Aerification contributes to healthy turf
The most scrutinized word in the professional turf industry might be aerification. If golfers arrive to the course and see a “plinko” board on the putting surfaces, they immediately assume that their experience for the day is going to be ruined. This doesn’t have to be the case. Sure, it may not look good but that doesn’t mean they won’t play good.
Consider a story I heard about Tom Watson, eight-time major champion. Tom arrived at his home course and shot a course record 58, just days after the greens had been aerified.
What golfers don’t realize but superintendents do is that aerification is a necessary practice to provide the healthiest turf possible. This is a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits. The GCSAA explains the aerification process achieves three important objectives:
1. It relieves soil compaction.
2. It provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a green’s roots.
3. It reduces accumulation of excess thatch.
Healthy roots demand oxygen. In good soil, the roots get oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles. During the aerification process, cores of compacted soil and excess thatch are removed, allowing for the infusion of oxygen, and water to bring a resurgence of growth. The holes are then filled with sand via topdressing. Adding the sand helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for the roots to grow through the profile. Topdressing can also prevent an excess of thatch from becoming established.
Introduce SO4 pelletized gypsum during aerification
Aerification is the perfect opportunity to introduce SO4 pelletized gypsum in the process. Once the topdressing is complete, the next step is to broadcast SO4, then drag or broom in the sand and SO4.
Having a high quality, highly soluble form of dihydrate gypsum – such as SO4 – allows the calcium and sulfur to be plant available quickly, providing a much-needed boost to the soil and plant heath after a very stressful procedure. By adding calcium, it can help dislodge any accumulated sodium in the soil profile, which can then be leached away with irrigation or rain. Calcium is also important for soil structure, ensuring adequate pore space for oxygen, water, and root growth. Sulfur helps provide deep green color to the turf, improves density, and can increase drought tolerance and winter hardiness.
The bottom line is that aerification is necessary for healthy turf and incorporating SO4 can enhance the benefits and aid in a speedier recovery.