Water management is a year-round concern that should be controlled to maximise 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.
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 the majority of turf managers as we come into winter, thoughts turn to keeping the golf course playing surfaces as dry as possible to extend the golfing season for as long as prevailing weather conditions allow.
Climatic weather patterns continue to shift towards hotter, drier summers coupled with more frequent, heavier rainfall events and this combined with wetter winters potentially results in available capital expenditure being pulled in two directions. Upgrading irrigation systems and future proofing water supplies must be balanced with installing sports turf drainage into poorly draining areas.
Both irrigation and drainage are expensive items. Not surprisingly the cost of sports turf drainage has been on the increase with a rise in aggregate and material costs driving up prices. A contractor price for installing pipe drainage into one golf green is currently in the region of £6,000 to £8,000 depending on specification and pipe spacings.
Consequently, for many golf clubs, installing drainage is not affordable at the current time and turf managers must think creatively and employ well timed, proven, mechanical aeration techniques such as thatch reduction and deep tine aeration to improve the speed of water movement away from in-play turf surfaces as quickly as possible. Surfactants also have a role to play here.
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. 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.
Over the past few years, course 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. 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.
In the UK and Europe 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.
An additional, well recognised, benefit is that reduced moisture levels on the leaf will also help with disease control. Using winter penetrant surfactants within an Integrated Turf Management (ITM) Programme will result in drier turf that in turn will have a reduced potential for turfgrass disease activity – especially during autumn when there are periods of high disease pressure. As turfgrass fungicides become more limited both in turns of chemistry and persistence, these alternative elements of disease management become more critical.
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 with the recommendation to apply at least three times over autumn and winter. This makes blanket applications across greens and surrounds plus potentially tees and fairways financially cost effective.
Benefits of Autumn and Winter Applications of Dispatch Sprayable
- Firmer, drier playing surfaces
- Applied within an Integrated Turf Management (ITM) programme, Dispatch Sprayable reduces potential for aggressive turfgrass disease activity
- 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 agriculture, turf and horticulture. As autumn and winter weather conditions make the development and retention of high-quality golf surfaces progressively more difficult, the use of surfactant technology can have a critical role to play in winter course management.
For more information, please contact your local Aquatrols Account Manager.