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.