Athletic fields high in silt and clay are susceptible to compaction during periods of substantialrainfall combined with heavy use (Benson and Daniel, 1990), typical of a fall or spring athletic season in the midwestern United States. The stresses associated with compaction can reduce turfgrass quality, percentage of cover, total nonstructural carbon, shoot density, verdure, and root growth (Carrow, 1980).
Sand has a relatively large volume of macropore space and is inherently low in silt and clay, allowing it to maintain a large proportion of macropore space when subjected to compactive forces (Bingaman and Kohnke, 1970). A relatively large volume of macropore space allows for rapid water infiltration, which makes sand a desirable and advantageous media for athletic field construction (Henderson et al., 2005a). However, complete field renovation to a sand-based system is expensive and renders the field temporarily unusable. High school athletic fields usually have high use requirements in the spring and fall. This restricts renovation to the summer months if the intention is to keep the field in play. Because of these drawbacks, complete field renovation is not an option for municipalities with high annual use requirements and limited budgets.
Developing a sand-cap athletic field system over time using sand topdressing is a possible alternative to complete field renovation as it does not take the field completely out of play. Sand topdressing of athletic fields has been recommended for the improvement of native-soil systems and the sustenance of sand-based systems and incorporated into maintenance practices for many years (Baker and Canaway, 1992; Beard, 1978; Liebao and Aldous, 1999; Puhalla et al., 1999). Research has shown that sand topdressing can be used to modify the soil texture, dilute soil organic matter, and smooth the surface of a turfgrass system. For instance, Miller (2008) determined that three sand topdressing applications applied over a 5-month period, totaling a 0.6-cm topdressing depth, increased surface hardness, stand density, and rooting of a bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) turfgrass stand maintained at a 2.5-cm height and subjected to intense traffic. McCarty et al. (2005) determined that an annual topdressing depth of 0.12 cm improved infiltration rates of a ‘L-93’ creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) stand maintained at 0.3- to 0.4-cm height, in comparison with treatments that did not receive topdressing. Barton et al. (2009) demonstrated that topdressing, twice annually at a 0.5-cm topdressing depth, increased the color of a kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum) stand maintained at 1.5-cm height, in comparison with treatments that did not receive topdressing or cultivation. Spring et al. (2007) showed that 8.0 to 12.0 kg·m−2 of sand topdressing per year improved perennial ryegrass cover, soccer ball bounce, and traction after simulated wear was applied using a slip wear machine (Canaway, 1976). Research conducted by Baker and Canaway (1992) observed that the highest sand topdressing rate, 16.0 kg·m−2 per year, produced the greatest perennial ryegrass playing quality, ball rebound resilience, traction, and surface hardness. Research conducted by Baker et al. (2007) demonstrated that topdressing perennial ryegrass with sand is a more cost-effective maintenance practice (cost in relation to playing surface quality) than the cultivation practice used in their research. These findings suggest an array of topdressing rates for single application and cumulative depths.
Increasing the number of annual topdressing applications will decrease the duration of time required to accumulate an adequate root zone over an existing native soil. However, if topdressing application rates exceed root system development, surface stability may be reduced. Therefore, developing an optimum topdressing regime capable of accumulating an adequate root zone layer, without being detrimental to turfgrass wear tolerance or surface stability, is critical.
The objective of this research was to evaluate the effects of cumulative sand topdressing rates, over a compacted sandy loam, on the fall wear tolerance and surface shear strength of a cool-season turfgrass stand. The initial hypothesis of this research was that topdressing would increase turfgrass wear tolerance characteristics and surface shear strength; however, high amounts of cumulative topdressing applications would reduce these characteristics.
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