Extending Fall Growth of Bermudagrass

As the calendar flips through October, today those of us in the Northern Hemisphere find ourselves only 2 months from the shortest day of the year (properly known as the Winter Solstice). The lower sun angle, shorter days, and cooling temperatures are a reminder that “winter” is upon us. With increasing & / or continued high-use on many natural grass fields during this time of deteriorating Bermudagrass growth conditions, the topic of “extending Bermudagrass growth” multiple times this week. Ideas to prolong Bermuda growth include:

  • Spraying green paint / green dye
  • Topdressing with sand
  • Spreading organic fertilizer or compost
  • Utilizing grow covers

Environmental factors for plant growth are sunlight & heat. With both sunlight & heat decreasing in the fall, these “tricks” generate extra heat in the grass canopy in order to encourage / prolong growth. These things are especially impactful on improved Bermudagrass varieties like Latitude 36, Northbridge, & Tahoma 31. These varieties require less heat & less light for growth. The tricks also work on a bit older varieties such as Patriot & Bandera. So the discussions this week have not been focused on IF we can extend the Bermuda growing season… but instead the discussions have been about the consequences of extending Bermuda growth deeper into the fall. Could extended growth be detrimental to Bermudagrass health? Could it impact (slow) spring green up?

Answer? YES. Prolonging or promoting Bermudagrass growth through the fall / into the winter can be detrimental and / or hurt spring green up.

Why? With lower sun angle & decreased sun intensity combined with less hours of sunlight during the shorter days, photosynthesis (produces energy) can not keep pace with prolonged growth (burns energy).

Backing up a few years, we explored this Bermudagrass growth topic in a range of posts on this blog. “Let There Be Light” & “Let There Be Light Follow Up” discussed Bermudagrass light requirement and the impact of decreasing natural light from the sun in the fall season. By October, the sun does not produce enough light to sustain efficient Bermudagrass photosynthesis and the grass slows down. Temperature change then follows to fully induce dormancy. The spring after those initial posts, “Transition Zone Bermudagrass Out of Gas This Spring” looked into/ shared lessons we were learning during spring and early summer Bermudagrass struggles following a mild winter. Bermudagrass didn’t go into full dormancy with the mild temperatures. But instead of mild being a positive, lack of dormancy was a negative because the green and growing Bermuda didn’t have the needed light amounts for efficient photosynthesis. Carbohydrate / energy reserves in the Bermudagrass plants were burned up and the grass could not give a spring surge for growth and recovery.

Those discussions lead to the creation of an on-field trial that fall at Duke University on Latitude 36 Bermudagrass. “Supplemental Light & Bermudagrass” introduces that trial. The stimulation for that trial came from similar experiences & questions to what we are exploring now.

The results of that trial provide great information to help in our decision making now on if or how much to push fall Bermudagrass growth. These slides give a snap shot into the trial results:

To get the information needed for the discussion of extending Bermudagrass growth, the summary on the last slide (just click on the last circle to skip all the way to the end) provides insight.

  1. The area that received supplemental light ONLY had the best roots & the best strength. Why? The amount of light added, in combination with the sun, exceeded 25 mols / day (the amount of light that photosynthesis can be fully efficient). And with little extra heat, the grass never grew aggressively to burn the energy that was being stored. It DID grow some – as it grew enough to where the paint grew out / was mowed off BEFORE the area w grow covers only.
  2. The area that used grow covers ONLY had the worst roots & the worst strength. Why? Heat was stimulating growth that was burning energy. But with a) low light conditions of the winter + b) the grow covers blocking 50% of the already limited light… the plants burned up their energy reserves (roots).

SO WHAT? What does that have to do with this discussion?

The trial teaches us or reinforces 2 big things:

1. Bermudagrass goes dormant in the fall / winter / spring not just because of temperature, but also because of reduced light levels (its naturally protecting itself)

2. Generating heat will help stimulate Bermudagrass growth later into the fall / winter. The trial used grow covers. Green paint / dye will do similar (up to 7 degrees increase of canopy temperature on a sunny day).

Patriot field with a sodded spot of Latitude 36 showing how much longer it can stay green in Fall

So if / when manipulating temperatures to extend Bermudagrass growth in the fall / winter, keep in mind that the energy being burned with growth is not being replenished with natural light. The recommendation made to our clients is to utilize paint / dye. It stimulates a bit of extra growth for 2-4 weeks, depending on the temperatures & sunshine. Yes, it will block some light too – that is something we are doing more research on (assumption is it is less than 15%). If you need more significant growth, grow covers will do the trick! But with them stimulating significant growth while also blocking approx 50% of available light, don’t use them A) too much, or B) for too long because at some point by mid-December, the grass needs to be able to go “full natural” with its growth cycle. From I-70 from KC to DC & north, its even more important for the Bermuda to go fully dormant in preparation for the cold winter. Many use grow covers are used for winter protection – and they work. But we typically recommend waiting until the soil temperature drops into the middle 30’s before the covers to put them on to stay until late February / March.

