into actual practice. The potential for supplemental light to sustain bermudagrass growth certain seems to be the future approaching the present quickly.  With data and results continue to support the need for supplemental lighting, the next step is accept the possibilities and expand its use on natural grass surfaces.  This will pair with evolving technology in grass genetics and plant feeding to be able to sustain increased use  on natural grass with reduced repairs.  The future is BRIGHT!

IMG_1744.jpg

M&T Bank Stadium: Special Thanks to Don Follett and Sean Kauffman

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.

IMG_9523

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.  

Hello From Katie Ryan, Our Team’s Newest Member:

Katie Ryan recently joined the #GrassCanTakeMore™ movement as Director of Client Success and Marketing. She will be working diligently to support the creation and promotion of new technologies and possibilities for natural grass fields.  Follow her work @KBrennaR


Growing up, I was the girl who went to soccer practice straight from dance class.  A uniform and shin guards layered on top of a leotard and tights. I loved soccer: the team environment, the thrill of a win, and the distinct smell of fresh cut grass. But dance loved me more. I could leap across a stage better than I could jump up to win a header ball. Soccer was an interest, dance was a fit. This combination, aptitude for dance and affinity for sports, steered me to where I am today writing this introduction blog post on Growing Green Grass!

While earning my degree at Fairfield University, I was a dance team member for my University and later two professional sports teams in Boston. These experiences introduced me to the business side of collegiate and pro sports, and I knew that’s how I would use my marketing degree. In September of 2009, I moved to Boyds, Maryland, to work in the front office of the Washington Freedom Women’s Professional Soccer team. Once again, dance and sports collided. I sold 100 tickets to the match against the Philadelphia Independence to a local dance studio who would perform during half time. Unknowingly, I needed approval from the Maryland SoccerPlex to allow these 30 little dancers to step foot on the stadium’s field in the middle of a professional soccer match, go figure! This was my introduction to Jerad Minnick, at the time the SoccerPlex Director of Grounds and Environmental Management, and to the business and importance of natural grass field management.

Recently revisiting the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, it dawned on me: The career path I’ve danced my way through lead me to a Blue Ocean. While a Red Ocean is bloodied with competition and expired ideas, a Blue Ocean creates its own uncontested market space. Every day, natural grass fields drown in the murky water made red from ideas of the past. Meanwhile, a Blue Ocean of opportunity and possibility for improving natural grass sport surfaces exists. New ideas and technologies make it not only easy, but affordable, to maintain natural grass fields that can sustain more use. This Blue Ocean is a win-win for all of us swimming here in the natural grass field maintenance industry.

#GrassCanTakeMore™ is a movement, in that Blue Ocean, that I am extremely excited to join in the role of Client Success & Marketing Director.  Thank you for your hard work and passion! I will do everything I can do to continue that and spread the success of your work!

IMG_1581.jpg

THANK YOU For Interest in SGL/ Growing Innovations Annoucement

IMG_0385Stadium Grow Lighting Officially Partners with Growing Innovations

Following the announcement of the partnership with SGL, many thanks from  Growing Innovations team for the feedback and support on the announcement !  It is a popular time for SGL.  The 2016 MasterClass took place last month in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Holland. (read more here).  And the 2016 SGL Technology Showcase is upcoming at Red Bull Arena on May 5.

Growing Innovations is excited about the timing of last week’s announcement coming from SGL with the Technology Showcase upcoming.  Pam Sherratt of Ohio State University will be sharing with the group along with special guest Mr. Karl Stanley of Wembley Stadium in London, UK.  Mr. Stanley will be sharing some extremely interesting information in reference to maintenance of one of the most used stadium fields in the world.  Very, very excited to have him coming to the USA!

If you haven’t received an invitation, let us know and we will get you one.  The  Showcase will feature SGL technology from light to climate control to their newest addition of UV light for killing turfgrass diseases.  There is no doubt any and all participants will gain perspective and knowledge.

THANK YOU again for the support as Growing Innovations continues to “grow” and expand.  Look for the introduction of our new Sports Science and Technology Director coming soon in addition to new partnerships to continue to provide new technologies and solutions to meet the demand of high use on natural grass surfaces!

IMG_7767

Highlights: Celebration Technical Management School

FullSizeRender

Solutions and possibilities. These were the theme for the first ever Celebration Bermudagrass Technical Management School last week. Celebration Management School took place in 3 locations in Florida and featured extensive information exchange and idea generation. The Management School was based around the expanded possibilities of Celebration bermudagrass and how the unique varieties helps meet the demand for high traffic natural grass fields.  The school curriculum focused in on specific protocols and approaches for maintaining Celebration under high traffic and limited rest time.  It was a privileged for me to join Mr. John Chapman as one of the teachers for the school!

