We asked experts from several leading equipment manufacturers: What’s one thing sports turf managers need to keep in mind when establishing a topdressing program?
Executive Vice President/Redexim North America
One thing to keep in mind with topdressing is consistency, with a mostly light and frequent schedule. Topdressing seems to have more benefits when you keep the program going on a regular basis rather than doing spotty, random applications. Light and frequent (every week or two, if possible) is best, as opposed to heavy and only twice a year. You don’t want to create layering in the soil. Particle size and shape is crucial as well, as to not cause layering and sealing off of your soil, slowing the draining process. If you get too small and angular of a particle size, it will actually choke out all the air and water pore spaces. You also don’t want the sand to pack too tight — the idea is to let oxygen get down into the soil for the roots while allowing methane and other toxic gases escape that same area. It’s the same with water; let it get down to the roots rather than sit on the surface. Another important thing to keep in mind is your high-traffic areas. If I’m going to have a 15-game weekend tournament on my soccer field, I might topdress my whole field lightly. Then, I’d go into bench areas and goal boxes to apply more. This protects the plant from all of that extra foot traffic.
When establishing a topdressing program, you first need to evaluate the soil to know how to improve it. A well-structured soil will help retain water and its fertilizing elements. Following the results, you will be able to determine the topdressing soil mix required to optimize the operation. I recommend a high percentage of compost — this will allow the soil to become more porous, while expanding the transfer of gases and the development of new roots. The application of compost stimulates microbial activity in the soil. Microbial activity is particularly important for the health of the turfgrass. Topdressing takes several tasks (complete fertilization on a slow release, balancing the pH, improving drainage, increasing the water retention, organic matter and more) and turns them into a one-step operation.
Senior Research Agronomist/Toro
When considering whether or not to establish a topdressing program, the first thing that should be determined is if there’s a long-term commitment to the process. Why? Well, layering in soils is the number-one enemy of good drainage. One of the primary reasons to begin a topdressing program is to improve the drainage within the field. If a topdressing program is begun and then stopped — even if there’s only a single application — it introduces a layer that most likely is a different soil texture than the native soil on-site. This layer can lead to drainage, water infiltration and rooting issues. Additionally, do your research and choose a high-quality topdressing sand that will be available for many years.
Sales & Marketing Manager/TurfTime Equipment
The first and most important thing when starting a topdressing program is to know your soil. Have your soil tested and have a professional help make sure you’re using the correct topdressing material in order to achieve maximum results. Without testing to know what your soil needs are, you can end up with a lot of time and money invested and have little to show for it. Establishing and maintaining healthy turf requires a healthy soil as its base. Implementing aeration and topdressing programs can improve the soil without killing the existing turf. Topdressing helps address some common problems, including: compacted soil in high-traffic areas; bare spots from variations in soil texture, nutrients, heat or drought; and depletion of nutrients due to leaching, neglect or repeated use of chemical fertilizers.