Additional New Information: With multiple clients / facilities utilizing under soil heating & / or supplemental lighting, we have learned much additional about Bermudagrass growth since the trial

  • Northbridge, Latitude 36, & Tahoma 31* Bermudagrass can / will to grow when soil temperatures rise above 55 F. This is why it is important to let soil temps drop into the 30’s before putting covers on during the winter for a long period of time. If the soil temperatures come above 55 F, the plant will be burning energy. Also why it is important to continue to feed the Bermuda in the fall until the soil temperatures fall. Ca & K & even low rates of N in the fall will help with energy storage in preparation for winter * Tahoma 31 is potentially as low as 50 F. (For reference: 419 is 65-70 F)
  • These superior varieties of Bermudagrass, when combined with + 55 F soil temperatures, can / will grow when combined air temperatures rise to 110 degrees (example: 70 high, 40 low). That “low” temperature threshold, combined with soil temperatures still higher from summer, is why it is easy to manipulate & extend the growing season in the fall.

Ultimately you know your situation BEST. Utilize soil temperature & air temperature data, in combo with Growing Degree Days & your sunshine forecast to decide what is best for your particular situation. Hopefully some of this information is helpful in the decision making!

Transition Zone Bermudagrass: “Out of Gas” This Spring??

Mother Nature has reminded us this spring that the seasonal “average” weather isn’t always what she decides to provide us. For most of the spring, especially through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, the up and down temperatures have stressed even cool season turfgrass. After a warmer winter period and above normal temperatures in March that encouraged spring green… prolonged periods of overcast, cold and damp followed. Cool season is stressed, but bermudagrass is REALLY confused. Bermuda in many situations is acting like it just “out of gas” to be able to regenerate or transition out from ryegrass overseeding.


Green Bermudagrass Under Grow Covers in Feb, In Washington, DC

But we are seeing some very different bermudagrass results with regeneration and/or transition. Some bermudagrass fields are fighting back strong now that we are into May, yet some continue to face challenges. But why? Temperatures across through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic came up early to support bermudagrass to pull out of dormancy early. Shouldn’t it be growing actively by now, even with the cool and overcast?

Literally, it really is just “Out of Gas”!!!

The lack of full dormancy and early spring green up, things we thought were good, are actually what is leading to the bermudagrass being “out of gas”. It can even be worse on bermudagrass that was kept under grow covers most of the winter. The covers provided temperatures for the bermuda to continue to grow. But we now are understanding that temperature alone is not enough. The importance of light for photosynthesis in bermudagrass has been overlooked. The short days w/ a low sun angle through the fall, winter and spring have a bigger impact on bermudagrass growth than we have ever realized.

Light Requirement For Bermudagrass: Bermudagrass requires more than for cool season. On average, bermudagrass varieties requires around 35 mol/ day of light for photosynthesis to produce the required energy for normal plant processes. In Raleigh-Durham, North Carloina in full sun (no winter damaged tissue or ryegrass overseeding producing shade), the sun provides (See chart below for entire year):

Fall:       Sept 10 to Oct 8 average: 39.5 mols/ day
               Oct 8 to Nov. 5 average: 28.1 mols/ day
               Nov 5 to Dec 3 average: 19.9 mols/ day
Winter: Dec 3 to Dec 31 average: 19.3 mols/ day
               Jan 1 to Jan 29 average: 19.3 mols/ day
               Jan 29 to Feb 26 average: 26.8 mols/ day
              Feb 26 to March 26 average: 33.4 mols/ day 
Spring: March 26 to April 23 average : 46.3 mols/ day   (FINALLY above 35 Mol/day!)
              April 23 to May 21 average: 48.2 mols/day

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Par Light Average In Mol/day In Raleigh-Durham, NC (www.SGLConcept.com)

From mid October until the first of April, even in full sun, photosynthesis can not produce enough energy to support regular bermudagrass plant growth. Thats over 5 MONTHS! For bermudagrass further north in somewhere like Kansas City, the light required for healthy growth would lack for nearly 6 months. Newer varieties of bermudagrass like Latitude36 and Celebration require less light than the 35 mols/ day, so we see them sustain growth later in the fall and earlier in the spring. But overall, the light for photosynthesis just isn’t there.

So what? Why does this matter to bermudagrass?  When Mother Nature provides warmer temperatures, or when we manipulate the growing environment with grow tarps, bermudagrass grass sustains green and produces growth. But because photosynthesis isn’t producing energy to keep up with that growth, late season or early spring growth, the energy reserves of the bermudagrass are burned up and the plant goes into stress and starvation mode. Some fields we have this spring have actually went dormant when they were green in January and February. Or fields that were growing in March have slowed now even into May because of the continual overcast, cloudy and wet conditions.

