NC State Extension Publications


This calendar of suggested management practices is designed to assist you in the seasonal care of your athletic field. Location, terrain, soil type and condition, age of field, previous management practices, and other factors affect turfgrass performance. For these reasons, the following management practices and dates should be adjusted to suit your particular athletic field conditions.

April through June

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Set mower to 1-inch cutting height and remove debris before the grass turns green in the spring. The best mowing height during the growing season is one inch for common bermudagrass and 34 to 1 inch for hybrid bermudagrass. Do not allow bermudagrass to grow above 112 inches between mowings. Two or three weekly mowings may be necessary. Remove only those clippings that windrow.

If the grass gets excessively high during a wet period, raise the mower and cut off one-quarter to one-half of the present growth; then lower the mower to its proper height in a day or two. Reel mowers are preferred for a clean cut. Rotary mowers are a second choice provided the blades are sharp and can be lowered to the appropriate height, although scalping frequently occurs using rotary mowers at lower cutting heights.

Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet two or three weeks after the grass turns green. A complete (3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio) fertilizer may be necessary only once or twice annually, with remaining applications composed of nitrogen sources such as urea (45-0-0) and ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) (see Table 1). If growth appears to be slow and the grass is yellowish green, apply a nitrogen source every four to six weeks at 1 pound per thousand square feet as needed.

Table 1. Fertilizer conversion table for determining pounds of product to apply.

Fertilizer Analysis

Pounds per 1,000 sq ft1

Pounds per acre2



















1 Amount of product needed to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet.

2 Amount of product needed to apply 43.5 pounds of nitrogen per acre. To determine the amount of product needed to deliver one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for 16-4-8 fertilizer, divide 100 by 16. The result is 6.25 pounds of product per thousand square feet.

Test the soil to determine phosphorus, potassium, and lime requirements. Test kits can be obtained from your county Extension office.

Apply lime as needed, but no more than 50 pounds per thousand square feet per application. Apply in staggered applications four or more weeks apart if the suggested amount exceeds 50 pounds per thousand square feet. If possible, apply lime just before coring the soil. Table 2 gives examples of field sizes in acres.

Table 2. Typical field sizes in acres by athletic use.

Athletic Use

Field Type

Size (acres)


Youth League (e.g., Little League)



0.16 (7,000 sq ft)

Field Hockey



Playing surface 360' ×160'


Playing surface & bench area 360' × 200'


Hash mark area 300' × 54'


440 oval





1.4 to 1.7


1.9 to 2.7

Softball, Adult

Slow pitch (12"), fast pitch

1.5 to 2.0

Modified slow pitch (16")

1.2 to 1.7

Softball, Youth

1.5 to 2.0

Field area may vary depending on the following:

  1. size and number of fields
  2. orientation and layout of fields
  3. quality and type of support facilities
  4. internal and external buffer zones

** As Pinto, Little League, Babe Ruth, Bronco Baseball, high school, college, and professional baseball fields may have different dimensions; check with league officials for specific measurements.


Bermudagrass usually requires a weekly application of about one inch of water in the absence of rainfall. In sandy soils, apply approximately 12 inch of water every three to four days. It will take 620 gallons of water to apply one inch per thousand square feet. It is best to water early in the morning. Do not irrigate again until symptoms of wilt appear, such as folded or curled leaves, footprinting, or a bluish green color. Probe the soil to detect dryness. Avoid light, frequent irrigations as they can promote shallow rooting and encourage algae and moss growth.

Minimize field use when wet to reduce the chance of wear and compaction. Postpone play or use alternate sites for band practice and practice sessions. Ideally, game fields should be used only for team play and not for team practice, physical education, or band practice.

Soil Cultivation
Vertical mowing is useful to remove thatch (dead plant residue) in bermudagrass. Verticut the field with a power rake about two to three weeks after the grass turns green to remove thatch. Run the verticutter over the field twice, with the second pass at right angles to the first, and sweep and haul the debris away.

