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 surface tension and 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 soil moisture uniformity over 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 firmness testing.

Figure 1

Figure 2

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment