Turfgrass research makes a fast football field at Virginia Tech
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a field of grass, particularly turf at Virginia Tech. Researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will explain the science behind Virginia Tech’s athletic fields during the University Open House on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Mike Goatley, professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension turf specialist, will provide insight into the GreenTech ITM modular system on Worsham Field in Lane Stadium. The system on the playing field, one of only two such modular fields in the country, is composed of 4,224 46-inch by 46-inch trays of sod positioned above asphalt. In conjunction with a portable vacuum pump, the playing surface stays dry even during heavy rain.
The college’s turfgrass specialists work closely with the Virginia Tech Department of Athletics to develop turf management strategies to help ensure the best athletic surfaces possible. Goatley will be at the stadium from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. during the open house to show how the turf system works and to talk about the surfaces on other university sports surfaces.
According to Goatley, the sod system, coupled with specialized bermudagrass, and a fertilizer regimen, tolerates Blacksburg’s cold temperatures and a mowing height of 3/4 inch, making for a fast playing surface.
Faculty members and students conduct research at the university’s Turfgrass Research Center, and on the athletic fields, which provides for invaluable research data used to develop such specialized surfaces.
This experience is very important to our hands-on training for the next generation of sports field managers,” said Goatley. “Our graduates have gone on to work with some major athletic programs, including Virginia Tech, the University of Missouri, and Texas A&M.”
Currently, turf specialists from the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences are monitoring the volume of stormwater passing through Worsham Field’s drainage system and analyzing the potential for using a rechargeable filter to capture nutrients in the material leeched from the field. The project is a collaboration with Brian Benham, associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Stephen Schoenholtz, professor of forest hydrology and soils in the College of Natural Resources and Environment; and athletic turf staff members.
The athletic department also funds a graduate student who works directly with the grounds crew and employs several turf management students to assist with field maintenance.