Winter Use of Soil Surfactants
Winter months bring plenty of challenges for turf managers. Golfers continue to have the same high expectations but with less favourable growing conditions the turf manager’s job typically becomes more difficult. The focus shifts from presenting high quality, high performing turf surfaces to managing drainage, disease and winter wear.
Surfactant technology has been available within the turfgrass industry for over 60 years to deliver greater control over spring and summer moisture levels and for dealing with established dry patch. However, the benefits of using good quality turf surfactants in winter are less well publicised. The chemistry in these products can play an important role in winter turf management.
Optimising Surface Drainage
Approximately 89% of UK and European golf courses are situated on inland sites where soils are typically heavier and consequently more prone to compaction and poor surface drainage than their sand-based links cousins. So, for many turf managers thoughts turn to keeping playing surfaces as dry as possible to extend the golfing season for as long as prevailing weather conditions allow.
Over the past few years, course managers in Europe have started using penetrant wetting agents to help improve surface infiltration and drainage rates more effectively through the winter months. Aquatrols have made significant investment in research within this area, however the results have been less widely discussed.
Dispatch Sprayable has been proven to work, with robust data from trials conducted at leading research bodies including Ohio State University and Cranfield University. The research provides evidence that the use of Aquatrols Dispatch Sprayable:
- Significantly increases infiltration rates of water
- Significantly reduces surface water run-off on sloped areas
The study conducted at Ohio State University to evaluate the effects of Dispatch Sprayable applications on water run-off was completed on a bent grass sward, mown at fairway height on a 4% slope with a loam soil profile. Run-off was collected following each rainfall event and research results proved that Dispatch Sprayable reduced run-off by 20% over control plots and consequently low-lying areas remained drier.
Golf greens have often been cut into slopes and the catchment area for the green is much larger than the green itself. The green is having to cope with water running onto it from higher ground which may include the green surround, approach or fairway. The application of a penetrant therefore increases the amount of water infiltrating into the ground at point of contact and reduces run-off onto the putting surface itself, thereby helping to keep the green drier and in better condition through high rainfall periods. The benefits for a golf club using this surfactant technology are drier, firmer playing surfaces and a reduction in damage levels from overly wet, soft surfaces as well as from the impact of frost or snow.
Many wetting agents sold as penetrants contain anionic surfactants due to their fast-acting properties and consequently these products can scorch turf under certain conditions. However, the chemistries used in Dispatch Sprayable ensure that it is safe to apply at any time of year without any risk of turf damage.
Managing Turfgrass Disease
Turf managers routinely adopt Integrated Turfgrass Management (ITM) practices as autumn approaches through a combination of optimising plant health, controlling nutrition, reducing upper profile organic matter levels and the appropriate use of turfgrass fungicides as and when required.
Using penetrant surfactants such as Dispatch Sprayable within an ITM Programme will contribute to drier turf surfaces that in turn will be less vulnerable to Fusarium Patch disease activity. This approach during periods of high disease pressure can be extremely beneficial. As turfgrass fungicides become more limited both in turns of chemistry and persistence, alternative techniques such as this need to be adopted into the overall strategy for managing disease.
Summary of Benefits of Winter Soil Surfactant Use
- Firmer, drier playing surfaces
- Used within an ITM programme, drier turf surfaces reduce potential for aggressive Fusarium Patch disease activity.
- Faster, more uniform penetration of any rainfall and/or snowmelt
- Improved surface playability
- Reduced effect of frost conditions
- Improved soil moisture uniformity
The Aquatrols Mission
Aquatrols is committed to pioneering new methods that advance soil and plant health for agriculture, turf and horticulture. As winter weather conditions make the development and retention of high-quality turf surfaces on golf courses progressively more difficult, the use of surfactant technology can have a critical role to play in optimising course performance at this time of year.
For more information, please contact your local Aquatrols Account Manager.