Climatic weather patterns continue to shift towards more frequent, heavier rainfall events and wetter winters. This coupled with hotter, drier summers is making pitch management increasingly difficult. Wet weather can quickly turn pitches that were previously rock hard and dry into soft, wet, muddy surfaces following even low levels of play on poorly draining soils. In addition, end of season repairs can be disrupted by dry springs and hot summers restricting turf surface recovery through seeded or worn areas, especially on un-irrigated pitches.
Research completed by Baker, Gibbs & Adams looked at levels of use which could be sustained on pitches of different construction types. This work indicated that well maintained, soil based, undrained pitches could support an average of 3.5-4.0 hours a week of adult-equivalent use without deteriorating, pipe drained + slit drained pitches could cope with an average of 4.5-5.0 hours a week whereas rootzone based pitches could support 9.5-10.0 hours a week of play.
However, for the bulk of turf managers typically looking after well used, soil based, undrained or pipe drained pitches, maintaining dry surfaces through winter is extremely difficult. Installing additional drainage is expensive and not surprisingly the cost has been on the rise with increased aggregate and material costs driving up prices. Consequently, for many sports clubs, schools or local authorities, installing new drainage is not affordable at the current time.
Pitch managers must therefore think creatively and employ well timed, proven, mechanical aeration techniques such as deep tine aeration and sand top dressing to improve the speed of water movement away from turf surfaces as quickly as possible. Surfactants have a role to play here.
Water management is a year-round concern that should be controlled to maximise surface performance, the growing environment and to avoid turf injury. During autumn and winter, soil moisture consistency, uniformity and stability continue to influence the health and performance of both soil and turf playing surface.
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 localised dry spot activity or dry patch primarily on fine turf surfaces. Spring and summer performance of wetting agents in turfgrass management has been widely researched and documented with Aquatrols being an industry leader throughout this period. Employing this technology during spring pitch renovation, particularly when seeding has been completed has been demonstrated to be extremely effective.
However, over the past few years, turf managers in the UK and Europe have started using penetrant wetting agents to help improve surface infiltration and drainage rates more effectively through the late autumn and winter months on sports pitches and golf fairways - turf surfaces that usually receive little in the way of routine maintenance. 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 15 mm 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.
The application of a penetrant therefore increases the amount of water infiltrating into the ground at point of contact and reduces run-off onto lower lying areas, thereby helping to keep sports pitches drier and in better condition through high rainfall periods. The benefits for a sports facility using this surfactant technology are drier, firmer surfaces and a reduction in damage from play on overly wet, muddy pitches. With less winter damage, end of season renovation costs are reduced particularly in respect of seed and fertiliser inputs. In addition, recovery times are also reduced.
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. Dispatch Sprayable can also be applied during spring or summer months without being watered in and is still totally safe for all turf types.
Dispatch Sprayable is a patented, synergistic blend of an alkoxylated polyol and glucoether surfactant. It is the unique blend of the alkoxylated polyol and the glucoether that work together and result in a dramatic improvement in water penetration rates compared to other straight block polymer products. The combination of the two surfactants has been shown to be better than either polymer alone, confirming that the formulation is greater than the sum of its parts, as detailed in the graph below.
Cost and Application Guide
Application Rate: 1.75 litres in 400 litres of water per hectare
Dispatch Sprayable is a low application rate penetrant wetting agent costing in the region of £50 per hectare or £30 per full size football pitch with the recommendation to apply at least three times over autumn and winter. This low-cost product has been proven through independent research to produce drier and consequently firmer, better grassed turf surfaces.
Benefits of Autumn and Winter Applications of Dispatch Sprayable in Pitch Maintenance
- Firmer, drier playing surfaces
- Improved surface playability
- Faster, more uniform penetration of any rainfall and/or snowmelt
- Reduced effect of frost conditions
- Improved soil moisture uniformity
- Healthier, more consistent turf before dormancy sets in
The Aquatrols Mission
Aquatrols is committed to pioneering new methods that advance soil and plant health for turf, agriculture and horticulture. As autumn and winter weather conditions make the development and retention of high-quality playing surfaces progressively more difficult, the use of surfactant technology can have a critical role to play in sports pitch management.
For more information, please contact your local Aquatrols Account Manager.