Now that we understand the cause, for the short term, how do we find a solution? Follow we want to share what seems to be some of the pillars of the strong bermudagrass regeneration and transition:

Get light to the bermudagrass plants: We have established the problem of the lack of light and the need for energy production. Step 1… get light to the plants! This means:

a. Lower mowing height and increasing mowing frequency. Especially on a bermudagrass field that is overseeded. In non-overseeded, mowing low (down to 1/2” if possible) will help clean out all the dead or winter damaged tissue and promote green bermudagrass to push up through.

b. Clean out/ Open up the canopy to get sun down through. Something as simple as brushing or dragging with a steel drag can open up the canopy. Verticutting, core aeration, or Universe Fraze Mowing can clean out and open up the canopy as well. Avoid topdressing with more than 1/8” of material… we want to promote light to the plants, not increase the barrier.

c. Supplement support for energy production from bio-stimulant products: Technology in plant feeding products allows us to provide the stressed bermudagrass with the amino acids and sugars that it needs to support photosynthesis for energy. A range of patented, scientifically engineered products existing to do this so all the stress isn’t on the plant and photosynthesis. Key, patented products were are recommending for stress relief and photosynthetic support include a combination from Floratine Products Group:

  • Protesyn: Formulation of amino acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. Equate Protesyn to a sports drink and/or some liquid sunshine. Helps with lack of energy and stress!
  • Knife Plus: Micronutrient product combined with a hormone loading for support of plant systems. The micronutrients cover the range for the essential building blocks for photosynthesis
  • 5.0 Cal: Blend of calcium and simple and complex carbohydrates to support the turfgrass plant during stress periods. The calcium and sugars mirror what is produced during photosynthesis.

The fields we are seeing in the strongest condition are receiving supplemental bio-stimulant applications to support energy production. Simply… The applications are supporting plant processes to keep the plant from running out of gas!!

d. Avoiding N to drive growth, Instead using hormones to push natural, healthy growth: With getting sunlight to the plants and reducing plant stress by using plant feeding technology, its time to push the bermudagrass to start to grow and recover. Go go go! But another theme of the best fields we are seeing currently are NOT turning to just nitrogen to push growth. Historically, spring time growth and bermudagrass fill in comes from simple applications of 46-0-0 and 21-0-0. But we now know that excessive nitrogen drives unhealthy growth and burns up energy reserves. Yes, we just built up our energy reserves! Lets not burn through them already. Instead, for a granular fertilizer, turn to an organic product to feed soil microbes or a Poly coated product such as Polyon to give you control of release. Then turning to a hormone package to increase cell division and drive healthy, natural growth at this point in time. Temperatures, soil and air, continue to be low. Even if you are set on using N for your re-grow, its too cold for bermudagrass to metabolize N in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Hormones, in combination with the energy support we discussed previous, really is the best ticket to get strong re-generation and transition through ryegrass in this stressful time.

Recommendations on products? We recommend our clients turn again to Floratine Products Group for some of their patented bio-stimulant products:

  • High 5: Warm-season grass specific nutrient product with hormones and micronutrients
  • Per4Max: Hormone and nutrient product designed specifically to increase GA production to promote cell division for bermudagrass to spread rapidly
    – With that combination, a potassium phosphite product also is helpful to support energy production along with .05 lbs/ of true foliar N in the spray.

De-compacted the soil!! De-compacting soil is the #1 key cultural key in the successful bermudagrass regeneration and transitions observed this spring. Wet soils compact more quickly from play than dry soil. These consistent wet conditions have led to some extreme compaction conditions. Those compacted soils need opened to:
Allows air into the soil profile, promoting both soil microbes and bermudagrass roots. The soil air and microbial activity on a de-compacted soil are essential for support growth
Allows water to move down through the soil profile faster. The water moving through reduces rain cancellations. It also allows air to come back into the soil faster. Where there is water, there is no air. Once the water can move through and air is back into the soil, both soil microbes and the bermuda roots can be stronger.


Air2G2 Decompacting Football Sidelines with NO Disruption

Ultimately, the lessons of a challenging spring here in 2016 will help us avoid the same challenges in the years ahead. Because of the mild winter through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, it was assumed that the spring and summer would be much easier with winter kill totally avoided. But the damage done from semi-dormant bermudagrass attempting to grow when it is typically dormant may cause just as many challenges as winter kill could. But overall, with as aggressive as bermudagrass can be, as soon as you are able to 1) get light to the plant and 2) supplement to support energy production, the plants will recover and begin to grow. Then at that point you can 3) push healthy, strong growth with hormones and utilize slow release N to support the growth process.

And remembering the key, none of it works at all on a compacted soil! Fields need to be used, we just have to respond in new and different ways to support them. Even when Mother Nature doesn’t want to cooperate.

Keep up the great work, and share your examples of success with us if you are having them! Cheers to #GrassCanTakeMore™!!!


Copyright © 2016 Growing Innovations, LLC All Rights Reserved.  

