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An investigation into the effect of irrigation with sodium bicarbonate-rich water on soil physico-chemical properties of rugby fields under turfgrass

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2022 ASABE Annual International Meeting  2200066.(doi:10.13031/aim.202200066)
Authors:   Roberto P. Marano, Sebastian Giacosa, Rafael A. Martinez, Diogenes L. Antille
Keywords:   Alkaline water, Grassed sport surfaces, Irrigation water quality, Soil compaction, Soil sodicity, Soil strength, Sport surface management and remediation, Sport surface quality, Turfgrass growth and recovery.

Abstract. The effect of irrigation using saline and sodic (underground) water was determined on a range of soil physical, mechanical, and chemical properties of three rugby fields located in Santa Fe, Argentina. The rugby fields were established in 1974 on silty loam soils and they have always been under turfgrass. Sprinkler irrigation systems were installed in 2014, and since then, water has been applied ‘as needed‘ to ensure adequate turfgrass growth (100% surface cover), and good year-round playability conditions. Results showed that irrigation contributes between 800 and 1200 kg of sodium (Na) per rugby field (area: 7140 sq. m) per year, depending upon the total amount of water that is applied annually. Progressive accumulation of Na within the measured profile depth (0-0.20 m) over the past 7 years (2014-2021) has led to the expression of several soil physical constraints. These included: (1) reduced water infiltration rates and increased surface water ponding following application of irrigation or rainfall, (2) increased surface soil dispersion, which in turns reduces the soil hydraulic conductivity and the processes of infiltration, redistribution and evaporation of water, (3) increased soil bulk density and soil strength, which therefore affects playability and increases the risk of injuries to players when the ground is used under sub-optimal soil moisture conditions, and (4) increased soil pH and exchangeable Na percentage, which affect soil physico-chemical and hydraulic processes, influence the rate of grass re-growth and may result in phytotoxicity. These effects are compounded by soil compaction, soil mechanical damage, and turfgrass wear caused by player-surface interactions. Management strategies were presented and discussed, which considered improved irrigation scheduling to better match water inputs with turfgrass demands for water, reducing Na load, and improving the timing of irrigation to minimize evaporative losses (equally, improve water-use efficiency), and periodic application of gypsum and fertilizer nitrogen (none of which are currently used). Longer-term solutions included installation of subsurface drainage, removal of shallow compaction in summer while the grounds are not used, and sand capping for improved near-surface hydrology and reduced shear strength sensitivity when wet.

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