Welcome to ONCOURSETurf! This blog is about anything and everything involved with Golf Course Management. It is the personal blog of Kevin J. Ross, CGCS - retired superintendent, Country Club of the Rockies - Vail, Colorado - Agronomic Services, ONCOURSETurf - Host of ON COURSE - TurfNetTV - General Turfgrass Management and Golf Nut. Follow Along and Enjoy! Twitter @oncourseturf
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Wetting Agents...What do they Do?
Wetting agents have been around since the 1950’s and today
they are a very integral part of many golf course superintendents’ turf
management programs. Surveys done by University of Minnesota shows 80% of golf
courses regularly use wetting agents on greens, and 50% regularly use them on
fairways. Those are some impressive numbers. So what are the benefits of a
wetting agent? First and foremost, wetting agents have been proven to lower
the surfacetensionand allow water to enter the soil surface through the
turf canopy. This, without a doubt, is its biggest benefit. This breaking of
surface tension leads to the next biggest benefit, the ability to help increase
various depths. Research by Karcher and Richardson, University of Arkansas, has
proven this increase in uniform wetting. The next benefit of wetting agents is
a direct result of the previous mentioned benefits. It certainly makes sense
that if a wetting agent lowers the surface tension and also increases soil
moisture uniformity, there will effectively be a reduction or elimination of localized
dry spot (LDS). Managing localized dry spot with the use wetting agents,
especially in sand-based systems, has become the norm with most superintendents.
With these benefits, it’s very easy to understand the widespread use of wetting
agents as an effective soil management tool resulting in better turf quality.
With all the use of wetting agents, you would think we
understand them very well. In fact, maybe we don’t. For example, among golf
course superintendents, the latest buzzwords for wetting agents are drain or retain - classifying them by how they work. This primarily comes
from field observations by superintendents. You can’t do a Goggle search and find
a list of drain or retain wetting
agents. To date, there is no true university testing exploring a drain or retain wetting agent theory.
Some wetting agents claim to do both - figure that one out. An important fact
to note is that wetting agents are not federally regulated, and only a few individual
states regulate them. This makes it extremely difficult to compare different
wetting agent products, like we can with federally regulated products.
Therefore, superintendents really need to do their own homework to determine
what’s most important to them regarding wetting agent performance, and have
this supported by independent research data. The most interesting research data
I’ve seen recently, comes from the University of Minnesota, which investigated
surface firmness with wetting agent use. Surface firmness can be directly
related to a wetting agent that certainly doesn’t retain in theory.Many superintendents
don’t want moisture to be held at the surface, which results in softer
conditions and playability issues. You can see in figure 1 and figure 2 below, the
ranking of the tested wetting agents. In this particular study, WinField Pro’s Aquicare ranked #1 in the surface
This is a very important finding. Through 3rd
party testing, it clearly indicates to golf course superintendents that Aquicare has all the wetting agent
benefits. Plus, there is a peace of mind that it keeps surfaces firm. This is a
great choice to have in the superintendent’s tool chest when it comes to
wetting agent selection.