Eight benefits of natural grass: From Lawn & Landscape Magazine

From Lawn & Landscape Magazine on April 8, 2016:     Eight benefits of natural grass

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After celebrating Earth Day just a few days ago, we return to the subject of environmental protection and improvement by looking at the benefits of natural grass.  

By: Jerad R Minnick

Turfgrass can be found on lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, roadsides and many other natural and recreational areas. It accounts for over 50 million acres of maintained, irrigated natural grass in the U.S. alone. Ongoing research continues to uncover previously unidentified environmental, economic, health and safety benefits of natural turfgrass.

Below are eight benefits of natural grass:

1. Air quality
Turfgrass is a living organism. Each plant takes in carbon dioxide and converts it into simple sugars to use as food through the process of photosynthesis. As a byproduct of photosynthesis, oxygen is released into the atmosphere.
A turfgrass area measuring 2,500 square feet produces enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe. An average sized healthy lawn can capture as much as 300 pounds of carbon per year and a golf course fairway can capture 1,500 pounds per year. One soccer field can offset the carbon produced by a car driving 3,000 miles.

Because of this, Dr. Thomas Watschke of Penn State University states in “The Environmental Benefits of Turfgrass and Their Impact on the Greenhouse Effect” that “the strategic use of turfgrass is the most sensible and economically feasible approach to countering the greenhouse effect in urban areas.”

In addition to reducing carbon dioxide, turfgrass traps an estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.

2. Pollution filter
In 2013, an EPA Chesapeake Bay Program panel of experts concluded, based upon a review of extensive research, that a “dense vegetative cover of turfgrass” reduces pollution and runoff. More precisely, the average soccer field can absorb 50,000 gallons of water before runoff occurs. The fibrous root system stabilizes soil to reduce erosion and prevents the movement of sediment into creeks and rivers.

Additionally, studies have found the noise absorptive capacity of turfgrass is a significant part of how landscapes are effective in reducing noise pollution.

3. Stormwater management
Landscaped areas reduce pollutants from leaching through the soil into the water supply or from entering surface water runoff. Turfgrasses filter stormwater excess and reduce sediment and pollutants from entering water bodies. Turfgrass plants also redirect the flow of water, slowing it and allowing more water to be absorbed by the soil, which aids in preventing soil erosion and flooding.

Did you know a healthy, sodded lawn absorbs rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field?

4. Heat
Environmental heating is reduced by turfgrass. On a hot summer day, a well maintained turfgrass area will be at least 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil.

The overall environmental cooling effect of turfgrass can be understood by comparing it to air conditioning. The average home has an air conditioner with a three or four ton capacity. The California Energy Commission has found the cooling effect of an average size lawn is equal to about nine tons of air conditioning. A single high school baseball field provides up to 70 tons of air conditioning. This cooling effect is beneficial for athletes and for reducing electrical needs for buildings and homes.

5. Wellness and stress
Green spaces have been shown to improve wellness and reduce stress. There is growing evidence that horticulture and natural grass found on sports fields and lawns is important on a human level. Plants lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension related to stress, improve attention and reduce feelings of fear and anger or aggression.

In 2002, The University of California – Riverside conducted research to support that hospital stays are positively affected by turfgrass and green spaces. Patients in hospital rooms with a view of nature and lawns recover more quickly than similar patients in rooms with a view of building walls.

Similarly, people who live and work in an environment with a view of lawns and nature compared to an urban view, were found to recover from stress more quickly. Employees with a view of landscaped areas experience less job pressure, greater job satisfaction and fewer headaches than those who do not have a view or can only see manmade objects. Green spaces are also proven to increase work productivity.

Also related to wellness and stress, two surveys on Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder have shown that children active in green spaces, such as lawn areas, experience less severe symptoms. Another study published in “Environment and Behavior” indicated green spaces can enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life’s stress.

6. Therapeutic
The care of turfgrass and plants can have a positive, therapeutic effect and is included in many rehabilitation programs. These programs have been successfully used to treat certain illnesses, aid in the recovery of disabled people and help the elderly stay mobile. Programs have even been successfully implemented in prison systems, allowing inmates to acquire new, marketable skills that they can use when they return to civilian life.

7. Community appeal
Turfgrass and green spaces increase community appeal and improve property values. SmartMoney magazine indicates that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Additionally, it says one of the most cost effective ways to boost a home’s curb appeal is by attractively landscaping the yard. Well-manicured plots of land are one of the most important factors individuals and families consider when deciding where to live.

Green spaces create close-knit communities, which increases safety. Residents in landscaped areas tend to know their neighbors better, socialize more often and have stronger feelings of community when compared to residents living in more barren areas. Communities with trees and green spaces have lower crime, decreased police calls for domestic violence and decreased incidences of child abuse.

8. Recreation and sport
Turfgrass is used extensively for recreation and sport as well as providing places where adults, kids and pets can spend time outside the home. About 80 million people in the U.S. over the age of seven play sports on turfgrasses. The majority of professional athletes prefer to play on natural grass surfaces.

