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!

About Nigel Chaffey

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 amusing, educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.