Testing for Turf Management
Soil testing is a useful tool for monitoring fertilizer programs for golf courses, sports fields, and public turf areas. With the increased concern and regulations for protecting water quality, it is essential to optimize growth and minimize over-fertilization of turf grasses.
The use of regular soil sampling and testing monitors buildup of salt in the soil from using recycled and lower quality water. Testing also can address major and minor nutrient imbalances and deficiencies.
The use of inexpensive nitrogen fertilizers like ammonium sulfate to green up turf can reduce pH levels and cause deficiencies of calcium and phosphorous. These deficiencies and imbalances can manifest in less vigorous growth and less resistance to disease and wear.
Irrigation water analyses can help a manager determine how to water and fertilize his turf areas to reduce the possibilities of salinity and soil permeability issues. Soils that have low permeability can have reduced leaching potential that allows for possible accumulation of salts from fertilization and irrigation water.
Soil sampling of turf areas are generally taken from the 1”-8” depth. A random composite sample should be collected that will represent a given area that accounts for possible variations from the irrigation system and topography.
For high traffic turf areas, golf course fairways and greens; along with playing fields and cemeteries can benefit from annual or semi-annual testing to maintain healthy turf and reduce possible pollution from excessive fertilizer applications.
Some concerns that are often addressed with regular laboratory testing are:
- Sodium hazard
- Excess nitrate in effluent water- buildup on poorly drained soils
- Boron toxicity that can damage turfgrass
- Preplant analysis to allow for selection of tolerant grass variety.
- Balanced fertility and high cutting height can reduce weed establishment and invasion.
- Evaluate the uniformity of fertilizer applications
- Identify different soil types that will require different management