Providing places for recreation and encouraging activity is especially important with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting over one third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of American children and adolescents as obese. Recreational activities also provide children and adults leisure time in a positive and safe environment.

A Sincere Thank YOU

Statement from Jerad Minnick on President’s Award For Leadership

“Game Changer”. What a tremendous theme for the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) national conference last week. The STMA gathering in San Diego involved non-stop sharing and idea generation between Sports Turf Managers from around the world. Friday night’s Awards Banquet was the culmination. Founder’s Award were presented, Fields of the Year were all honored, and students were praised.  Each and every person or team honored, unique in their own way, overcome challenge to create great things with hard work and professionalism. An absolutely wonderful night all around. Bravo STMA!

Former President Allen Johnson’s presentation of the President’s Award for Leadership turned the banquet personal for me. In introducing the award, Mr. Johnson’s description of leadership was captivating. What a wonderful description. “It (leadership) is an act of someone who is unprovoked by others, but rather is driven from within themselves to set upon a course of action to accomplish something that they believe simply needs to be done. They demonstrate a passion for their vision and take measurable actions in achieving their goal. No matter how difficult the task or the odds stacked against them they forge on, knowing that their pursuit is a worthy endeavor.”

Working daily with Sports Field Managers and seeing first hand the effort they put into their natural grass fields is the best part of my role as an Advisor. Especially when perception and teaching still is that natural grass fields can not sustain an increased amount of use. Yet all around us Sports Field Managers make the impossible possible every single day. They display passion and perseverance. Many times they are required to sacrifice. But they forge on and get the job done because they love what they do.

With the description of “leadership” that President Johnson gave, I could think of so many people that deserve a leadership award. When “Jerad Minnick” came from his mouth, I nearly fell from my chair (that, or my colleague and friend Simon Gumbrill might have pushed me!). I appreciate the award greatly. THANK YOU. But this award really belongs to all of YOU. YOU vendors in our industry that are creating new solutions for old problems. YOU Sports Field Managers who are willing to buy into new ideas and set examples of how natural grass sustain an increased amount of use. Without your professionalism and hard work to produce shining examples of high quality, high use natural grass fields, I would just look like a raving lunatic living in a land of fantasy! THANK YOU to each and every one of YOU for what YOU do in proving that natural grass fields can take more!

And a heart felt THANK YOU to former President Johnson for the recognition. It’s special to receive a leadership award from a President that lead us all by example. Mr. Johnson, your professionalism and hard work makes the impossible possible… growing perfect grass for the Green Bay Packers. Thank you Mr. Johnson. You give us all an example to follow.

It is truly an honor to receive the President’s Award for Leadership. But ultimately, this award isn’t for or about Jerad Minnick… its about every one of YOU that prove wrong the perception natural grass can not take an increased amount of use. But we have no time for celebrate, our work is only STARTED. I hope YOU are excited as I am about the bright future for Sports Field Managers and the potential for natural grass fields. #GrassCanTakeMore!

“Success is no accident.  It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”- Pele 


Transcript from Former President Allen Johnson’s introduction of the President’s Award for Leadership:

There are many different ideas of what constitutes the word Leadership. For the purposes of this award tonight, I’d like to define what leadership means to me. Its the act of someone who is unprovoked by others, but rather is driven from within themselves to set upon a course of action to accomplish something that they believe simples needs to be done. They demonstrate a passion for their vision and take measurable actions in achieving their goal. No matter how difficult the task or the odds staked against them they forge on, knowing that their pursuit is a worthy endeavor.

I do not personally know the individual that I have selected for tonight’s honor, but I know of them. I have shaken their hand only twice and said hello. However, I am aware of this person’s pursuit of their goal. At a time when it is so desperately needed in our industry, this person has been a staunch advocate for natural grass and its’ use as a playing surface for athletes across all sports and age groups. They have not only been a leading voice for the benefits that natural grass provides, but they have also benefited our industry by introducing ideas and concepts which push the professional sports field manager to better themselves, to push the envelope in their management techniques, and become even more valuable to their organizations.

Promoting the benefits of natural grass for athletic surfaces is not only highlighted as one of the main goals in the STMA’s strategic plan, it is sorely needed in our industry because it rarely has a voice to speak on its behalf. For these reasons I can think of no better person or no better time to honor this year’s Presidential Award for Leadership as Jerad Minnick.


Let There Be Light!

SGL MasterClass 2015

70+ Sports Field Managers representing 12 countries around the world gathered in Manchester, UK for SGL Master Class 2015.  Manchester City Football Club hosted to the 2-day education event with attendees from places as distant as Ukraine and Singapore.  Etihad Stadium Head Grounds Manager Lee Jackson and City Football Academy Head Grounds Manager Lee Metcalfe both opened their state-of-the- art facilities at Manchester City FC to the Master Class.  SGL specific sessions included updates on SGL developments and to collect user feedback.  But uniquely, most of the Master Class focus was not just on SGL products and light technology.  The curriculum focused on evolving natural grass sports field management over all and explored new solutions for the always increasing demand of more events in stadiums world wide.  From grass genetics and plant feeding to renovation approaches and techniques world wide.  Special presentations came from Ray Cheng of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Jerad Minnick of the Natural Grass Advisory Group (USA).  An informational panel discussion with SGL Founder Nico van Vuuren, SGL Territory Manager Simon Gumbrill, Lee Jackson, and Jerad Minnick summarized and closed out the event. Additionally as part of the Master Class at City was an all access tour through Etihad Stadium by Lee Jackson and the newly opened City Football Academy by Lee Metcalfe.  

