Sports turf below PAR

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Of all the incred­ible diversity of plants on this planet, argu­ably the grass fam­ily (the Poaceae) is one of the greatest of Nature’s gifts to Mankind. Not only does it feed over half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion as cer­eals, but as amen­ity grass­lands and sports fields it allows us to relax with a wide range of ball games, con­tact sports and the like. So why don’t we take just a little more care of it? Well, although those prized play­ing sur­faces may be highly pampered in terms of water­ing, mow­ing, heat­ing and nutri­ent regimes, we’ve ten­ded to over­look the fact that they are pho­to­syn­thetic organ­isms and if we cover them up their abil­ity to pho­to­syn­thes­ise and ‘look after them­selves’ is impaired.

So it is timely that William Reynolds et al. have looked into this very prob­lem. But what they invest­ig­ated isn’t the long-term, big-scale covering-up of large man­i­cured lawned areas with a tar­paulin or whatever, but the much smaller-scale, though longer-lasting week-in-week-out applic­a­tion and re-application of paint that marks out the vari­ous pitches and cor­por­ate spon­sor­ship logos, etc. In sum­mary, they found that paints reduce the amount of PAR (pho­to­syn­thet­ic­ally act­ive radi­ation – wavelengths between 400 and 700 nm) pen­et­rat­ing to the grass below the mark­ings. However, recog­nising the issue is one thing, what is done about it is more prob­lem­atic. As the authors acknow­ledge, ‘…the del­ic­ate bal­ance between pro­du­cing bright, dis­tinct logos and pre­serving turf­grass health is one that field man­agers need to dic­tate based on their indi­vidual situ­ation’. One thing’s for sure, this is one sports ques­tion that is now as likely to be dis­cussed in the research sem­inar as it is down the pub. Cheers!

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

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