The science behind football field maintenance
When you’re in a car accident, do you want to hit something that gradually gives way while slowing you down or do you want to hit a brick wall? That’s the type of difference we’re talking about.
“When you’re in a car accident, do you want to hit something that gradually gives way while slowing you down or do you want to hit a brick wall? That’s the type of difference we’re talking about,” Henry said.
Of course, turfgrass is alive. So, maintaining a consistent, immaculate field does come with its challenges.
Just like a person’s home lawn, turfgrass used for recreational purposes and the soil beneath it is far from uniform. Different areas have diverse water requirements, aerification demands and pesticide needs. Henry’s research has shown that 85% of ground-derived player injuries occur in transitional spots, where wetter soil meets drier or compact soil intersects with looser. Using sensor technology, he creates maps that can be used to adjust management practices that help increase field performance and protect athletes from potential career-ending injuries. This technology came in handy when Sanford Stadium’s field manager needed help assessing the accuracy of the irrigation system. Henry found the system was incredibly inaccurate, and the installation of a new system has led to a million gallons of water being saved each year.
But it’s not just collegiate football fields that are benefitting from Henry’s work. He also partners with local community sports field managers and industry groups to show them how they can better use the resources they have and how they can determine which areas of their fields or lawns need the most help. While collegiate and professional sports fields and putting greens have the money to invest in technology and hire help to make water and pesticide use more efficient, private homeowners often don’t have the money or know-how to properly apply pesticides or irrigate their landscapes. That’s where outreach through UGA Extension comes into play, putting research into practice. You can find recommended mowing heights, fertilizer amounts and more at GeorgiaTurf.
“I hate doing research for the sake of research,” Henry said. “We want to conduct research that solves real world problems and get those solutions into the hands of the public.”