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Wear Tolerance in Turfgrass

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Turfgrass species matter

Wear tolerance is one of the most important characteristics of different turfgrass species when making decisions on which to include in various settings. Wear tolerance is very dependent on species, environment, and management practices. Certain species have physiological differences that make them more tolerant of wear and aid in their ability to recuperate after significant wear events. 

Turfgrass species in cool-season environments

In cool-season settings, perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass are typically associated with the best wear tolerance and recuperative ability, respectively. They are often used in conjunction to provide the best overall traffic tolerance in athletic fields. 

In golf greens and an increasing number of fairways, however, due to low mowing height requirements and aesthetics, creeping bentgrass is the species of choice. Creeping bentgrass can be mowed easily to green heights and exhibits fair to good wear tolerance that can withstand wear associated with players’ foot traffic and maintenance operations’ vehicle traffic.

Turfgrass species in warm-season environments

In warm-season settings, hybrid Bermuda grasses are often chosen for both sports and golf applications as it has excellent wear tolerance, recuperative ability, and certain dwarf-type cultivars can tolerate low mowing heights for greens. 

Impact of maintenance programs

Aside from species selection and the traffic environment, your maintenance program can have a significant impact on the overall traffic tolerance of your turfgrass stand. Reducing compaction and closely monitoring your fertility program will maximize the inherent wear tolerance of your stand. Compaction has negative consequences on the root system and can result in quicker wearing of the leaf tissue. 

Ensuring the right amount of nitrogen and potassium promotes recuperative growth and enhanced wear tolerance. However, too much nitrogen can reduce wear tolerance by making the leaf tissue more succulent.

Impact of soil types

Depending on the soil type, it may be necessary for you to pay even closer attention to the fertility program. In sand-based root zones on golf courses or athletic fields, there is less exchange capacity, and therefore, less nutrients available in the soil. Cations such as calcium, magnesium and potassium have fewer sites to attach to and with the coarse nature of the sandy soil texture, anions such as nitrate and sulfate can be easily leached from the profile before plants can access them. 

Establishing nutrient goals (in lbs/1000 ft2)  based on recommendations from your local extension specialist will ensure the best possible growing environment to display the wear tolerance characteristics of your turfgrass stand.

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How to repair sodic soils

Sodium problems are becoming more widespread

Sodic soils are one of the most difficult challenges facing turf managers in areas where they exist. With the rise of effluent water use for golf course and athletic field irrigation, sodium problems are becoming more widespread than they were in the past. High levels of sodium create a toxic environment for plant health and destroy the physical structure of soils.

Sodium becomes a problem when it reaches levels that overwhelm the natural equilibrium of the soil. It causes soil clay particles to swell and disperse, causing soil pores to become blocked, limiting water infiltration and drainage of the soil. Plants trying to grow in sodic soils exhibit symptoms of drought due to excessive uptake of sodium and lack of water infiltration into the soil where roots normally grow.

Check out our document on using SO4 and 98G to manage sodium affected soils.

Del Norte High School in San Diego, California

Below are before and after photos of Del Norte High School's baseball field in San Diego, California. After extensive soil testing, it was identified that sodium levels were at toxic levels for quality turfgrass growth and that the Calcium/Magnesium ratios were dramatically off. 98G, our pelletized limestone, was applied at 10 lbs/1000 ft2 every three to four weeks from June to November for a total of about eight applications.

Below: Del Norte High School third base line in June 2016.

Del Norte 3rd Baseline Before

Below: Del Norte High School third base line in November 2016.

Del Notre 3rd Base Line After

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Soil Testing Helps Inform Application Decisions

Soil Testing

Why soil test?

Soil testing is an important part of our philosophy at Calcium Products – without knowing the nutrient status of your soil, how are you to make informed decisions about what to apply to it?

Turf managers are normally good about soil testing, but if you haven’t been consistent about it or have been thinking about starting a soil testing program, now is the time to do so. With environmental regulations being administered in certain areas of the U.S., soil testing will help you maximize your fertilizer investment and make educated decisions on the best type of fertilizers to supply exactly what you need.

What a soil test measures

There are a wide variety of soil tests available that can help you gain insight into your nutrient status, soil type/texture, infiltration rates, water holding capacity, etc.

A basic soil test is likely to provide you with the following measurements:

  • - Soil pH
  • - Cation exchange capacity (CEC)
  • - Phosphorous
  • - Potassium
  • - Calcium
  • - Magnesium
  • - Lime requirement

Additional analyses that may be of interest depending on your location and situation might include:

  • - Soil texture
  • - Total soluble salts
  • - Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR)
  • - Sulfur
  • - Micronutrients

Nitrogen testing is typically not included in all sampling regimens due to its instability, making interpretation of the value difficult.

How to get started

Checking in with your state extension specialist to see what they recommend with regard to appropriate testing methods and preferred laboratories in your area is the best way to ensure you are testing all the right things for your situation.

Finding a lab you are comfortable with and that is regionally appropriate for you is important to maintain consistency and to build a historical database on which to inform decisions. The lab you choose will also offer recommendations on what nutrient levels to supply to bring them back into sufficiency range. You may double check with your state extension specialist to see if the laboratory recommendations are aligned with what they normally recommend.

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Interactive Turfgrass Morphology Tool

For those who don’t know what morphology means, it is essentially the different parts of the turfgrass plant and those parts are how we distinguish one grass species from another. Parts like the inflorescence (flower head), leaf blade, root, collar, crown, sheath, auricle, vernation (veins in the leaf) usually have some sort of identifying characteristic that tells us, say, annual ryegrass from tall fescue—long, clasping auricles on the annual ryegrass, or a wider leaf blade on the tall fescue. As I was surfing this morning, I found a cool website with a neat tool for learning more about turfgrass morphology that was put together by Drs. David Gardner and Karl Danneberger, both from Ohio State University. There are other nice parts of the website, I would recommend spending time there brushing up before the season starts again. And, of course, if you have any questions about anything, please feel free to contact me.
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