September 2013

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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FieldScience | By Eric H. Reasor and Dr. Michael Goatley Improving bermudagrass fall traffic tolerance and spring recovery through fall fertilization B ERMUDAGRASS is considered one of the most desired turfgrass species for athletic field use in the United States. Bermudagrass's aggressive growth habit of stolons and rhizomes offers stability and traffic tolerance to maximize player performance with the ability to recuperate from wear stress. Mostly grown in the southern half of the United States, bermudagrass growth north of the transition zone is limited by cold winters. However, with improved cold tolerant cultivars, bermudagrass management in the transition zone and north is becoming more common. When grown in colder climates the bermudagrass enters dormancy sooner, meaning that if a green turf is desired, the field must be overseeded with ryegrass. Bermudagrass traffic tolerance and outstanding recuperative ability during its active growing periods have allowed bermudagrass athletic fields to become multi-sport facilities. The intensive use of these fields increases the importance of proper cultural practices such as irrigation, cultivation, pest management, and fertilization to obtain maximum bermudagrass performance. Nitrogen (N) fertilization is especially important in order to optimize bermudagrass growth. A typical bermudagrass fertilization program includes N applications up to one pound of soluble N per 1000 square feet per active growing PICTURE TAKEN OCTOBER 29, 2010. Two months after traffic initation and one month after last fertility application. 16 SportsTurf | September 2013 month. Research has shown this amount of N can supply bermudagrass with adequate nutrients without losing valuable resources to the environment during these active growing periods. But what about fall N fertilization applied outside the optimal windows of application to bermudagrass? Can it improve fall traffic tolerance and spring recovery of bermudagrass athletic fields? Research has shown this amount of N can supply bermudagrass with adequate nutrients without losing valuable resources to the environment during these active growing periods. RESEARCH METHODS The research was initiated in June 2010 at Virginia Tech's Turfgrass Research Center using plots established by sprigging Patriot, Riviera, and Wayland bermudagrass. Patriot and Riviera are both commercially available cultivars, while Wayland is an experimental ecotype selected at Virginia Tech for its rapid spring green-up and spring dead spot tolerance. The research has continued into 2013. Irrigation was applied to promote active growth; the plots were mowed three times weekly at 1.25 inches, and N (urea, 46-0-0) was applied at 1 lb N/1000ft2 per month on the first day of June, July, and August. The fall fertilization treatments extended N applications into September and October resulting in a possible total of 5 lbs N/1000 sq ft for the season (October fertilization treatments are split into two ½ lb N/1000 sq ft applications on 2 week intervals in case a killing frost event might negate an application). Beginning on approximately August 30 of

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