Fungicide, nitrogen looked at to reduce wear and tear
COLLEGE STATION – Sports fans know as fall sets in and their favorite team heads out on the turf, the bright green grass begins to turn brown from the wear and tear and changing temperatures.
But a Texas A&M AgriLife Research turfgrass ecologist has completed a study identifying ways to reduce the look of wear and tear from athletic turf traffic.
Dr. Ben Wherley, an assistant professor for turfgrass science/ecology with AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M University soil and crop science department in College Station, spent the summer looking at the effects of nitrogen and the fungicide Civitas on foot traffic tolerance on athletic turf.
The plots were Tifway Bermuda grass, which is an industry standard for athletic fields in the south, Wherley said.
“What we’ve done is traffic these plots with a Brinkman traffic simulator,” he said, adding they did either zero, two or four passes per week through the summer and into the fall. “What we’re trying to do is simulate athletic field traffic that would be equivalent to football.”
Past research has shown that two passes per week is equivalent to the amount of stress produced by one NFL football game between the hash marks and the 40-yard line, Wherley said.
“So looking at these traffic levels of one versus two games a week versus no games a week, what we were trying to determine was the relative effects of nitrogen rate and also a biweekly application of a product known as Civitas, which is labeled as a fungicide but also has been shown to have some other side benefits in terms of various types of stress tolerance.”
The application treatment every two weeks included no Civitas, an 8.5 ounces rate of Civitas per thousand square feet and 17 ounces per thousand square feet rate.
“So every two weeks through the summer we basically evaluated percent green cover, the amount of green coverage in the plots, also rating the amount of the injury we’re seeing in the plots,” Wherley said.
“Particularly we were interested as we got into the later fall months when temperatures cooled, daylight or solar radiation was lower and Bermuda grass started going dormant to see whether Civitas could prolong the green cover in the plots,” he said. “Representative of a football field getting into the late fall, we wanted to know if this might be used as an alternative to overseeding because of the benefits of the fungicide combined with pigment in this product.”
He said the results showed improvement in green turf cover and color from the Civitas application across all treatments of traffic, “but we had mixed results in terms of improved resistance to or recovery from injury with Civitas.”
Wherley said it was also interesting to note that there wasn’t a big difference between the low applications of nitrogen, a quarter pound per growing month, and the high, typically 1 pound per growing month.
“This is probably a result of the fact that the soils in our plots have a good amount of inherent organic matter and fertility in them,” he said. “The site is an old dairy farm pasture. So what this tells the turf manager is if you have good levels of soil organic matter, there may not be as high of a nitrogen requirement on your turf.”
Wherley said they learned more about the use of Civitas for athletic turf and hopefully through additional testing, will have a good recommendation in the future.