Their goal is to provide safe, highly playable fields in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. With ever-tightening budgets and continual pressure to do more with less, they’re constantly analyzing their procedures to trim costs where possible without negatively impacting field quality. They must do this while operating under national, regional, state and local environmental regulations, and under the watchful eyes of those involved in the latest green movement.

Today’s management programs incorporate all the hot environmental factors of integrated pest management (IPM), best management practices (BMP) and sustainability. In most cases, key aspects of these programs have been in place long before there was widespread public support of them.

Trash receptacles strategically placed around the stadium facilitate litter control and reduce the environmental impact of athletic events.

IPM

IPM has been around for a long time. According to “The History of IPM,” BioControl Reference Center, “In the United States, IPM was formulated into national policy in February 1972 when President Nixon directed federal agencies to take steps to advance the concept and application of IPM in all relevant sectors. In 1979, President Carter established an interagency IPM Coordinating Committee to ensure development and implementation of IPM practices.”

Information on what IPM is and how to apply it is accessible through university-based extension programs. There’s an extensive section on IPM posted on the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, and greater detail is featured on The Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America’s Web site at www.ipminstitute.org.

For sports field managers, IPM is the standard operating procedure. With demands for on-field time often exceeding field space, they need to keep as many fields as possible open for play. That’s achieved most efficiently by matching cultural practices with weather conditions and field use schedules. Working with nature to coordinate procedures and continually monitor field conditions to make program adjustments requires fewer control product applications and makes less of an impact on the environment.

It’s not only the environmentally friendly thing to do, it’s the most cost-effective form of weed, disease and insect control. It takes less staff time and budget resources to keep fields in good shape than it does to treat damage from pests and bring the fields back into safe, playable condition. Any control product application must take place around scheduled field use, and fitting treatment programs into an already packed schedule is a challenge. Coordinating the application timing with available field and staff time, appropriate weather conditions, and getting the proper equipment, materials and authorized applicator to the site all take time. The cost of the control materials must be considered, too. Yet another reason why any applications of control products are limited to the smallest possible area.

BMP

BMP covers the total field management program. It incorporates IPM with wise water use and the full contingent of cultural practices to produce the best possible field conditions. Monitoring the amount and placement of water used, and controlling the environmental aspects of that use, are key elements of BMP programs. Some sports field managers have the high-tech equipment that makes the irrigation component of BMP easier to accomplish. Their irrigation controllers receive local evapotranspiration (ET) readings and automatically program the irrigation system to deliver the appropriate amount of water. Other systems require the sports field manager to monitor weather data to get the local or regional ET information and program the system accordingly. Some sports field managers work with irrigation systems that must be physically adjusted at multiple sites to adapt water delivery to field and weather conditions.

However, water delivery can be controlled and adapted to environmental conditions even on fields without inground irrigation systems. Sports field managers dedicated to following BMP have been adapting their programs using the equipment and resources available to achieve it since long before the phrase was adopted. It may require hours of physical labor to set up aboveground hose and sprinkler systems and additional hand-watering of isolated dry spots, but it can be done.

Drought situations and water-use restrictions must be factored into the BMP program. Compliance to restrictions is essential not only for preservation of the water resource, but also in terms of the public’s perception of water use. Sports field managers are sensitive to water issues and many are working with reclaimed water to help preserve water resources, even though that often requires major adaptations of their cultural practices to offset the changes in water quality.

Costs come into play with BMP, with any change in one segment of the program impacting others. When water availability drops, potable water costs rise. That can make the use of reclaimed water a better bargain, even with the added costs of the cultural practice adjustments.

Applications of control products should be limited to the smallest possible area.

Sustainability

Sustainability extends throughout the field management program. Reduction is demonstrated in ways ranging from lower levels of control product applications and the efficient use of water to the use of attachments on power equipment that combine two or more procedures in one trip across the field.

Reuse shows up in multiple forms. Sod from a worn area of the game field is moved to a lesser used area of a practice field or into the on-site sod farm to recuperate for later use. Sections of old, inground irrigation pipe are cut into sections and mounted on a cart to hold tools. An older mower is used as a backup unit.

Recycling infiltrates every part of the program. It’s demonstrated by the separate bins for cans and plastic bottles distributed around the stadium and practice fields, and shown in the maintenance building where a shelf of useable parts has been salvaged from an old mower.