A visit to City cross town rival Manchester United also took place during the Master Class.    United Head Grounds Manager Tony Sinclair opened his pitch at storied Old Trafford, home of Manchester United since 1910, to Master Class participants.  Like both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Metcalfe at City, Mr. Sinclair generously shared his experiences and knowledge with the group.  

Throughout Master Class 2015, sharing and collaboration amongst presenters and participants was endless, from morning coffee through evening social time.  As sharing and collaboration are the building blocks of growth and innovation, there is no doubt participants of the Master Class walked away with new ideas and excitement.  

Supplemental Light:  Just for shade? 

A theme that developed during Master Class was turfgrass and light requirement. Previously, supplemental lighting for turfgrass growth is commonly considered a tool just for natural grass surfaces with extensive shade inside large stadiums.  Yet in reality, shaded stadiums house only a small fraction  of the turfgrass in need of supplemental light.  A 2004 study release from Clemson University on TifEagle greens highlights the need for supplemental light without even calling for it. An August, 2004 GCSAA article by B. Todd Bunnell, Ph.D., and Bert McCarty, Ph.D. (1) provides an in-depth look at the study.  When tying the research and article content to the need for supplemental light, the article summary with the title says it all.  “Without a full day of sunshine, TifEagle bermudagrass greens do not thrive”.  Their study on TifEagle finds the bermudagrass needs a daily light integral of 32.6 mol m-2 d-1.  Using light data collection,  Atlanta, GA for example sustains 32.6 mol m-2 d-1a of light from April until October.  (See chart from Karl Danneberger, Ph.D, Ohio State).  TifEagle then is under light stress and can not grow efficiently nearly half the year.  Why the lack of light?  The limited light is simply due to shorter days and lower sun angle in the sky during the fall, winter, and spring season.  Dr. Karl Danneberger gives a detailed description of the impact of in-adequate light has on turfgrass growth in his Ohio State article “Pour Some Light On Me”(2) “Turfgrass plants in response to shade or low light levels become more upright in growth habit including a thinner, longer leaves, less tillering, shallower rooting, and less total root mass (3,4,5). Overall, the turf is subject to a decline in both density and quality. If the winter months are more cloudy and rainy than normal, the detrimental changes would be more dramatic.”  In the south, overseeding with ryegrass into bermudagrass helps off set the decline in bermuda quality due to lower light amounts.  But dormancy in the bermudagrass is promoted because of a decreased light.  And ryegrass overseeding blocks light to the bermudagrass, adding to the reduction of light.  Thus an overseeded stand of bermudagrass in Atlanta, GA faces stress due to inadequate light for nearly 6 months of the year.  That same light stress is equal for nearly all bermudagrass across the USA mainland, only increasing the more north the grass is growing.  Light requirement for cool season grasses is lower, but still their light requirements are equally not met in fall, winter and spring in north regions either.  

This type of research and data collection illustrates how grass in shaded stadiums is not the only grass suffering from light stress in need of supplemental light.  In fact, data supports nearly that all grass could benefit from supplemental light for extended periods during the year.  

Birth of SGL

Webster’s dictionary defines innovation as “making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”.  Innovation is exactly what Nico van Vuuren, a Dutch rose grower and Founder of Stadium Grow Lighting, provided with the introduction of SGL to the natural grass industry in 2001.  The first supplemental turfgrass grow light trial ever fittingly took place at the Stadium of Light, Home of Sunderland FC in Sunderland, UK.    The complex new introduction of light into stadiums was a simple advancement of the supplemental growth lighting in Mr. van Vuuren’s 22 acres of rose growing green houses.  As a core building block for rose growth, light is essential for healthy turfgrass growth too.  With shading from large stadium structures and the sun angle change by the season, consistency of light for grass in a stadium is erratic at best.  Supplemental light units immediately supplied the consistency of light needed to sustain healthy, consistent grass growth nearly year round.  Innovation! The “change in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products” is one of he most dramatic changes to take place in the history of natural grass field maintenance.  

The Future Of Supplemental Light

Since the introduction of supplemental light at Sunderland in 2001, SGL has grown to supply light to over 160 swards of natural grass around the world.  And still most all intense light research and innovation is coming from SGL’s lab in Holland.  

