Letter to the Editor in Reference to “Trends in the Synthetic Turf Industry”

This is a letter to the editor sent to SportsField Management magazine today in response to the article “Trends in the Synthetic Turf Industry”. 

Link for article is:  http://www.sportsfieldmanagementmagazine.com/article-9114.aspx

Jerad R. Minnick
Rockville, MD
February 28, 2013

Ms. Katie Meyers
SportsField Management Magazine
Suite 201, 515 Bay Street
St. Johnsbury, VT 05819

Dear Ms. Meyers:

Greetings to you from the Washington, DC area.  I hope this note finds your week going great!

Having just read the article “Trends in the Synthetic Turf Industry” published in the February edition of SportsField Management magazine.  I feel that several statements made in the article are mis-representations of actual facts.  These statements are as follows:

1)      (Synthetic Turf)”eliminates the use of toxic pesticides, fertilizers and herbicide”

Fact:  Not ALL pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides (also a pesticide) are “toxic”.  Pesticide technology provides Sports Field Managers with products that the EPA requires no signal word designation for, essentially deeming them completely non-toxic.  Fertilizers are all naturally occurring elements that are in no way “toxic”.  Herbicide options include numerous organic products that are naturally occurring.

2)      “It is hard for a grass field to remain lush and resilient if used more than three or four days a week, in the rain, or during months when grass is dormant

Fact:  Sports Field Managers across the world are able to maintain grass fields that sustain some sort of traffic every day of the week

Fact:  Sand “bases” for sports fields, both synthetic and grass, are design to allow water to infiltrate in order to continue play in heavy rain

Fact:  1/5 of the states that make up the USA have weather that allows grass growth 12-months of the year

3)      “The lack of an accessible outdoor field presented problems for many of the students, particularly those who use wheelchairs and walkers that would sink into natural grass playing surfaces.”

Fact: Handicapped children participate in programs on grass fields 365 days a year around the United States w/ no use issue what so ever. 

4)      “Depending on the region of the country, one full-size synthetic turf sports field can save 500,000 to 1 million gallons of water each year.”

Fact:  Synthetic turf field installations are now requiring watering systems for cleaning and for cooling the extreme heat reflected by the carpet

5)      “synthetic turf helps reduce noxious emissions that could be harmful to the environment. According to the EPA, lawn mowers are a significant source of pollution that impairs lung function, inhibits plant growth, and is a key ingredient of smog.”

Fact:  The emissions from lawn mowers are no different than the emissions from any other internal combustion engines

Fact:  Via research from North Carolina State University and Colorado State University, maintained natural grass sequesters .44 tons of C02 per acre per year. That is the equivalent of driving a car 3,000 miles.

Thank You for taking the time to look into these 5 points.  Your attention to this is very much appreciated.  It is unfortunate that the article lacked any information on actual “trends” to help those of us who maintain synthetic fields along with our natural grass fields.

I have also posted this letter to the editor as an open letter on the blog site: http://growinggreengrass.net .


Jerad R. Minnick

Ideas for Drying Out Wet Winter/ Early Spring Fields

Is it just me, or has the winter just flown by?!?  Here in the USA, the spring sports season is upon us:  College baseball and lacrosse season is open, professional baseball spring training baseball is underway, and professional soccer pre-season is nearing the end with the season opening in 2 weeks.  Are you sensing faint hints of freshly cut grass yet??

Winter and early spring play creates a vast challenge for sports field managers. Grass is either dormant or slow-growing, soils are freezing and thawing, and cold temperatures and/or snow can eliminate getting work done all together.  But for every challenge there is a creative solution.  Today let’s share together some different ideas and techniques to solve the challenge of preparing wet fields for spring time play.

Why Do Fields Stay So Wet in the Winter/ Spring?

Wet fields are challenging in the winter/ early spring for several reasons. 2 of those are:

  1. Sun Angle Is Lower:  Summer is the only time that the earth is tilted directly towards the sun.  Then during the spring and fall, the tilt is more intermediate.  Then In the winter the earth is tilted completely away from the sun in the winter hemisphere.                            http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/cli_seasons.html                      Because of the tilt, evaporation/ evapotranspiration and atmospheric heating are greatly reduced.  The result: much slower surface drying for wet fields
  2. Temperature fluctuation:  Temperature (and climate) can also be traced back to the tilt of the earth as well.  But ups and downs are more dramatic during the winter.  This weekend Florida is experiencing un-seasonably cool temperatures.  Last week the GIS Convention experienced cold, rain, and overcast in San Diego.  Up and down temperatures inhibit drying and lead to soils freezing and thawing.  Then a thawing top layer on a field is soft and wet, especially if the profile below is still frozen.

Solutions to Drying Fields:

We have defined some of the reasons for wet, spring time fields.  Now lets explore some possible solutions.  Please share some of your ideas as well!

  1. Soil Penetrants:  Moving water off of the surface is Step #1 to getting a wet field dry.  Because the field surface is unstable, mechanical means of drying are impossible.  Liquid soil penetrants provide an option for these surfaces.  Soil penetrants contain negatively charged particles that repel the negatively charged soil colloids to open up pathways through the soil for temporary drainage.  An application of a soil penetrant can expedite the movement of water by up to 40%.  Soil penetrants have no environmental impact and have no long-term effects on the field surface, so using them is 100% safe.  They are generally economically priced as well.
  2. Drying Agents:  Soil drying agents such as calcine clay and ceramics provide an option for wet surfaces.  The ability of these products to work on wet grass surfaces is mixed, especially with possible detrimental long-term issues for grass if over used.  But drying agents are extremely effective on drying infield skinned areas/ bare dirt areas, so creative uses can be attempted if budget is no object (can be expensive)
  3. Rolling:  A roller can be used to “seal off” the surface of a field to make it playable for a competition.  This certainly isn’t a long-term solution, but can provide a quick fix to get the field to a point that a competition can take place and prepare it for mechanical means such as aeration to take place to work towards drying the field.
  4. Aeration/ Venting:  Venting the surface can encourage the field to begin to dry.  Rapid tine aerators w/ solid tines set to 1-2” can work very well, specially since the front roller can smooth our tractor tracks.  The RotoKnife, slicers, aerway type aerators, and dimple or needle tine seeders can also work to run across a surface that needs vented to promote drying out.  Hollow tines can also be used if you are comfortable with being able to get the plugs cleaned up.  Again, 1-2” is all that is needed to encourage/ speed drying out.
  5. Topdressing:  Topdressing sand can be used to assist in creating air space to dry and firm the surface, especially in cooperation with aeration/ venting.  Filling the open holes with sand allow them to remain open longer and provide more drying ability.
  6. Grow Tarps:  Using grow tarps doesn’t directly help dry out a field surface, it actually can trap in moisture without sunshine.  But when used w/ sunshine, a grow tarp not only magnifies sun to dry a field surface.. it also promotes grass growth and establishment.  When grow tarps are used correctly (off and on when needed), they can create early spring growth and drying to have a field playable nearly daily.  Any high level (high traffic) field that is depended on for early spring play should consider grow tarps to ensure success for playability (in combo with these other ideas)

These are just a few ideas and thoughts about getting wet fields open in the spring time.  We will build on this and have a more extensive discussion on drainage options for fields (especially heavy soil) in the next week with some examples from drainage work we are doing at  Maryland SoccerPlex.  But in reference to today’s discussion, please sure any ideas/ thoughts with us that you might have in order for Sports Field Managers to better meet the challenge of wet fields this spring!!