Each day’s venue provided a unique perspective.  Each has a unique venue for an athletic field school and a different perspective on high traffic Celebration bermudagrass.  The South Florida event was held at the Spanish River Library in Boca Raton, followed with a tour of de Hoernie Soccer Complex in Boca.  The west Florida event was held at the Sarasota Polo Club in Sarasota, FL.  And the central Florida event was held in the City of Orlando City Council Chambers with a tour of the high traffic public park/ open space at the Dr. Phillips Performance Arts Center.  Soccer, polo, and public space for all activities.  The high traffic, challenging demands that we all were able to observe Celebration sustaining growth and recovery under were all very unique.

Some of the initial highlights from the school included:

  • Encouragement to think outside the box and try new things, with Celebration maintenance and with natural grass field maintenance overall
  • Introduction to multiple examples of Celebration bermudagrass performing as the strong, durable, reduced input grass that meets the demand even under high traffic
  • Exploration of why and how Celebration bermudagrass has set itself as the standard bermudagrass to meet the demand of high traffic fields in the South

 

IMG_0082

Advancing into the technical information of the Celebration Management School, John Chapman and myself (along with unprecedented group participation) explored:

  • The simplicity and importance of mowing 2+ times per week at 1” or below to promote density, increase durability, reduce thatch accumulation potential, and provide natural weed control
  • A wide range of aeration techniques for meeting the demand for high use and promote Celebration’s ability to root up to 5’ in 1 year. Video examples supported the explanation of each aeration type to create a demonstration environment for participants.
  • How surface aeration and de-compaction aeration are 2 very different types of aeration. Real world data was supplied to illustrate how GMax reduction and infiltration rate increase differs with each.
  • Multiple cultivation tools to reduce/ remove thatch accumulation and promotion of lateral growth to increase density and durability. The tools range from simply brushing with a tow behind brush or brushes on the front of reels or decks to verticutting and even Universe® Fraze Mowing.
  • The importance of planning and combining aeration and cultivation practices to ensure maximum benefit with each and every practice that takes place.
  • Understanding that June, July, and August are the prime time to encourage and establish bermudagrass strength and root depth to support against high use all year round.
  • Soil testing results and why having data for plant available nutrients is as important as overall nutrient content in the soil.
  • Fertilizer technologies and techniques to promote consistent, healthy, strong Celebration growth nearly all year round.
  • Reinforcement of why durable, strong Celebration growth requires a maximum of 3-5 lbs N/ year and how most of that N should come from a slow release source of N
  • Potassium’s importance, leading to the need to keep yearly N:K ratios and 1:1 or 1:1+
  • Foliar feeding and how during periods of stress, especially fall, winter and spring, foliar feeding will act as a medical IV to support for Celebration growth and recovery.
  • How humic acid supports soil health and the battle against soil compaction from high use

 

IMG_0757

Celebration Management School students shared many examples of success with each topic. The interaction between participants and we as teachers was nearly the best I have ever experienced. Because of that, multiple points were created and raised:

  • Approaches for using growth regulators to 1) increase density and durability along with 2) decreasing mowing.
  • Using a moisture meter to track soil moisture to better manage irrigation and to track to what depth proper soil moisture is being reached during different times of the year. That moisture meter can also be used to create a standard for field closure protocols for rain.
  • Celebration has a strong ability to sustain growth in a wide range of soil pH conditions
  • Flushing during times of drought in Florida is vital to wash down salt and/or bi-carbonate build ups that come from poor quality irrigation water in the state.

IMG_0759
The end section of Celebration Management School shared ideas and featured dialogue between students in reference to Celebration’s ability to sustain winter growth and recovery:

  • Celebration is a “shade tolerant” bermudagrass. Shade tolerance indicates Celebration micromole requirement for light is lower than most all other bermudagrass. Thus winter’s short day length (example, Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year) and low sun angle (sun is low on the horizon) do not cause Celebration to go dormant like other bermudagrass varieties
  • Because Celebration can survive low light conditions, tools like dye and paint can be utilized to absorb heat and promote growth
  • Grow tarps/ blankets, used regularly on fields in the central and northern part of the USA but not in Florida, can be excellent tools to generate heat and regeneration for Celebration during cooler winter months.
  • Results were share and examined from a University of Florida trial on the impact of a range of colors of topdressing sands to promote heat and growth. Those results are dramatic, and the trial is ongoing. The information is very valuable for supporting winter growth.
  • Re-visit to points made previously on foliar feeding in the winter to support Celebration plant systems.
  • Also re-visiting fertilizer technology and explanations of organic fertilizer/ mineral fertilizer blends work well in the winter to encourage soil microbes and generate heat
  • Overseeding: To overseed with ryegrass or not overseed with rye grass. Celebration’s aggressive nature allows it to transition back to 100% bermuda faster and with less inputs.
  • Celebration’s winter tolerance allows can allow for reduced overseeding rates

The discussion about deciding to overseeding or not to overseed was excellent. Ultimately, a Sports Turf Manager must balance what is best for the grass with what is best for the playability of the field. The majority of the group decided (with encouragement from the teachers) that playability and safety come #1, ahead of our desires to do what is best for the grass. With Celebration, overseeding is possible because it transitions quickly and aggressively.