Originally the interest for supplemental light was with soccer stadiums in Europe.  Those stadiums are challenged with maintain natural grass surfaces through a soccer season that stretches from fall, through the entire winter season, and into the late spring.  Those stadiums face both shade and low sun angle.  Now with the “growing” understanding that nearly all natural grass surfaces need light, supplemental lighting has spread into the USA in the NFL, MLB, MLS and even college sports with the introduction at University of Tennesse’s Neyland Stadium.  With supplemental light for healthy, consistent turfgrass growth, these stadiums can increase their number of events while reducing maintenance and expensive sod repairs.  Especially in the fall, winter, and spring season.  With the growing demand for high quality natural grass fields nearly year round, there is no doubt the number of applications of supplemental light in sports and golf will continue to grow.  Innovation truly is making a “change”.  

  1. http://www2.gcsaa.org/gcm/2004/aug04/pdf/augtechsunlight.pdf

(2) http://buckeyeturf.osu.edu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1126:pour-some-light-on-me&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=170

(3) Bell, G.E. and T.K. Danneberger. 1999. Temporal shade on creeping bentgrass turf. Crop Science 39:1142-1146

(4). Danneberger, T.K. 1994. Light, as a resource. in Turfgrass Ecology and Management. G.I.E., Inc. Publishers. Cleveland, Ohio. p. 25-35.

(5) Wherley, B.G., D.S. Gardner, and J.D. Metzger. 2005. Tall fescue photomorphogenesis as influenced by changes in the spectral composition. Crop Science 45:562-568. 

Announcement: Natural Grass Advisory Group™



ANNOUNCEMENT: Natural Grass Advisory Group™ Launched By Growing Innovations For Independent Education and Support For Natural Grass Maintenance

GINGAG Annoucement PDF

Rockville, MD- The Natural Grass Advisory Group™ has recently been launched by Growing Innovations, LLC. Natural Grass Advisory Group™ (NGAG) is an independent education and support organization for natural grass sport surfaces. Natural Grass Advisory Group™ personnel and representatives soon will work world wide to independently advise and back natural grass sports fields, equestrian surfaces, golf courses, and home lawns.

Natural Grass Advisory Group™ education and support focuses on providing solutions for the on-going challenge of maintaining high-use natural grass surfaces. Historical perception has been that natural grass surfaces can sustain only limited use and require long closure periods for repairs. That perception is no longer reality. With evolving maintenance, new technology, and objective data from surface testing, Natural Grass Advisory Group™ education and support focuses on increasing natural grass use and reduce repairs.

NGAG work proves GrassCanTakeMore™!

Lead Advisor for the Natural Grass Advisory Group™ is Mr. Jerad Minnick. Minnick, a natural grass educator and advocate, is stepping down from his current position of President at Growing Innovations. This change ensures full independence of all NGAG education and support. Minnick will continue as an advisor for Growing Innovations projects and clients. Growing Innovations will immediately start the search for a new President. This person will foster relationships with existing GI partners and spear head the new GI research and surface testing/ data collection program utilized by NGAG and other Growing Innovations clients.

Natural Grass Advisory Group™: www.NaturalGrass.Org @GrassRevolution(twitter)

Lead Advisor Jerad Minnick is at jerad@NaturalGrass.org or @JeradRMinnick(twitter)

About Growing Innovations: Growing Innovations, LLC is a consulting firm dedicated to creating and providing advocacy for new solutions for old problems. Based in Rockville, MD, Growing Innovations provides support for clients in over 10 countries working within the natural grass maintenance industry. Growing Innovations inspiration comes from Albert Einstein: “We can not solve our problems with the same thinking that we used to create them”.

 For More Information: Contact Tori@GrowingInnovations.Net


Rain, Rain, Rain: Play Through on Natural Grass!

Early in the day this past Saturday in Toronto, the rain began to fall. It was light at first, but it prevailed and increased in intensity through the afternoon. Match time for Toronto FC v DC United was 5pm. The rain continued throughout, with veteran Washington Post Soccer Insider Mr. Steven Goff tweeting “Raining so hard here in Toronto, looks like snow falling in front of floodlights” and again “Halftime in Hurricane”. Following that MLS match, Toronto FC II played host to the Wilmington Hammerheads with the rain continuing. By 10pm, 1.5” of rain had fallen and 180 mins of soccer had been played with no more than a scratch on the field.

BMO Field in the rain Saturday (Photo courtesy of Mr. Robert Heggie, Head Sports Field Manager)

BMO Field in the rain Saturday (Photo courtesy of Mr. Robert Heggie, Head Sports Field Manager)

The Saturday weather scene was nearly identical down the eastern USA coast. In Philadelphia at PPL Park, the rain started before and continued through the Philadelphia Union match. 1.3” total from 2pm to 10pm Saturday. 1” of that came just before or during the match. At Maryland SoccerPlex the heavy rain subsided just before match time. 1.75” in volume dumped in less than one hour as the Washington Spirit took the field. Toyota Stadium in Dallas experienced similar just 3 nights prior when 1.5” of rain drenched just before the FC Dallas match. 1/2” more pelted the players, fans, and field during the match. And each time, each field responded with strength and resilience.