Aerification (coring) relieves compaction on heavily trafficked athletic fields. Aerate two to four times during the growing season using 34- to 1-inch-diameter tines that remove soil cores. Aerate the field twice lengthwise and once crosswise to penetrate heavy clay soils. These soils must be moist; water the field several days in advance. Allow the plugs to dry, then pulverize them with a mower or power rake and redistribute with a dragmat. More frequent coring may be necessary along heavily trafficked and compacted areas such as around player benches, between hash marks, along sidelines, and in front of goals.

If you do not have the appropriate equipment on hand, it is recommended to rent, borrow, or contract for these services. Soil cultivation practices are necessary for an acceptable field; however, do not perform these practices if the turfgrass is under stress. It may take up to three weeks of good growing conditions for the turfgrass to recover after aerification.

April and May are preferred for renovating bermudagrass fields.

Weed Management
Successful weed management in athletic fields involves aggressive aerification to relieve compaction, and proper use of herbicides that do not inhibit root growth or reduce the ability of bermudagrass to recover from traffic. Heavy traffic on athletic fields causes compaction, which reduces bermudagrass competition and results in weeds that tend to survive. Goosegrass is a major weed problem in high-traffic areas on athletic fields and is an indicator weed for compaction.

Preemergence (PRE) control of goosegrass and crabgrass will be necessary on athletic fields in North Carolina. Oxadiazon (Ronstar, etc.) is the preferred product on bermudagrass athletic fields because it provides good control of crabgrass and excellent control of goosegrass. Most importantly, oxadiazon does not inhibit root growth. This allows bermudagrass to recover from high traffic that thins the turfgrass. Oxadiazon is relatively expensive, and if budgets do not allow for its use, dinitroaniline (DNA) herbicides can be substituted but need to be applied carefully. Rather than apply all of the herbicide during late winter in one application, DNA herbicides should be applied in two or three applications at lower rates throughout the growing season. This approach helps mitigate the root inhibition caused by these herbicides. DNA herbicides include prodiamine, pendimethalin, oryzalin, and dithiopyr (dithiopyr is not a DNA but has the same mode of action, and thus all of the rules for DNA herbicides apply to dithiopyr).

In the case of aerification, one normal aerification after PRE herbicide application does not have a negative effect on herbicide efficacy. However, if multiple aerifications are used, it is recommended to split the PRE herbicide applications by applying some herbicide immediately after aerification.

Postemergence herbicides (POST) can be used for remedial control of crabgrass and goosegrass during the summer. Quinclorac can be used for crabgrass control but is ineffective on goosegrass. Use of methylated seed oil is critical for good quinclorac activity. POST goosegrass control can be obtained by applying metribuzin immediately followed by 0.25 inches of irrigation. Tank mixtures of Speedzone and Pylex are also highly effective.

Sedges are also problem weeds in athletic fields. As sedges prefer wet soils, proper irrigation and good drainage are cultural practices that are important to minimize sedges. Problem sedges in North Carolina include yellow and purple nutsedge and both green and false green kyllinga. Several highly effective POST herbicides include trifloxysulfuron (Monument), sulfosulfuron (Certainty), flazasulfuron (Katana), and sulfentrazone (several trade names). Proper adjuvants are needed for optimum control.

Broadleaf weeds can also be a problem. These include spurges, clover, dandelions, and Virginia buttonweed. Many POST herbicides are effective, including herbicide mixtures of 2,4-D, dicamba, fluoxypry, triclopyr, clopyralid, etc. Care should be taken when applying during summer months. Do not mow or water bermudagrass turfgrass for at least 24 hours after application. Treat when air temperature is between 80°F and 90°F. Do not apply to turfgrass under stress.

