The Groundsman

January 2013

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40 RESEARCH UPDATE the Groundsman January 2013 Compost application trial plot at STRI Compost and sports turf STRI senior research officer Dr David Lawson explains how organic matter is desirable in any rootzone, although its form, the amount present and its distribution are important factors. He also includes results of STRI trials into the use of compost on sports turf Author: Dr David Lawson he fundamental quality of most sports surfaces depends largely on the physical nature of the underlying soil. The mineral particle size range (the proportions of sand) silt and clay, has an overriding effect on the ability of the surface to drain adequately or retain moisture. It also has a major effect on the stability of the surface - particularly in situations where grass cover has been lost. However, it is extremely difficult to establish and maintain grass on a rootzone derived solely from mineral matter, particularly for providing nutrients to the turf. A natural, mature soil contains between five and 10 per cent organic matter, the major source of plant nutrients; it also helps to retain moisture in the soil. For this reason, guidelines for the modern free draining, sand-dominated rootzone stipulate that T organic matter should be included. This may be derived from peat, an organic soil or compost material. Soil organic matter has other positive attributes; on an average loam-type soil, the organic matter helps to provide structure to the mineral matter thus enhancing drainage capabilities. On heavier, clay-dominated soils used for cricket tables and lawn tennis courts, the indigenous organic matter provides a binding factor thus aiding stability in the playing surface. At the same time, excessive accumulation of organic matter at the turf surface can be a problem. Organic material and thatch, especially when compacted, can impede water movement from the surface. Moreover, it can produce a very soft playing surface. Much of the maintenance carried out on intensively Visit for more information and digital editions managed turf, such as golf greens, is designed to reduce the surface accumulation of organic material. So, the presence of organic matter is desirable in any rootzone, but its form, the amount present and its distribution are very important factors. The question then arises as to when and where any advantage can be obtained in adding organic materials, such as compost, to sports turf. Compost A considerable amount of compost material is now being produced by local authorities and private contractors. This is mostly derived from green waste; the aim being to divert such materials from landfill. Also, there is now an increasing amount of composted material being produced from waste food.

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