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Soil Compaction: Symptoms, Problems, and Best Practices

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Soil compaction is a concern on nearly all maintained turf, including golf course greens, tees and fairways, sports fields, and heavily trafficked areas in public or residential areas. Compaction occurs as soil particles press together tightly, and soil structure and available pore space for air and water are reduced.

Problems related to compaction:

  • Roots struggle to penetrate compacted soil, restricting their ability to obtain nutrients and water needed to survive.
  • Lowered oxygen in compacted soil inhibits the microbiology that decomposes thatch, provides nutrition, and aerates the soil.
  • Water is less able to percolate compacted soils and reach plant roots. As water is unable to move into the rootzone, it creates standing water at the surface, which can lead to increased scald and disease issues.

Symptoms of soil compaction include:

  • Shallow roots
  • Slowed shoot growth
  • Reduced tillering
  • Rhizome and stolon growth
  • Thinning turf
  • Yellowing/off-color
  • The presence of weeds, such as knotweed, goosegrass and annual bluegrass that are tolerant to lower oxygen.

Your ATS representative can work with you to develop best practices to reduce and combat soil compaction in your particular situation.

Best practices may include:

  • Periodic moving of traffic or mowing patterns
  • Reducing or minimizing traffic when the soil is too wet
  • Hollow and solid tine aeration practices (as many as eight times per year in some situations)
  • Employing penetrants and soil conditioners, which can provide benefits to the soil as well as the plant. Foliar-Pak® BioDrive is a premium concentrated humic acid, which along with Hydro-Pak® Command, can be highly effective in combating soil compaction and increasing plant health in compacted soil conditions.

Soil compaction is often the most limiting factor in turfgrass health – implementing and executing a well-thought-out plan can provide visual results that make it worth the time and effort!

Denny Barron
Director of Sports Turf