There has been great idea exchange and feedback stemming from a recent article in SportsField Management “Let There Be Light”. Thank you for that!! The article examines the introduction and use of supplemental light units for natural grass fields, back to its introduction from SGL in Holland.
What an enjoyable piece to put together! It stems from an “ah ha” moment during a recent visit to the UK. A training ground was using the SGL light system for growth and recovery on high-use area on the training fields. But wait? Isn’t supplemental lighting just for stadiums with big roofs and shade?
When turfgrass growth slows in the fall/ winter/ spring, we concede the loss of growth to the time of the year. The growth is slowed, yes by temperature in cold areas, but just as much by sun angle and day length. 8 hours of day length with the sun low on the horizon is not enough for grass to grow. Thus is goes dormant.
And grasses themselves are grouped and described as “shade tolerant”. Yet ultimately it really has nothing to do with shade. “Shade tolerant” grasses simply require less light for maximum growth. A great example is from the initial success of Latitude 36 bermudagrass in the transition zone. In its first few year, Latitude has dramatically out performed other cold tolerant bermudagrass varieties in fall color and growth in the transition zone. Why does Latitude 36 sustain growth in the fall as temperatures fall and day length gets shorter? Because it is a cold tolerant variety right?
Not all the case! Latitude 36 is a very cold tolerant variety of bermudagrass. But via a new study from the USGA on “Development of Shade-Tolerant Bermudagrass Cultivars”, Latitude 36 now looks to be the most shade tolerant of all bermudas. But again, its not just about shade… its about light requirement. Latitude 36 stays strong with growth well into the fall because 1) yes, its a cold tolerant variety, BUT also 2) it requires less light to sustain growth. As day length gets shorter and the sun angle gets lower in the sky through the fall, Latitude 36 is able to keep growing.
I reference the article “Pour Some Light On Me” from Dr. Karl Danneberger. Dr. Dannenberger put all of these points into perspective magically several years ago. THANK YOU for that! Dr. Dannenberger references another study that caught my attention from Dr. B. Todd Bunnell and Dr. Bert McCarty on light requirement for TifEagle putting greens. (Their study started in 2001, not 2004 as SportField Management referenced. The GCSAA article was published August, 2004). The article, “Sunlight requirements for ultradwarf bermudagrass greens” is tremendous. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Ultimately, turfgrass plants need light. And supplemental light provides the opportunity for growth and recovery year round, where Mother Nature does not provide for year round growth from sunlight. Hence, a training ground using supplemental light to promote growth and recover on high-traffic fields is not wasteful, but instead GENIUS!
That unique situation and the “ah ha” moment was a first, but there is no doubt that it will NOT be the last! With this type of innovation and technology, GrassCanTakeMore™!!!
See the full article here: “Let There Be Light”, SportsField Management