People often disregard the fact that synthetic turf fields require maintenance. While an artificial field doesn’t require regular mowing, irrigation and fertilization, there is still daily maintenance required when it’s overseen properly. Here, I cover the general maintenance needs of synthetic turf in order to be playable. For more information on the topic, read “Safety Concerns Associated with Artificial Turf” and stay tuned for our upcoming blogs on financial and environmental costs.
Note: This article will use “artificial” and “synthetic” interchangeably to describe the man-made fibrous turf fields designed to look like and replace natural grass.
Maintenance Requirements on Synthetic Fields
- Add infill material regularly to high use areas (such as goal mouths, midfield and corner kick) to maintain recommended depth. Infill is critical to turf’s shock absorption and resiliency. Cornell reports that it takes about 20 tons of crumb rubber to provide a quarter inch layer of infill on synthetic turf (Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).
- Groom fields—Loosen and redistribute infill material evenly throughout the field. This should be performed before each game to help level the playing surface (Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).
- Irrigate to cool surface temperatures as needed. Read about the Heat Island Effect in our blog “Safety Concerns Associated with Artificial Turf“.
- Remove debris through means of sweeping, vacuuming or leaf blowers to minimize waste items that can damage turf (such as bandaids, hair pins, athletic tape, wrappers, and more).
- Chemical disinfectants (weekly-monthly), including fungicides and antibacterial treatments, to deter organic growth and infection such as MRSA.
- Drag mats and sweeping to keep carpet fibers upright. Depending on field use, this should be performed one to four times a month (Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).
- Seams and joint repair for openings and tears that may present tripping hazards.
- Snow and ice management is likely to disturb infill material and may result in damage to the actual turf and void any warranties. In addition, plowing synthetic turf causes significant loss of infill. Nevertheless, fields are often cleared for sport play. Therefore, if infill is not properly replaced after snow removal, this affects turf’s shock absorbency and can lead to higher injury risk among players.
Testing Requirements on Synthetic Fields
- G-Max Testing (aka Impact Testing) measures the surfaces’ ability to absorb shock. This should be performed at least once a year to ensure the field’s surface has not become too hard or too soft to affect player safety in collisions.
- Head Injury Criterion (HIC) Test is an additional test to determine synthetic turf’s impact resilience. HIC testing “uses a rounded spherical weight to represent the force of a human head impacting a playing surface…to gauge the potential for concussions” (Gale).
Artificial turf surfaces have their place in the industry where grass will not grow, or grows marginally. There’s no doubt that synthetic turf provides a completely different playing experience for athletes as well. However, it’s important to keep these maintenance demands in mind. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll cover the environmental and financial costs of artificial fields. Above all, we want to ensure you are informed when looking at the cost-benefit of what fields you want your athletes and community playing on.
PJC works with landscapers, schools and municipalities to implement organic turf care seamlessly. We analyze soil tests, make product recommendations, and offer cultural practice guidelines based on your turf needs. Take the “But natural grass fields look crummy and have a whole slew pesticide needs” retort off the table. Contact us about our Support Services and see how you can have good looking, all-natural fields that are safe for players and the community.
Also! Be sure to read “Safety Concerns Associated with Artificial Turf” and remember to check back in for our upcoming blogs on the financial and environmental costs of artificial turf.