Tag Archives: J. Tim Vanini

Getting a Sports Field Ready in 70 Days

Left: Hydroseeding commenced on June 24. Right: Ground level by August 28. Photo courtesy New Dimensions Turf Inc.

By J. Tim Vanini and John N. Rogers, III

Typically, there is less activity on sports fields, and the summer months are usually ideal growing conditions for recuperation of traffic areas, making the 70-day summer window ideal for active growth and repair. However, the need for strategies that are less costly and time-consuming become evident when cultural practices during this timeframe become complicated, e.g. when school and park crews are on vacation or inclement weather occurs.

According to a 2002 Michigan Rotational Survey, mowing and fertilization were the two practices sports turf managers completed consistently—regardless of maintenance level.

For any turfgrass professional, mowing is a common and essential practice. When mowing height decreases, there is an increase in shoot density and plants per unit area, and a decrease in rooting. Fertilization, on the other hand, is imperative to healthy turfgrass and can be relatively inexpensive compared to other cultural practices. In this regard, extensive research has been conducted on fertilizers and their effects on turfgrass.

Slow-release fertilizers, which are typically more expensive than the quick-release variety, can benefit sports field managers by providing longer turfgrass response, less nitrogen leaching, surface run-off and volatilization, in addition to fewer applications.

With urea, multiple applications are typically needed to attain responses observed by using a single, slow-release fertilizer over a long period of time. Urea or sulfur-coated urea (SCU) is generally used by sports field managers as it is one of the least expensive fertilizers and fits within their restrictive budgets. In a short re-establishment window, little research has been done on these products—or others for that matter—with respect to their agronomic effects on the playing surface.

Studies have been conducted with respect to both mowing and fertility practices and the results showed more shoots were produced when fields were mowed lower and a higher rate of nitrogen was used. This research, however, did not focus on sports field management scenarios where preparation time was a factor. Further, they also did not assess the playing field’s surface characteristics (e.g. traction and surface hardness).

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Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses: What is success?

A profile of a ‘rubber thatch layer’ in a perennial ryegrass/Kentucky bluegrass stand. Photo courtesy New Dimensions Turf


By J. Tim Vanini, PhD

This author believes defining ‘success’ is important. Too often, when new products or techniques are discussed, the mentality can be this will make the turfgrass bulletproof (especially in the context of synthetic turf).

This author was talking to a superintendent last year about trying one tonne of crumb rubber for free for the end of the cart paths. This author asked him what deciding factor would make him use more crumb rubber, to which he replied he wanted his cart paths to always look good. Instead of re-sodding them two to four times annually, if he only had to re-sod once annually or once every two years and manage the turf, that would be success for him and he would buy more.

This was a good answer. Grass is neither bulletproof nor synthetic. It wears, rips, and thins out. Hence, turfgrass on a golf course has to be renovated, restored, and maintained constantly at a high level, and this is the golf course superintendent’s job. Crumb rubber can be a great tool to have in one’s management arsenal, and should be considered for high-traffic situations in any turfgrass environment.

Read the full article: Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses

Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses: Working with crumb rubber

Crumb rubber topdressing was applied to a greens approach area. Photo courtesy John Ripp

By J. Tim Vanini, PhD

This author is constantly asked how to apply or manage crumb rubber. There are a few important considerations.

The perception of heat
Pennsylvania State University’s (PSU’s) Center for Sports Surface Research has confirmed radiant heat reflecting off synthetic surfaces can be as high as 66 C (150 F). With plastic fibres and black crumb rubber visible at the surface, it becomes very hot on a sunny 24-C (75-F) day. With this in mind, many professionals wonder if the same principle exists with natural turf: will crumb rubber kill the grass?

Topdressing crumb rubber versus topdressing sand
Light and frequent topdressing is the key to a smooth, reliable surface for putting greens. When topdressing crumb rubber, the inverse has to be applied.

Start with 100 per cent
Beginning with 100 per cent turfgrass coverage is imperative. If there is no turfgrass, crumb rubber is not going to miraculously resurrect the turf back to health.

Relationship between mowing height and crumb rubber depth

A turf manager should topdress at least 25 to 33 per cent (a higher amount can also be applied) of the mowing height to get improved wear and traffic tolerance.

How to manage the turf once it is down

Once finished, the turf can be managed as if there was no topdressing there. In other words, the turf professional should continue to mow, fertilize, and irrigate the same as before, even if crumb rubber is being used at the end of a cart path, for example.

Read the full article: Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses

Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses: Analyzing crumb rubber

The traffic area around the green core is cultivated before crumb rubber is topdressed. Photo courtesy John Ripp


By J. Tim Vanini, PhD

When this author was at Michigan State University (MSU)—between 1991 and 1995, and 2001 and 2005—crumb rubber was evaluated comprehensively for use in various turfgrass situations. The original studies, co-conducted with John N. Rogers III, PhD, analyzed crumb rubber tilled into the soil profile at depths of 76 and 152 mm (3 and 6 in.) and at different volumes. Although there were statistical significances in soil physical properties as crumb rubber volumes increased—up to 40 per cent volume to volume (v/v) and no significance between depths—there were no differences in wearing of the turfgrass area. In other words, there were no visual differences whether one had 40 per cent crumb rubber or none at all tilled into the soil. Since this was puzzling, it was decided to evaluate introducing crumb rubber via core cultivation and topdressing.

Read the full article: Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses

Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses

Photo courtesy John Ripp


By J. Tim Vanini, PhD

Turfgrass professionals are constantly dealing with wear and compaction on their golf courses or sports fields. Re-establishment of those areas may include re-sodding or starting over from bare, compacted soil—cultivation, re-seeding, and fertilizing. This can be a laborious and tedious process. One way of mitigating soil compaction and turfgrass wear is to use crumb rubber in these areas because it can lessen the impact on the soil, and particles can nestle around the plant’s crown tissue and stolons, protecting them from wear and compaction.

Using recycled scrap tires for improving natural and synthetic playing surfaces started about 20 years ago. The number of scrap tires increased from 234 to 300 million annually from 1991 to 2008. However, the disposal of used tires is a major challenge. Stockpiling scrap tires in landfills can cause environmental problems and serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes; further, fires can occur, releasing hazardous gases into the atmosphere. To recycle the tire, it must be broken down into very small pieces, otherwise known as crumb rubber, which can then be recycled for different entities.

Read the full article: Using Crumb Rubber on Golf Courses