Annual bluegrass (Poa annua) is another common weed in athletic fields, and it thrives in wet soils. As with goosegrass, Poa annua can be an indicator weed for compaction. Multiple herbicides are effective for control of Poa annua, including PRE and POST herbicides such as simazine, atrazine, and pronamide (Kerb). POST herbicides also include several ALS-inhibiting herbicides such as foramsulfuron (Revolver), trifloxysulfuron (Monument), sulfosulfuron (Certainty), and flazasulfuron (Katana). Applying these herbicides in the fall (usually November), when temperatures are warm and Poa annua is small, yields best control. Spring applications during green-up are also safe and usually needed. Glyphosate (Roundup) can also be applied on dormant bermudagrass for Poa annua control in addition to many other weeds. Glyphosate on dormant bermudagrass should be applied on warm days (above 60°F) and should never exceed 1 pt/a.

July through August

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Follow the April-through-June mowing guidelines.

Follow the April-through-June fertilization guidelines.

Follow the April-through-June irrigation guidelines.

Soil Cultivation
Follow the April-through-June soil cultivation guidelines.

Renovation and Establishment
Make arrangements now to begin renovation and establishment early next spring. Ensure that the necessary labor, equipment, and supplies are available. Bermudagrass can be planted any time soil temperatures reach 50°F, usually in April but sometimes as early as March. The other option is to sod the field. Although this option is very expensive, the fields can be ready for play within six weeks using traditional sodding practices.

Early June is the latest preferred window for renovating a bermudagrass field by sprigging. It takes about two to three months of good growing weather before a sprigged field is ready to withstand light traffic (i.e., fewer than 10 football games per year). Looks can be deceiving. Good coverage can be achieved within nine weeks, although the plants will not be mature enough to withstand much traffic.

Weed Control
Make POST applications for sedges, broadleaf weeds, goosegrass, and crabgrass. Remember that POST herbicides work much better when weeds are actively growing. Avoid applications during plant stress. It is very important to not apply POST herbicides when temperatures exceed about 90°F.

September through December

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Follow the April-through-June mowing guidelines until several weeks before the first expected frost. Raise the mowing height 12 inch as winter approaches if fields are not scheduled to be overseeded. Mowing height is usually raised in mid-to-late September in the piedmont. Mowing height of athletic fields in the western and northwestern areas of the piedmont may be raised one to two weeks earlier, whereas in the south central and southwestern regions it may be raised one to two weeks later. Do not exceed a two-inch cutting height.

Do not apply more than 12 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet (22 pounds per acre) per application after September 15. Use a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertilizer, such as 200 pounds of 5-10-30 per acre, or supplement straight nitrogen sources with potash (K2O) using 70 pounds of muriate of potash (0-0-60), 86 pounds of potassium sulfate (0-0-50), or 220 pounds of sul-po-mag (0-0-22) per acre. Repeat in three weeks. Bermudagrass must be green and growing actively (not dormant) to benefit from this application. Irrigate immediately after application to prevent turfgrass discoloration. Potassium lessens the chance of bermudagrass winterkill. Discontinue any fertilizer application before the first frost.

To determine the amount of product required to apply one pound of potash per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the third number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for 6-6-12 fertilizer, divide 100 by 12. The result is 8.3 pounds of product per thousand square feet.

100 ÷ 12 = 8.3

Follow the April-through-June irrigation procedures.

Reduce compaction and wear by avoiding irrigation before heavy use. Minimize field use under wet conditions. Postpone play or use alternate sites for band and athletic practice sessions. Ideally, game fields should be used only for team play and not for team practice, physical education, or band practice.

Soil Cultivation
Do not verticut, dethatch (power rake), or aerate (core) bermudagrass fields unless you plan to overseed in the fall. Doing so can result in bermudagrass injury because plants are not able to successfully recover before winter. Bermudagrass fields should not be renovated at this time of year.

Weed Control
Annual bluegrass and many winter annual broadleaf weeds can be effectively controlled in bermudagrass turf from fall to early winter. If left untreated and at high densities, these weeds will out-compete bermudagrass for sunlight the following spring, thus delaying bermudagrass green-up. Successful winter weed management will help ensure early green-up of bermudagrass in spring.

