Cultural Practices for Athletic Fields: Irrigation and Water Conservation

Turfgrass plants need water to survive. Plants access moisture through precipitation, irrigation and capillary flow. Plants lose moisture through evaporation, transpiration and drainage. To aid precipitation and capillary flow, and to make up for what is lost to evaporation, transpiration and drainage, water is supplied to turfgrass areas via irrigation. Irrigation is important for healthy turfgrass growth due to the following reasons:

  • Supplies moisture for turfgrass growth
  • Helps maintain turf’s green color
  • Necessary for photosynthesis
  • Modifies turfgrass tissue temperatures on hot days
  • Aids plant rigidity
  • Decreases weed encroachment
  • Improves tolerance to insect and disease pressure
  • Washes in fertilizers and some pesticides following application
  • Maintains sufficient surface moisture to promote germination of turfgrass seed
  • Reduces surface hardness
  • Reduces dust and improves traction on baseball and softball infields

Turfgrass should be watered on an as needed basis. Effective irrigation applies enough water to soak the rootzone, but avoids loss to drainage or runoff. In general, turfgrasses require 1-1.5 inches of water per week, minus any rainfall, during their active growing period to remain healthy and resilient. Soil texture, compaction issues, rootzone depth and infiltration capacity all influence the frequency of irrigation events and the amount of water that is applied. For more information on turfgrass soils and drainage, click here . Other special considerations, such as weather and climatic conditions, timing and soil moisture tools, will assist in the planning of irrigation events.