IMG_0760
In closing the Celebration Technical Management School, participants were challenged with case studies for Celebration natural grass fields. Two scenarios of specific situations, time, and traffic demand were supplied. Participants split into groups where they worked to create their own management suggestions in reference to 1) mowing 2) cultivation 3) plant feeding and 4) additional comments for overall maintenance to meet the challenge. The case studies allowed participants to interact much like they do with them maintenance supervisors and staff each day  while at the same to provided us as teachers with an assessment tool to ensure the participants would be able to utilize information ASAP in their own maintenance plan.

THANK YOU to all participants that joined us for Celebration Technical Management School. Ultimately, we hope each participant was able to take a a minimum of 1 actionable idea back with them to utilize immediately with their maintenance routine. THANK YOU for your positive attitudes and open minds. The possibilities for Celebration are amazing, no doubt you will continue to see amazing results and be able to build on those through this growing season!

IMG_0755

images

“Let There Be Light” Follow Up

IMG_7315

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

Key #2: Traffic Management; Three Keys of High Traffic Grass Fields

Traffic Management 

Of the “3 Keys to High Traffic Field Maintenance”, Traffic Management should be considered just as important as the first key: Aggressive Cultivation. (Key 1: Aggressive Cultivation). Creative traffic management alone can give a high traffic field with limited maintenance a chance for survival.

With its importance, traffic management could be considered the most challenging key. Why? Because traffic management involves communication and cooperation from 2 sides: Field managers and field users. However, the communication and cooperation can curb field deterioration more than aggressive cultivation or nutrient management. Managing traffic effectively will allow all fields to meet the needs of the users and require less repair work.

IMG_2520

Traffic management includes two parts:

  • Moving around practice/ training work into low traffic competition areas
  • Re-sizing and shifting competition fields to adjust traffic patterns

Moving around practice/ training work into low traffic competition areas

A full size competition field has areas that get little use during the competition. For example, the corners of a soccer field or the end zones on an American football field. Likewise, it is not often that the full is used in full for practice. With that in mind, a few thoughts:

  • Always have 4 goals on a soccer field w/ small sided fields painted if needed
    • Having 4 goals on a soccer field eliminates the need for the competition goal spots to be used. Having additional boxes/ fields painted helps that even more
    • When the field is not being used for competition, goals should never be in competition place. Avoid the temptation!
    • Avoid installation/ use of permanent goals. New style portable goals look identical to permanent goals. If permanent goals are desired, install extra sleeves or have portable set for different positions.
  • Similar for other sports, provide alternate direction markings
    • Football lines going across a field for practice
      • Additional goal posts on sides of fields possible
    • Lacrosse crease areas on sides or diagonal in corners
      • Multiple lacrosse goals on each field to support movement

Ultimately extra lines on a field for practice/ training would be best avoided. But in the age of multiple sport synthetic fields, a wide array of colors and lines is already accepted. On grass, lighter paint application and timing for paint application for lines to fade or be mowed provides assistance.

Different fields are different colors

Different fields are different colors

 Re-sizing and Shifting Competition Fields

Re-sizing and shifting field layouts moves high traffic areas and provides the embattled turfgrass in those areas a chance to recover. Soccer and lacrosse fields have the most flexibility for re-sizing and shifting because the rules call for minimums and maximums on the competition dimensions.

  • Start with shifting the center of the field.
    • Core of soccer and lacrosse is played up and down the center of the field
    • High traffic areas such as goalmouths, referee lines, and bench areas get moved with the move of the field center.
  • Rotate sides of bench areas
    • Teams for all sports warm up directly in front of their bench
    • 1 day of 7 soccer matches, a minimum of 126 players stretch and kick to get loose in front of the bench
    • Rotating the benches in conjunction with shifting the field allows the field to experience optimum recovery while still in play
  • American football fields are much narrower than soccer or lacrosse fields, so they too can be shifted
    • Especially true for practice fields where goal posts are not required
      • Even a slight shift moves the heavy traffic area

 

Soccer field shifted over

Soccer field shifted over

Lacrosse field shift over

Lacrosse field shift over

The foundation of traffic management is communication and cooperation. Field managers and users should be in constant contact to ensure there are no surprises from other side. Both sides should strive to be respectful and understanding of the needs of the other.

With that, the days of field managers dictating to coaches how the field gets used are gone. The “stay off the grass” mentality creates negativity and resentment while promoting an environment of disrespect. In that environment neither the field nor the team wins. Field managers that are flexible to support and cooperate with user’s needs while communicating in a positive manner create education and empowerment. Coach’s equally should reciprocate and respect the work of the field manager. When the cooperation and communication is mutual, everyone wins with traffic management. Especially the field!

The success of “managing traffic” will be evident in increased quality of a high traffic field. With the extra work that goes into the cooperation and communication and field movement, sod work and field closures for repairs will be reduced and/or eliminated. And as your own traffic management process evolves, the condition of high traffic fields will continue to improve as you discover new ideas and try different approaches that fit your specific situation.

IMG_2138