Atrazine, simazine, and Kerb can be used as a PRE or POST controls of annual bluegrass and many broadleaf weeds. Sulfonylurea (SU) herbicides such as foramsulfuron (Revolver), trifloxysulfuron (Monument), sulfosulfuron (Certainty), flazasulfuron (Katana), and rimsulfuron (Negate, etc.) are recommended in late October to mid-November. The Poa annua has germinated by this time but the weed is still small enough that these herbicides are more effective.

Winter Overseeding
Fields used in late fall, winter, or early spring may be overseeded with cool-season grasses (typically perennial ryegrass) to provide color and protection. Baseball fields are frequently overseeded, although spring recovery and growth of bermudagrass will be delayed by the overseeded grass.

January through March

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Baseball infields overseeded with ryegrass should be mowed at 12 to 34 inch, and outfields, sidelines, football fields, and soccer fields at 34 to 112 inches. Reduce mowing height two weeks before the grass is expected to turn green in the spring so as to weaken ryegrass and allow bermudagrass to respond with minimum competition.

Do not fertilize athletic fields that have not been overseeded. Apply no more than 12 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet to winter overseeded fields every three to four weeks.

Dormant turfgrass may need to be irrigated when warm, windy weather prevails. Winter overseeded fields lose greater amounts of water than fields that have not been overseeded. Probe the soil to determine dryness.

Soil Cultivation
Do not power-rake or aerate dormant fields until the soil temperature approaches 50°F at a depth of four inches. Initiate verticutting of winter overseeded bermudagrass two weeks before it is expected to turn green in the spring in order to weaken ryegrass and enhance bermudagrass recovery. Coring at this time will help warm the soil.

Weed Control
Glyphosate applied at 1 pt/a can be effectively used on dormant bermudagrass for weed control. If applied on a warm winter day (greater than 60°F), excellent control of Poa annua and many winter annual broadleaf weeds can be obtained.

PRE herbicide applications for control of crabgrass and goosegrass can be made any time after the first of the year. Sprayable formulations of oxadiazon can be made on dormant bermudagrass and mixed with glyphosate. Once green-up starts on bermudagrass, oxadiazon must be applied as a granular formulation to prevent bermudagrass injury.

Grass Selection

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Bermudagrass is preferred for most athletic fields where it can be grown successfully. This includes the coastal plain, piedmont, and parts of western North Carolina. Bermudagrass cultivars should not be planted in mixtures or in shaded sites.

Common bermudagrass does not have the density, disease resistance, and cold tolerance of the hybrids. However, it does perform well on a limited budget and can also be seeded. There are a number of improved seeded bermudagrass that have been developed over the last decade that are currently available for purchase from local and online vendors.

Hybrid bermudagrasses are generally more aggressive, darker green with fine texture and excellent density, cold tolerance, and disease resistance than common types. It is established vegetatively (by sod or sprigs) and grows rapidly. From sprigs, expect full coverage in approximately three months. Cultivars that are currently popular for North Carolina athletic fields include Celebration, Latitude 36, NorthBridge, Premier Pro, Tahoma 31, TifTurf, and Tifway.

Renovation of Bare Areas on Hybrid Bermudagrass Fields

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Determine Extent of Winterkill Damage
Determine the extent of injury before the growing season by removing several plugs of turfgrass as soon as the soil allows. Place them in a greenhouse or south-facing window that receives a lot of light. Healthy plants should turn green in two to three weeks. Lack of green growth suggests the need to plan for renovation. Exposure of underground plant parts to soil temperatures of less than 25°F can result in significant turfgrass loss. Plants in compacted areas and those less than 12 months old are also prone to injury.

If large areas are dead, sprigging is the most reasonable method of reestablishment. For smaller dead areas, plugging is the best method. Sodding may be the only option if time is critical.

April and May are preferred for planting bermudagrass if you have scheduled play for the fall. Plant as early as possible to ensure that the field can withstand traffic.

