Turf Talk September 25, 2015
By: Andrew Buchholz, GCS
Aerification a Necessary Evil
The process of aerification on the greens, tees and fairways is necessary and highly beneficial golf course agronomic practice. Aerification achieves three very important objectives. It relieves soil compaction, it provides a method to improve the soil mixture in the major root zone of the turf and it reduces the accumulation of excess thatch.
Like so many things, the quality of a great putting surface is more than skin deep. In fact, the condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order for turf to grow at 1/8” or lower it must have deep healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen from tiny pockets (pore space) of air trapped between soil and sand particles.
Over time, traffic from golfers, carts, mowing equipment tends to compact the soil under the turf particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay. When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets (pore space) on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air. Without oxygen, the turf becomes weak and will eventually wither and die.
Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space and promotes deeper rooting, thus helping the turf stay healthy. Filling aerification holes with sand improves drainage and resists compaction. The periodic introduction of sand to a green’s top layer can, over time, avoid or postpone expensive rebuilding or renovation.
Finally, growing turf adds to a layer of organic matter on the surface. This layer, called thatch, is an accumulation of dead stems, leaves and roots. A little organic matter makes for a very resilient green, but too much allows diseases and insects to have a very comfortable environment to live and grow.
The bottom line is that aerification is a necessary practice. But before you curse the superintendent for ruining your day, just remember how great the greens were in the months prior to aerification and how great they will be in the years to come.