Contents

Introduction          

In Autumn 2019 HITAS began an extensive research programme to assess the potential of a wide range of organic and bio-surfactants. The situation we find ourselves in means that many products that were once used routinely in our industry have been removed from the market, a trend that is not showing any signs of changing course. As a result, there is likely to be increasing demand in the future for products that are manufactured from sustainable sources and/or have organic approval. At HITAS we are committed to researching products that both perform and avoid negative effects on our environment.

Existing bio-surfactants on the market for use in amenity turf are not comparable in terms of performance to their synthetic counterparts, and often much higher application rates must be used to achieve any benefits to the turf. As a result, we have spent considerable time and effort researching surfactants from several different sources that we think have the potential to perform much better than the options currently available.

We screened several products for their suitability as soil wetting agents in sports turf. After a wide range of assessments focussing on effects on water infiltration into the soil, penetrative effects, re-wetting and spreadability, we narrowed the list down to five products that we believe have the most potential. Out of these five, three products have organic approval and two can be regarded as bio-surfactants. The difference being that bio-surfactants may contain small amounts of synthetic compounds that make organic registration more difficult. However, they are likely to still have a place in the market due to being more cost effective while still being produced sustainably.

Our Trials

Laboratory and glasshouse trials are perfect for demonstrating and indicating what effect a product may have when used in the real world. However, these results have little value unless the products can be shown to provide the same benefits in field conditions when a much greater range of factors are at play that could influence their performance. These factors include changeable weather conditions, different soil types and different management programmes.

In Spring 2020, a comprehensive field trial was set up to assess how the surfactants will perform on an actual golf course. The trial incorporates all the bio- and organic products that we believe have strong potential, along with synthetic and already available organic products for comparisons. The trial area will be managed in the same way as the rest of the golf course in terms of cutting and feeding in order to simulate real-world conditions, but water will be largely withheld. This is so that the primary function of surfactants (alleviating dry patch and soil water repellency) can be assessed over the summer months. We hope to also assess any impacts the products may have on the different grass species that make up a typical golf green sward.

The trial uses standard metre squared plots (which can be seen marked out below). 60 plots in total certainly made for a long day of spraying! We have tested the products at a range of application rates so we can determine what rate provides the best performance. We will of course also be checking for any negative effects the products could have on the quality of the surface.

After one treatment application and even without consistent dry conditions, we can already see some differences between treatments – some are certainly performing better than others! Some dew dispersal effects were also noticeable on a crisp morning in March (see photo below). We are excited to see how the trial progresses with further treatment applications and what is expected to be a hot and dry summer.

Concluding Remarks

Early spring results have certainly been positive with several treatments attracting our attention, even after only a single application. We will be continuing our investigations and shall return to the trial for more in-depth studies once we can all get back to normal.

In the meantime, stay safe everyone!

Tom Martin

Hitas Products

Introduction          

In Autumn 2019 HITAS began an extensive research programme to assess the potential of a wide range of organic and bio-surfactants. The situation we find ourselves in means that many products that were once used routinely in our industry have been removed from the market, a trend that is not showing any signs of changing course. As a result, there is likely to be increasing demand in the future for products that are manufactured from sustainable sources and/or have organic approval. At HITAS we are committed to researching products that both perform and avoid negative effects on our environment.

Existing bio-surfactants on the market for use in amenity turf are not comparable in terms of performance to their synthetic counterparts, and often much higher application rates must be used to achieve any benefits to the turf. As a result, we have spent considerable time and effort researching surfactants from several different sources that we think have the potential to perform much better than the options currently available.

We screened several products for their suitability as soil wetting agents in sports turf. After a wide range of assessments focussing on effects on water infiltration into the soil, penetrative effects, re-wetting and spreadability, we narrowed the list down to five products that we believe have the most potential. Out of these five, three products have organic approval and two can be regarded as bio-surfactants. The difference being that bio-surfactants may contain small amounts of synthetic compounds that make organic registration more difficult. However, they are likely to still have a place in the market due to being more cost effective while still being produced sustainably.

Our Trials

Laboratory and glasshouse trials are perfect for demonstrating and indicating what effect a product may have when used in the real world. However, these results have little value unless the products can be shown to provide the same benefits in field conditions when a much greater range of factors are at play that could influence their performance. These factors include changeable weather conditions, different soil types and different management programmes.

In Spring 2020, a comprehensive field trial was set up to assess how the surfactants will perform on an actual golf course. The trial incorporates all the bio- and organic products that we believe have strong potential, along with synthetic and already available organic products for comparisons. The trial area will be managed in the same way as the rest of the golf course in terms of cutting and feeding in order to simulate real-world conditions, but water will be largely withheld. This is so that the primary function of surfactants (alleviating dry patch and soil water repellency) can be assessed over the summer months. We hope to also assess any impacts the products may have on the different grass species that make up a typical golf green sward.

The trial uses standard metre squared plots (which can be seen marked out below). 60 plots in total certainly made for a long day of spraying! We have tested the products at a range of application rates so we can determine what rate provides the best performance. We will of course also be checking for any negative effects the products could have on the quality of the surface.

After one treatment application and even without consistent dry conditions, we can already see some differences between treatments – some are certainly performing better than others! Some dew dispersal effects were also noticeable on a crisp morning in March (see photo below). We are excited to see how the trial progresses with further treatment applications and what is expected to be a hot and dry summer.

Concluding Remarks

Early spring results have certainly been positive with several treatments attracting our attention, even after only a single application. We will be continuing our investigations and shall return to the trial for more in-depth studies once we can all get back to normal.

In the meantime, stay safe everyone!

Tom Martin

Hitas Products

Contents

See also