Method of Reestablishment
Plugging. Place 3- to 4-inch-diameter plugs on 12-inch centers for establishment. Plugs on 12-inch centers provide 90% cover in 6 to 10 weeks. Use a plugging device to remove plugs of soil from bare areas, then insert bermudagrass plugs collected from sideline areas. Put bare area plugs back in the holes from which the bermudagrass plugs were removed. Fertilize the area with starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer, such as 10 pounds of 5-10-10 per thousand square feet.

Sprigging large areas (15,000 square feet or larger). Apply the recommended amount of fertilizer and lime according to soil test results. If test results are not available and the field has not been limed in the past three years, apply 75 pounds of lime and 20 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer to the area to be sprigged. Lightly disk or rotovate the lime and fertilizer into the soil surface; be careful not to destroy the existing surface drainage or crown of the field. Spread sprigs at the rate of 7 to 10 bushels per thousand square feet. Lightly disk sprigs into the soil with the disk set relatively straight for good sprig-to-soil contact. Some sprigs should be buried and some should protrude. Roll the sprigged area to firm the soil and ensure sprig-to-soil contact. Keep the area moist for 30 days or until the sprigs are rooted. Do not let them dry out.

Fertilize with a complete (N-P-K) fertilizer such as 10 pounds of 5-10-10 per thousand square feet every four weeks until coverage is complete. This can be supplemented with a weekly application of 12 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet until establishment is complete. Begin mowing with a reel mower when the foliage reaches one inch.

Sprigging smaller areas. Use a core aerator with 34-inch-diameter tines to disrupt the soil surface. Make a minimum of six to eight passes over the area, allow the plugs to dry, and pulverize them with a dragmat. Cut out any germinating weeds such as knotweed or crabgrass with a hoe and scatter sprigs (7 to 10 bushels per thousand square feet) on the surface. Broadcast 14 to 12 inch of soil over the sprigged area to partially cover the sprigs. Make sure the soil used is similar to the existing soil to prevent layering. Apply 10 pounds of 5-10-10 per thousand square feet over the sprigged area. Roll the sprigged area to firm the soil and to ensure sprig-to-soil contact. Keep the area moist for 30 days or until the sprigs are rooted. Do not let them dry out.

Fertilize with a complete (N-P-K) fertilizer such as 10 pounds of 5-10-10 per thousand square feet every four weeks until coverage is complete. Weekly supplemental applications using a nitrogen-only fertilizer (12 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet) enhances the filling-in process. Begin mowing when the foliage reaches one inch.

Sodding. Sodding is the only option when play is expected within 8 to 10 weeks following the date of renovation. Purchase planting material free of objectionable broadleaf and grassy weeds. Planting certified sod is a good way to ensure that the material is true to type and free of objectionable weeds and crop species. If play is expected within four to six weeks, sod must be cut thicker than normal (112 to 2 inches rather than 12 to 34 inch) as there is insufficient time for the sod to root. Generally, thin sod roots quicker than thick sod.

Apply the recommended amount of fertilizer and lime according to soil test results. If test results are not available and the field has not been limed in the past three years, apply 50 pounds of lime and 20 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per thousand square feet. Lightly disk or rotovate the lime and fertilizer into the soil surface, being careful not to destroy the existing surface drainage or the crown of the field. Rake or harrow the site to establish a smooth and level final grade. Lay the sod and roll the area for good soil-to-sod contact.

Thoroughly irrigate the sod immediately after rolling, making sure the soil underneath is wet. Keep the soil continually moist by watering daily until the sod starts to root. Gently tug on the sod; resistance indicates rooting. Rooting normally requires two to three weeks. Irrigation can be reduced gradually to once a week after the sod is fully anchored. Applying a high-phosphorus starter fertilizer three weeks after installation may expedite rooting.

Overseeding Bermudagrass

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Bermudagrass usually stops growing and turns brown after the first hard frost. It remains dormant until nighttime temperatures reach 60°F for several days. Each fall, many athletic fields are overseeded with either annual or perennial ryegrass to provide color, uniform surface conditions, and wear tolerance. This is particularly true for fields used extensively in the spring, hence baseball and soccer fields are prime candidates for overseeding. Bermudagrass adds strength, resistance, and wear tolerance even though it is dormant when the fields are in use.

