Most football fields rely on natural, as opposed to synthetic grasses, as the playing surface. Although artificial turfs are also very reliable, the popularity of natural grass is understandable. Natural grass provides better aesthetics and a cooler playing surface. It also promises fewer athlete injuries.
Artificial grass is mostly used to minimize the impact of adverse weather on the playing surface. However, this usually comes at a cost. Artificial turfs are hotter and not only need to be crested to shed water, but are also very resistive to shear forces from the feet. Natural grass is a living plant that can be destroyed by regular stamping. Yet, with a proper root zone and good management, the grass often performs very well.
Types of Grass Used In Local Football Fields
First, it is important to note that unlike other sports the grass used in football fields is selected based primarily on adaptability to the local environment. In baseball for example, the effect of grass on the movement of the ball is very important. For football however, the ball is mostly either flying around or wrapped in players’ arms; it has very little interaction with the grass.
In the US, there are 5 main types of natural grass used for football fields. They are categorized as either cool or warm season grasses.
Cool Season Grasses
There are three main cool season natural grasses; the Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, and Perennial Ryegrass.
The Kentucky Bluegrass is considered the highest quality grass for football fields in cooler seasons. It is mostly grown in the far north, extending into the temperate regions. The grass germinates pretty quickly, takes a bit long to establish, but establishes a thick carpet quality. It has a creeping growth and ranges in color from emerald green to dark blue. It has a very fine texture and most of the varieties are low growing.
The Tall Fescue
The Tall Fescue is another very good grass for the cool seasons. Just like the Kentucky Bluegrass, it is mostly used in the north and transitional areas. The perennial, branching grass germinates quickly forming a dense, thick sod that can remain green for a whole football season. Newer, shorter, disease and pest resistant varieties are now available. Tall Fescue fields are reseeded twice a year to maintain a thick sod.
Perennial Ryegrass has been improved over the years and now comes in varieties with better texture, color, and enhanced resistance to both pests and diseases. It is an upright growing grass that forms a thick, dense, quick growing sod. The quick growth means that it repairs pretty fast. It is a high maintenance grass often mown at 1 ½ – 2 ½ inches.
Warm Season Football Grasses
There are two main warm season natural grasses; Bermuda Grass and Bahia grass.
Bermuda is probably the best grass for all-around athletic fields. It is grown in the south and up into the transitional areas. If grown in the transitional areas the grass has to be over-seeded in fall with other grass for early spring greening. The most popular grass for over-seeding is the perennial ryegrass. Bermudas have medium to fine textures and form dense, fast growing and fast repairing sods, with medium to dark green color.
Bahiagrass is also very popular. Its ability to withstand and recover from foot traffic, combined with it’s low maintenance requirements makes it a huge attraction for most field managers.
There are other grasses not discussed here such as the Creeping Bent Grass used in cool seasons and the Zoysiagrass used in warm seasons. To learn more about these grasses, contact Commonwealth Sports Turf Services on 804-594-6911.
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