Turfgrass Soils

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Soil Testing
Turfgrass Rootzones

Soil Compaction

Soil Testing
The basis for sound nutrient management and water quality protection programs in turf management revolves around soil testing.  A "Basic Soil Test" will typically provide infomation on soil pH and the levels of the macronutrients phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca). 

Contact your county or state extension specialist to identify the appropriate testing methods and optimum laboratories in your region. 

For more information regarding soil fertility, please visit the Fertility page in the Knowledge Center.

Soil Testing Resources:
Utilizing Soil Tests in Nutrient Management for Sports Fields - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Soil Testing for Turf Areas - University of Nebraska
Simplifying Soil Test Interpretations for Turf Professionals - University of Nebraska
Soil test interpretations and fertilizer management for lawns, turf, gardens, and landscape plants - University of Minnesota
Soil Sampling for Meaningful Results - University of Massachusetts

Turfgrass Rootzones
There are three basic types of athletic field rootzones:

Natural soil - soil that exists at the site or topsoil that is transported to the site
Modified soil - existing soil at the site is mixed uniformly with a coarse physical amendment (such as sand)
Soilless medium - a rootzone that is composed entirely of sand

Rootzone composition affects overall field performance, including turfgrass growth, nutrient retention, and water infiltration and percolation.  Knowing the makeup of your rootzone can assist in reducing compaction, planning a fertility program, and determining proper irrigation practices.

Determine Your Soil's Texture Using the Feel Method


Rootzone Construction - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Water Availability - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Water Tables - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Understanding Soils - Cornell University
Turfgrass Rootzones - Texas A&M University
Liming Turfgrass Areas  - Penn State University
Using Composts to Improve Turf Performance  -
Penn State University
Using Spent Mushroom Substrate (Mushroom Soil) As A Soil Amendment to Improve Turf  - Penn State University
Athletic Fields - Specification outline, construction, and maintenance - Penn State University
Soils, Plant Nutrition and Nutrient Management - University of Missouri

Presentations featured at STMA Conferences:
2015 - How Soil Profiles and Layering Can Impact Turf and Playability - Doug Linde, Ph.D.
2015 - Soils 210 - Barry Stewart, Ph.D.
2014 - Teaching the Basics of Soil Physical and Chemical Properties: The Analogy Lecture - Elizabeth Guertal, Ph.D.
2012 - Back to Basics: Maintaining Natural Grass on Native Soil  - Brad Jakubowski
2012 - Deciphering Your Soil Test  - Dr. Elizabeth Guertal

Soil Compaction
Soil compaction is the compression of topsoil, primarily due to foot or vehicular traffic.  Excessive compaction can prevent the passage of air, water, and nutrients into the soil.  Turfgrasses growing on compacted soils generally have shallow root systems and poor density, exhibit stress symptoms more readily, and have reduced recuperative potential.

Compaction management includes various cultivation practices, which are outlined under Aeration/Topdressing of the Knowledge Center.

Football Practice Techniques that Help Minimize Field Wear - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Strategies for Managing Heavily-Used Fields - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Preventing Compaction on Athletic Fields - Iowa State University
Compaction and Cultivation - University of Massachusetts
Management of Compaction: Coring - University of Massachusetts
Sports Turf Traffic - How Much is Too Much? - University of Kentucky
Turfgrass Traffic and Compaction: Problems and Solutions - University of California

Presentations Featured at STMA Conferences:
2015 -  Turf Management Practices on High Use/High Wear Sports Fields - Keith Winter
2015 - Three Keys to Managing High Traffic Turf - The National Mall - Michael Stachowicz
2014 - Managing High Use Fields – Thomas J. Serensits 
2014 - Changing Perceptions, Pushing Limits: Grass Fields Will Take More – Jerad Minnick
2014 - Evaluation and Preparation of Fields for Heavy Use – Grady L. Miller, Ph.D
2013 - STMA 112 - 3 Keys To Providing High Quality, High Traffic Athletic Fields - Jerad Minnick
2013 - STMA 108 - Athletic Field Use and Maintenance Planning ; Field Use Policy ; Sports Turf Traffic ; Additional References  - Rebecca Auchter 


Drainage is one of the most important issues when managing a sports field. Your field will not perform well if you do not have surface or internal drainage in place. Surface and subsurface drainage problems, such as standing water and high water tables, can pose a safety hazard to athletes and other users. These problems can also cause cancellation or postponement of events due to field closure. It is important to understand what types of drainage will work best for your field to enhance user safety and reduce field closures.

Drainage Solutions - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Best Management Practices to Reduce Stormwater Runoff and Pollution at your Sports Facility - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Flooding on Sports Fields - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Drainage - A Crucial Component for Athletic Field Performance - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Part One: Surface Drainage - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Part Two: Internal Drainage - STMA Members Only Bulletin
Part Three: Subsurface Installed Drainage Systems - STMA Members Only Bulletin
University of Minnesota - Agricultural Drainage: Soil Water Concepts
Ohio State University - Understanding Agricultural Drainage 
Penn State University - Understanding Field Drainage
Michigan State University - Improving Native Soil Athletic Field Drainage  

Presentations Featured at STMA Conferences:
2012 - Sports Field Drainage - What Are Your Options?
Speaker: Ian Lacy, Institute of Groundsmanship

International Resources