A common occurrence when aerifying is members asking “why? The greens are playing great!” Aerification is a process that is essential to ensure that turfgrass is healthy and performing at its very best. Aerifying is done for many reasons. The vital components coming from aerification are compaction relief, oxygen exchange, improved drainage, and organic material removal. A key to aerification is the timing when these cultural practices are conducted. Aerifying is stressful to the plant and has to be conducted at the perfect time for proper healing.
A major reason for aeration is the removal of organic matter. This organic matter is composed of decaying roots and grass leaf blades. On golf courses where turf is continuously maintained at a high level with constant mowing, regular irrigation, and fertilization organic matter can accumulate much quicker than on a homeowner lawn. Many downfalls can come from the accumulation of or organic matter in the thatch layer. The thatch layer is composed of dead and living plant materials between the turf canopy and soil layer. If this layer becomes too thick it can hold more moisture than desired, causing soft and inconsistent playing surfaces for the golfer. Too much organic matter can also harbor insects and diseases eventually causing turf failure.
There are many different ways to go about aerifying turf and removing organic matter. Some cultural practices of aerifying are more labor intensive and disruptive to the playing surfaces than other methods. The most common aerification practice performed is removing small soil cores by use of walk behind or tractor aerifiers. Some less disruptive ways of alleviating compaction and increasing oxygen exchange is the use of small solid tines ranging anywhere from 3 inches to a deep tine up to 9 inches into the ground. These tines will not pull a soil core allowing for this process to be done during the season with minimal disruption to ball roll on playing surfaces.
The use of verticutting is also very popular during aerification of golf courses. These verticutters slice slits into the ground removing organic matter, allowing the aggressive growing grasses used on golf courses to growing in a more upright direction. Grasses such as bentgrass, which is grown at Victoria National and most putting surfaces across the mid to northern part of the country, have a stoloniferous growth habit. These stolon’s are a modified above ground stem which creeps and grows laterally along the surface. This aggressive growth is popular on golf courses opposed to a bunch type grass, as voids such as divots will grow in much quicker. In verticutting the stolon’s are nicked by the cutting blade, training the plant to grow upright opposed to laying over, causing for a more consistent playing surface.
Sand topdressing is a very crucial aspect that goes hand in hand with the aerification process. This sand topdressing is used to fill the holes made from core aerification to promote quicker recovery and create a smooth playing surface ready for play. Sand topdressing is also crucial in the dilution of the thatch layer. Just like aerifying, topdressing can help to reduce this thatch layer because if it becomes too thick can result in soft playing surfaces, mower scalping, poor water management, as well as harbor pests and diseases. Along with these benefits Superintendents add sand topdressing to fortify a root zone soil mixture for root growth; sand drains well and resists compaction. Resisting compaction is huge when looking at golf course playing surfaces with the thousands of golf rounds received a year, as well as mower and roller weight on a daily basis.
Many new forms of aerifying have become popular such as Dryject, Drill and Fill, and Air2G2. As with everything else, new forms of technology have come out enhancing some aerification processes. Dryject is a process of shooting high pressure holes in the ground by use of water pressure, alleviating compaction and then filling those holes directly with sand making the surface ready for play instantly. These sand channels can be shot into the surface with a depth of almost a foot. Drill and Fill is a process of drilling a hole into the surface to a depth of 9 to 12 inches which then is filled in with sand alleviating compaction and improving water infiltration. Air2G2 is a machine that uses probes to inject air into the surface up to 12 inches breaking compaction as well as allowing for gas exchange.
Resisting compaction is huge when looking at golf course playing surfaces which are subject to thousands of golf rounds received a year, as well as mower and roller weight on a daily basis. Along with compaction relief from such a large amount of stress to the plant aerification is needed to remove organic matter which can cause for inconsistent, soft playing surfaces as well as can harbor diseases and pests that can be detrimental to the plant. Without the proper timing while undergoing aerification the plant can struggle while trying to heal causing for a longer wait period for playing surfaces to be ready for play.