SportsTurf March 2011

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Q&A What is important now? We expect to have our field budg- BY DR. GRADY MILLER Professor, North Carolina State University Questions? Send them to Grady Miller at North Carolina State University, Box 7620, Raleigh, NC 27695- 7620, or email Or, send your question to David Minner at Iowa State University, 106 Horti- culture Hall, Ames, IA 50011 or email Q ets reduced this year. How would you prioritize necessary practices and spending on turf product? I’m also not sure if we’ll be allowed to keep a full crew, so labor may also be an issue. Thanks for your comments. Fort Worth, TX Well I am glad you are starting to plan before your budget is re- duced. No person knows more about fields than the field man- ager that manages them, so you are the perfect person to prioritize practices and purchases needed to keep the field safe and useable. If your fields were properly de- signed and constructed, received good maintenance in the past, and had controlled use during the sea- son, you should be good shape this spring. Remember the ulti- mate goal of a good sports field is a field. Keep this in mind as you make management decisions, and keep reminding your supervisors that this is your priority when you are considering management and purchasing decisions. Most field managers only have several variable expenses under their control. These generally in- clude: labor, equipment purchases, equipment maintenance, fertilizer products, pesticides, paint, top- dressing sand, and sod/seed ex- penses. Energy (fuel, electricity, etc.) expenses are often not as eas- ily controlled. I believe the number one item that must stay in a management program in terms of field impact is nitrogen fertilization. Use your soil test to modify your non-nitro- gen nutrient needs (e.g., phospho- rus, potassium, calcium, etc.) so you do not buy something you do not need. Your field will need ni- trogen fertilizer. It will maximize turf density and a denser field is a safer field. Plus it will recover from damage faster and density 58 SportsTurf | March 2011 discourages weeds encroachment. The rule of thumb is one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per growing month. Price out your fertilizer prod- ucts per pound of nutrient rather than per pound of product. And if you have available labor, you can often get better results by splitting the fertilizer applications and going out more frequently (e.g., half pound rates twice a month). After fertilizer, keep a good mowing program. The more fre- quent you mow bermudagrass when it is actively growing the better the turf density. For bermudagrass keep the height of cut below 2 inches. For hybrid bermudagrass closer to 1 inch is much better. Too high and it will shade itself and density will begin to thin. Regular mowing also dis- courages broadleaf weeds from getting a foothold. And if you do have some weeds, the mowing makes them less noticeable. The next most important item on the list should be weed control. You want to hear complaints about your field condition, have a weedy field. With the loss of MSMA herbicides, our inexpen- sive post-emergence grassy weed control options are now more lim- ited. I think this swings the pen- dulum toward more emphasis on pre-emergence programs. Using a good pre-emergence program combined with a post-emergence broadleaf herbicide as needed, will maximize your maintenance dol- lars and will help ensure you have an attractive, safe field. Do not forget aerification. A playable field is not rock-hard. An aerification can also reduce some weeds, discourage spring dead spot, reduce thatch, increase water infiltration, and improve plant stress tolerance. So, use whatever you have available for core aerifi- cation and do it as often as possi- ble. I do not believe you can core aerify too often. I think all the other manage- ment practices and products are secondary after these three. So be sure the resources are available and then schedule the above prac- tices as priorities. Of course all these practices re- quire labor. If your labor force is reduced, there are a few manage- ment other practices you may want to consider. One idea is to use a plant growth regulator such as trinexapac ethyl (e.g., Primo Maxx, Governor, T-Nex) to sup- press turf growth so less frequent mowing is needed. There is a product cost, but it is offset with reduced mowing and reduced equipment wear. It also will pro- vide you with a denser, more wear tolerant turf. Along those same lines, there is a label rate for put- ting Primo Maxx in turf paint. This can dramatically reduce the need for re-painting your athletic field lines resulting in more labor savings. Always be looking for inexpen- sive ways to save money. For in- stance, with soccer fields, move the sidelines and goals in or out to redistribute wear areas. Have open communication with the field user groups so they understand how they can improve the fields by moving their drills around the field. Look at leasing equipment. This can reduce downtime and allow you to use newer equipment with less capital outlay. My last piece of advice is to go to meetings and learn how others are dealing with reduced budgets. Local, state, and national STMA meetings may be your greatest re- source in solving your problems. I believe attending them is time and money well spent. ■

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