The overseeding process is conducted in late fall; preparing bermudagrass for overseeding, however, is a year-long process. Bermudagrass must be healthy to withstand the harsh cultural practices and turfgrass competition associated with overseeding.

Seeding Date
Successful overseeding can be done two to three weeks before the expected first frost date or when the soil temperatures decrease to 75°F. Overseeding in the Raleigh area is usually done between September 15 and October 1. Areas west and northwest of the piedmont may be seeded one to two weeks earlier, whereas the southern central and southeastern areas of North Carolina may be seeded one to two weeks later.

Overseeding Preparations
Close mowing just before overseeding is essential. Hybrid bermudagrasses should be thinned using a dethatching mower, and clippings and thatch should be removed with a sweeper. It may be possible to skip the dethatching process with common bermudagrass. The field should be cored several weeks in advance and the cores dragged with a steel mat similar to that used to drag the base paths. This will prevent spotty germination.

Seed Selection
Annual and perennial ryegrass are the major grass species seeded. Both are quick to establish, relatively inexpensive (especially annual ryegrass), and fairly wear-tolerant. The new perennial ryegrass cultivars have a finer texture; are more tolerant to heat, disease, and cold, and make a smoother transition than annual ryegrass. Another type of ryegrass, referred to as intermediate ryegrass, is also available. Cultivars of intermediate ryegrass are moderate in performance compared to annual and perennial ryegrass but may have the advantage of being less persistent than some of the perennial ryegrass cultivars.

Cultivars that perform well in the fall but do not persist in the spring are the logical choice for football fields, whereas late-transition cultivars are the logical choice for soccer and baseball fields with extensive spring play. Color contrast between the sidelines, outfield, and infield can be obtained by using different cultivars.

The sidelines and outfields can be seeded at 5 to 10 pounds per thousand square feet, whereas heavily trafficked areas, such as the infield and around player benches, should be seeded at 15 to 20 pounds per thousand square feet. Soccer and football fields can be seeded at 8 to 15 pounds per thousand square feet.

A drop-type spreader should be used to define the margins of overseeded areas. Areas inside the borders are seeded using a rotary spreader, applying half the seed in one direction and the other half by moving at right angles to the first pass. Intensively managed areas, such as infields, goal areas, and player benches, can be topdressed with soil to help hold the seed in place, and the area can be dragged with a mat or carpet to smoothen the playing surface. Less intensive areas such as outfields do not need to be topdressed but should be dragged with a chain link fence or steel mat.

Post-seeding Care
Irrigate two to three times daily until the seedlings begin to emerge. Irrigate just enough to moisten the surface while preventing lateral seed movement. As seedlings emerge, reduce irrigation frequency to daily, and eventually irrigate only as needed.

Begin mowing the grass at a height of 12 inch on the infield and 34 inch on the sideline and outfield areas, and on football and soccer fields. Weekly mowing is often sufficient in late fall and winter, but mowing twice a week is normal in the spring.

Do not fertilize while overseeding because this may encourage the bermudagrass to compete with the young plants. Begin to fertilize shortly after shoot emergence and continue until cold weather halts the ryegrass growth. This normally requires the application of 12 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet every two or three weeks, or 1 pound of controlled-release nitrogen per thousand square feet every four to six weeks.

Spring Transition
Close mowing when night temperatures approach 60°F will set back overseeding, reduces competition, and warms the surface to hasten bermudagrass recovery. Avoid applying fertilizer while the grass turns green in the spring to prevent injury to the bermudagrass and to discourage the ryegrass.

Perennial ryegrass should be totally removed from bermudagrass by the time it is actively growing in late spring or early summer. This will ensure that perennial ryegrass does not compete with bermudagrass in the summer, which can result in bermudagrass death. The most consistent way to remove perennial ryegrass from bermudagrass is to use a herbicide. Cultural methods that involve scalping, verticutting, aerification, fertilization, etc., in late spring to promote the bermudagrass at the expense of ryegrass will not consistently remove perennial ryegrass.