1.75" in 45 mins soaks through field in 20 mins on SoccerPlex Stadium (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ryan Bjorn, Head Sports Field Manager)

1.75″ in 45 mins soaks through field in 20 mins on SoccerPlex Stadium (Photo courtesy of Mr. Ryan Bjorn, Head Sports Field Manager)

And the examples list goes on. Heavy rain across the central and eastern United States this past week played havoc on soccer matches.

Each of these are dramatic yet wonderful examples of how the perception “Grass fields always get rained out” is an absolute MYTH. The fact about rain and grass fields is simple: A natural grass field, when built or renovated correctly for drainage, can be 100% rain-out proof.

Yes, nearly any and all rain-out prone grass fields can be renovated easily to reduce or eliminate rainouts. And at 1/5 to 1/15 of the cost of replacing the field with artificial.

THANK YOU and KUDOS to every hard working Sports Field Manager, in ALL sports, who have fought through the recent rains. There are numerous more examples of natural grass fields sustaining play through the long, wet spring and early summer in the south and midwest to east. Your work provides more and more shining examples of how #GrassCanTakeMore™!!!

Stay tuned to GrowingGreenGrass.net in the next week for ideas and examples of renovation and maintenance tricks to help reduce/ eliminate rain-outs.

1.5" of rain in 2 hours prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX

1.5″ of rain in 2 hours prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX

15 mins later: 1.5" drained through prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX (Photos courtesy of Mr. Allen Reed, Head Sports Field Manager)

15 mins later: 1.5″ drained through prior to match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX (Photos courtesy of Mr. Allen Reed, Head Sports Field Manager)

#GrassCanTakeMore Comes Alive!


#GrassCanTakeMore Comes Alive!

#GrassCanTakeMore successfully came alive this week in the first ever #GrassCanTakeMore seminar from Growing Innovations and Turf Republic in Rockville, MD on Tuesday.

THANK YOU to the 81 participants that took part in the event. The exchange of ideas was fantastic! Your search for solutions and willingness to ask questions absolutely made the event a success! And THANK YOU to Mr. Dave Nehila and Mr. John Turnour for sharing with group and feeding the idea exchange. Wow, great!

Additionally, Thank You to Genesis Turfgrass, Finch Inc, and Oakwood Sod for supporting #GrassCanTakeMore as the event sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Look to @GrowingInnovations on twitter, www.growinginnovations.net and @TurfRepublic on Twitter, Facebook, and www.TurfRepublic.com for more information from the event.

Also look for announcements for the next upcoming #GrassCanTakeMore events. New, creative, budget responsible solutions are marking it possible to improve grass field quality and meet that demand to increase use. #GrassCanTakeMore Grass Field Workshops bring you these solutions in real-life, usable steps to take home to improve grass fields.

THANK YOU again to all of the participants. Grass Fields Can Take More!


Grass IS Taking More! On Pro Soccer Field of the Year


This piece is written in reference to:  Turning Green Into Gold; How Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex Became the First Women’s Soccer Venue to Win Professional Field of the Year

The perception that natural grass fields can’t sustain heavy use is starting to go away. There are a growing number of examples around the world of heavy use grass fields that are maintained in excellent shape. Even with smaller budgets.

But still the “how much can grass take” debate still is ongoing. How much CAN a grass field take!? Truly so many factors are involved. Ultimately the examples of amazing fields around the world simply go back to using new and better tools for maintenance and also focusing on the skills of professional, creative, hard working Sports Field Managers.

What an exciting time!

Maryland Soccer Foundation shared a wonderful example of how grass can take more this week in an article highlighting their Sports Field Maintenance crew on the STMA Professional Soccer Field of the Year, Hendricks Field. With that award, Hendricks recently became the first ever professional women’s field in any sport to win a Field of the Year award. But even more unique, the field hosted over 750 hours of non-professional sporting events in additional to the professional use. Hendricks won 2011 Parks Soccer Field of the Year as well during a year hiatus of women’s soccer when the field hosted nearly 1000 hours of events. The field again made news in the fall of 2012 when it was renovated, re-seeded with Kentucky bluegrass, and re-opened 35 days after seeding. Wow!

Certainly all of these amazing feats by 1 field seem like complete outliers because just a few years ago such high use at any level was thought to be impossible for grass. But now these things give as examples of the extremely bright and exciting future for natural grass fields and professional, creative, hard work Sports Field Managers. Using new and better tools for maintenance and by adopting new philosophies around the “3 Keys to High Traffic Maintenance” is changing what was once considered impossible and making it possible!

Walt Disney said it best, and field managers around the world are proving it: “It is Kind of Fun to Do the Impossible” ; ) Well done Sports Field Managers. Well done. #GrassCanTakeMore

Turning Green Into Gold; How Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex Became the First Women’s Soccer Venue to Win Professional Field of the Year