Author

Lacy M. Adams

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Earth and Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Robin Kloot

Abstract

Sustainability and green initiatives are being pushed across the country and the globe, but athletics are not seeing the same pressures as intensely. Golf courses are largely the only athletic arena that have received pressure and are beginning to implement more sustainable management practices. Agriculture is also making strides to use less chemicals through organic farming and improve soil health with cover crops. Meanwhile, the rest of the athletic world continues to contribute to soil compaction, chemical maintenance, and runoff all of which affect the quality of the local environment. The strides to improve athletics’ sustainability record can be seen in the energy efficient building, recycling programs, and reduced water use. However, outside on track, football, baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, and other fields, soil is dug up, replaced with a sandy soil, leveled, compacted, and planted with non-native turfgrass. The turfgrass receives massive amounts of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. When rain or irrigation falls on the fields the water quickly drains through the sandy soil under the field leaving little water for the grass roots.

As an alternative to these traditional maintenance strategies, this experiment evaluated compost extract on University of South Carolina’s track infield. Compost was used in place of chemical fertilizers so that the soil and turfgrass could be compared. Viewing soil as more than a medium for turfgrass to grow, this study was interested in not only the aboveground grass, but also the soil health and diversity of the below-ground microbial community. Remote sensing, specifically the Trimble® GreenSeeker® was used in analyzing the turfgrass throughout the three months of treatment. Additionally, soil samples were taken to determine soil chemistry as well as soil biology. Soil cores were taken to determine the bulk density, which is a critical component to athletics for athlete safety and field playability. The experiment suggests that with more research, compost extract could be used in place of chemical fertilizers or as part of a more environmentally friendly field maintenance regime for turfgrass when the environment is appropriate for growth.

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