For chemical removal, several products are effective. Metsulfuron (MSM) is an effective and inexpensive herbicide that may be used to remove perennial ryegrass from bermudagrass. MSM should be used at 0.5 ounces of product per acre mixed with a nonionic surfactant in late spring or early summer. Perennial ryegrass will gradually die over a two-to-three-week period, and may result in some brown ryegrass as it dies. Other herbicides such as flazasulfuron (Katana), trifloxysulfuron (Monument), and foramsulfuron (Revolver) may also be used for ryegrass removal.

The slowest chemical removal of ryegrass involves the use of pronamide (Kerb). Kerb applied at one pound of active ingredient per acre will completely remove ryegrass over a four-to-six-week period. This transition from perennial ryegrass to bermudagrass is the slowest and will result in the least amount of unattractive turfgrass.

Reducing Compaction and Wear

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Compaction is the main reason for turfgrass failure on athletic fields. Extremely high soil compaction cuts off the oxygen in the soil that is essential for good root growth. Turfgrass managers can reduce the problem through aerification (coring) by using a machine that inserts a hollow metal tine or spoon into the soil. Aerification is the only way soil can be tilled without seriously disturbing the turfgrass. The hole left by this process allows more oxygen to reach the root system and harmful gases to escape. These holes also allow better movement of water, nutrients, and pesticides into the soil.

Other steps that can be taken to reduce the effects of compaction are:

  • Avoid irrigation two days before heavy use. Keep use of the field to a minimum when it is wet.
  • Postpone play or use alternate sites, if feasible, for band and athletic practice sessions.
  • Set aside one field for team or tournament play if possible.
  • Move nonstationary goals as depicted in Figure 1 so that play is not concentrated in a given area week after week. Consider widening existing fields to accomplish this; it will enhance recovery.
  • Stay off of partially thawed areas.
  • Do not play on new areas until they are fully established.
Move goals to an adjacent field or rotate field 90 degrees

Figure 1. Movement of nonstationary goals (a) or reorientation of fields (b) can lengthen the life of an athletic field.

Pest Problems

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Diseases and insects are seldom a problem on properly maintained athletic fields. If you suspect a pest problem, make sure you correctly identify the pest before applying a pesticide. Contact your county Extension agent or refer to Extension publication Turfgrass Pest Management Manual: A Guide to Major Turfgrass Pests and Turfgrasses, AG-348, if you need assistance with identification and non-chemical control measures. If pesticides are needed, select the most appropriate and always read and follow label directions. The Extension publication Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers, AG-408, provides the latest pesticide recommendations. A pest problem often indicates that changes in turfgrass management methods are necessary.

Integrated Pest Management

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Many pest problems can cause your turfgrass to look bad: diseases, weeds, insects, and animals. If you are really unlucky, you may have all of them at one time.

So what do you do? Use a pesticide? Or make changes in cultural practices? Both methods, as well as others, may be needed. The balanced use of all available methods is called integrated pest management (IPM).

IPM involves using all available prevention and control methods to keep pest damage from reaching significant levels. The goal is to produce a good turfgrass and minimize the influence of pesticides not only on the turfgrass but on people and the environment as well.

IPM methods include:

  • Use of best-adapted grasses
  • Proper use of cultural practices such as watering, mowing, and fertilization
  • Proper selection and use of pesticides when necessary

Early detection and prevention will minimize pest damage, ultimately saving time, effort, and money. Should a problem occur, determine the cause or causes, then choose the safest, most effective control or controls available.

When chemical control is necessary, select the proper pesticide, follow label directions, and apply when the pest is susceptible. Treat only those areas in need. Regard pesticides as only one of many tools available for turfgrass care.

To learn more about IPM, pest identification, turfgrass care, or the selection and proper use of pesticides, contact your county Extension center.


Crop & Soil Sciences
Extension Specialist (Turfgrass/Forage Crop Weed Mgt)
Crop & Soil Sciences

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: June 1, 2021

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