Tackling waterlogged natural turf sportsfields: SPORTENG's solutions for resilient turf

Jul 05|Natural TurfBy Jarrod Hill

In Australia, the love for sport runs deep, but recently, particularly in New South Wales, our games have faced a significant hurdle—waterlogged natural turf fields. The unpredictable weather and heavy rains have turned many fields into soggy, unplayable surfaces, causing training and games to be cancelled, rescheduled, or even moved to other regions at the last minute. 
In today’s world, community sport is an integral part of life rhythms, and when these cycles are disrupted, so can the balance within the people who enjoy and relish the opportunity to play, coach and support. In a time where there is a multitude of easily accessible sports available that can be played regardless of the weather and the condition of the field of play, the current circumstances present a real risk to the ongoing involvement of players, coaches and supporters who need more action more often.

Why is this happening?

There are two main contributing factors to the current state of play—the agronomic profile of the field and the volume and intensity of field usage. Natural turf fields, while aesthetically pleasing and preferred by many for playability, will struggle when the fundamental agronomic conditions are out of balance; under prolonged wet conditions, the soil becomes saturated, water cannot move away from the rootzone, and the grass starts to decline as it has no oxygen to breathe. As the grass declines, it essentially drowns and is unable to defend itself against the elements and the players and equipment moving across it.

The result is an all too familiar scene whereby water pools in an unsafe and unusable area, leading to game cancellations and relocations. When better weather conditions return, all that is left is bare soil and, most likely, the emergence of various weeds that have evolved over the years to survive in such conditions and thrive once there is no competition.

Addressing the fundamental agronomics

At SPORTENG, we understand the frustration and inconvenience caused by waterlogged fields. That's why our Field of Play Agronomy Team is dedicated to offering tailored solutions to ensure your fields remain playable, no matter the weather.
One key aspect to consider is the fundamental agronomics of your field. What is missing or imbalanced, and how can it be addressed? While a full reconstruction of fields is one option, it is often not feasible due to financial constraints or limited ground availability. Therefore, other interventions are necessary to improve the balance of core agronomic fundamentals. Even if not perfect, these improvements will significantly help your field cope with current demands.
Our expert team conducts thorough site assessments to understand the unique challenges of your field. We then create bespoke turf management plans designed to enhance drainage, improve grass health, and increase the field's resilience to adverse weather conditions. Our plans cover everything from soil composition to maintenance practices, ensuring your turf can withstand the rigours of the game and the elements.

SE_MK_IMG_0001_FoPRugbyVicCsThe current situation is not new; in fact, this has been happening for decades across the country. However, at a time when participation and demand for activity are at all-time levels, the likelihood and consequences of not taking the right action have never been greater. To effectively address any problem, the first step must be to fully acknowledge and understand the issues; without this, the response may only address part of the issue.
The successful management of sports turf (growing a crop) is a science, and history tells us that when the fundamental agronomic needs are understood and met, the chosen plant can thrive and produce a healthy crop. While our friends in agriculture adjust to increase yield and other factors such as taste and appearance in turf, we strive for density of both the leaf and roots, which in turn provide a playing surface to cater for the players while also a resilient plant that will sustain over long periods of time avoiding expensive replacements and reputational damage due to unsightly areas and disruptions to play.
The site investigation will need to understand the composition of the soil, the orientation and alignment of the field and land surrounding, the surface levels, the provision of drainage, irrigation and other environmental factors such as water quality, wind movement, shade, sunlight, pests, disease and weeds. Finally, maintenance is provided, and the typical weekly, monthly, and annual field usage is discussed. This data will allow the key stakeholders to identify the limiting factors and start to develop agreed actions to address them.


Independent thinking to provide effective solutions

SPORTENG’s was borne out of the need across the sector for qualified and independent advice relating to field performance and investment. When advice is biased or conflicted due to a business potentially benefitting financially from its advice via the delivery of the project, the question must be asked whether the conflict impacts the advice and, therefore, the effectiveness of the solutions being put forward.

At a time when there is no room for error, it is critical that qualified engineers and turfgrass agronomists examine these situations to solve highly complex challenges that may extend well beyond the boundary line.
No two fields are the same, and what works at one will highly unlikely work at the next, such as the complexity of finding true agronomic balance. 
SPORTENG experience in addressing the agronomic balance while designing stormwater management solutions inside and outside ranges from experience within our stadia to the retarding basin in the local suburb and everything in between.  
The solutions or combination of solutions will vary from site to site; however, the following list provides examples of solutions SPORTENG and the turf managers it works alongside have successfully deployed: 

  • Re-direction of stormwater before it approaches the field of play, e.g. redirect car park runoff to storage tanks.  
  • Collection and transfer of water before it reaches the field of play, e.g. redirect runoff water from mounds and structures directly into sub-surface drains. 
  • Re-shape the surface to allow surface water to move away from the field of play, e.g. increase or change the slope of the field to direct water away from the field of play.
  • Removal of the thatch layer to increase water filtration into the profile. 
  • Incorporation of porous material into the profile to increase infiltration, e.g., adding rootzone sand to the profile to provide an avenue for water to move and oxygen to be available to the plant.
  • Investigate soil and plant nutrients to identify imbalances that may be affecting plant health and resilience. For example, identify water quality that is creating inbalance in plants and adjust nutrients to balance plant health. 

Don't let waterlogged fields ruin your football season. Trust SPORTENG's expert turf management and profile solutions to keep your fields in top condition. Contact us today to discuss your project and ensure your turf is ready for play, rain or shine.

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