Water Tap

Deep rooting is the key to sound water use when managing turfgrass. During peak root growth times — spring and fall for cool season turfgrass and during the summer for warm season grasses — it is imperative you do all you can to encourage deep roots. This means core aerification to reduce compaction and encourage deep rooting. On cool season turf it means reducing your nitrogen fertilizer during the heat stress of summer to reduce leaf growth. On Bermuda grass it means increasing nitrogen to encourage root growth, especially when you are attempting to rejuvenate it.

Most turf managers irrigate too often. The key to healthy turfgrass is to water when the plant needs it, not because it’s convenient for you to set your clocks to turn on every other day.

And, when you do water, do so deep enough to wet the entire root zone. In other words watering deep and infrequently will produce a turfgrass stand with deep roots, less incidence of disease and less water use.

Visually, bluegrass and ryegrass will turn a dull blue-green just before wilting. It is then that the roots can no longer provide enough water for the plant’s needs and it is then that you must water to avoid wilt and possible dormancy.

Another task that can reduce the amount of water and produce a much healthier turfgrass is an annual irrigation audit. An irrigation audit is a thorough check of your irrigation system prior to its use for the season.

While a full irrigation audit can be complicated and should be conducted by or with the advice of a qualified irrigation consultant, some of the items that will be checked are:

• Water pressure and volume

• System leaks

• Pump station function

• Sprinkler head function

• Proper water distribution

Irrigation timing is a factor that can also affect water use. However, what is ideal for the plant is not always ideal for the turf manager.

Having the ability to irrigate in the early morning is ideal because you can apply the water, have it soak in, then allow the leaf surface to dry quickly with the break of dawn and rise of temperatures.

With multiple fields this is not always possible. However, if you can water when the grass would be wet anyway because of dew you will diminish the incidence of diseases. You may find water scheduling one of the most challenging aspects of your job.

Manufacturers of irrigation systems have long been concerned with water usage. They have come through in a major way to help you in your pursuit of water conservancy.

Various nozzle trajectories, precipitation rates and droplet sizes will allow you to water in windy conditions with little loss.

Radio or hard wire central irrigation controllers provide the flexibility needed to adjust times with the stroke of a few keys, a hand held radio, a PDA or even your home computer or telephone. Information from satellite controllers can be sent back to the central to alert you to any problems that may have taken place during the previous watering cycle.

Rain sensors can turn off an irrigation system automatically and integrated weather stations that calculate ET can program your daily water requirements into the controller for you.

As most municipal and sports park facilities are substantial distances apart it is imperative that you consider a centralized controller that can communicate to each location from one central office. This presents the best opportunity manage your watering needs.

There are many things you can do to mitigate water usage in turfgrass areas and still maintain quality grass. Evaluate your system for maximum effectiveness, develop turf maintenance practices that encourage deep rooting, perform an irrigation audit every year and if possible invest in technology that will minimize water waste.

Dale Getz is a Certified Sport Field Manager (CSFM) for The Toro Company. Getz has 18 years of experience in turf management, including 12 years as the athletic facilities manager at the University of Notre Dame.

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  1. Sowing The Seeds Of Success
  2. Putting Turf To Bed For Winter
  3. Wringing Out The Water
  4. March Madness
  5. The Root Of The Issue

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