SportsTurf

January 2018

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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www.spor tsturfonline.com 42 // january 2018 CAN SOIL SURFACTANTS AND PLANT GROWTH REGULATORS REDUCE TURFGRASS WATER REQUIREMENTS? // By MATTEO SERENA, PHD & BERND LEINAUER, PHD S oil surfactants, also called wetting agents, are materials that decrease interfacial tension between hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces of soil particles. In turfgrass, soil surfactants are commonly used to prevent and treat localized dry spots (LDS) and areas of water repellency in the soil. These products are either injected into the irrigation water or sprayed on the soil surface. A report by Throssell (2009) stated that an average of 92% of the golf course facilities in the US use wetting agents as part of their spray plan, while 34% inject soil surfactants though their irrigation systems. Currently, there are more 120 different brand name products sold as a soil surfactants or wetting agents and most of these products share similar characteristics. These products can be separated into different classes depending on how they affect soil moisture. For example, products categorized as "penetrants" can increase movement and percolation, "water holders" or "retainers" improve retention; both groups may help distribute water more evenly throughout the soil profi le. Applications of these products may help in implementing water conservation strategies. In addition to wetting agents, products categorized as plant growth regulators (PGR) may have also the ability to reduce water use. Plant growth regulators are chemical substances that restrict essential plant growth by inhibiting either cell division (Type I) or gibberellic acid synthesis (Type II). They act like an herbicide in that they enter and move through the plant and interfere with specifi c enzymes inside the plant cells, which can slow or interrupt a specifi c metabolic process. The use of PGRs has developed into a standard management practice in the turf industry in order to maintain high quality turfgrass with improved playability. The primary reason these substances are used is to decrease mowing frequency and prevent scalping at times during which turfgrass growth quickly (i.e. rain, warm temperatures, fertilization). In the past, greenhouse research trials have demonstrated that PGR-treated plants displayed reduced evapotranspiration (ET) compared to untreated plants due to a reduction in the surface area of the leaves and overall plant size. The turfgrass research group at New Mexico State University has been investigating the use of soil surfactants in Aerial view of research area at the beginning of stress period, May 2017. Close up of research area during the drought stress; darker and healthier plots are treated with surfactants and PGR.

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