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					                                    Special applications
                                     for wetting agents
                                          Secondary-use claims have
                                        continued to generate interest
                                      among superintendents and others.
                                                           Patrick Quinn




S
         tart talking to golf course super-    from the reduction of water usage to             of that evidence is compelling.
        intendents     about applications      improving pesticide performance       to            "I have probably been working with
        for wetting agents and you get         suppressing  Poa annua seed head                 various wetting agents for 20-some
a whole new perspective             on the     production. Some fertilizers are even            odd years," says Joe Emanuel, CGCS
meaning of "broad spectrum."                   impregnated   with wetting agents at             at Lexington Country Club in Ken-
    A product originally intended for          the factory to reduce dust and in-               tucky. Like many superintendents,
little more than improving water infil-        crease ease of handling.                         Emanuel      usually   applies    wetting
tration into soil -        "making water          And while there is widespread                 agents through his irrigation system.
wetter," in the industry shorthand -           agreement among academics, super-                    "I believe that wetting        agents
has found other applications ranging           intendents and industry representa-              work," he says. "I have used them for
                                               tives that wetting agents do in fact             every purpose from spreader-sticker-
Patrick Quinn is a widely published            make water wetter, there is little more          extenders to water savings. 1 have al-
free-lance writer with an extensive            than anecdotal evidence to support               ways believed that they improve or
technical background and experi-               some of the secondary claims made                enhance the efficacy of herbicides
ence in the golf course industry.              on behalf of the products. Yet, much             and fungicides.
                                                                                                    "I have definitely seen results with
                                                                                                localized dry spots. 1 have definitely
                                                                                                seen better water infiltration. 1 have
                                                                                                definitely seen better water retention.
                                                                                                1believe they work, and 1wouldn't do
                                                                                                without them."
                                                                                                    Some of the beneficial effects of
                                                                                                wetting agents have been documented
                                                                                                by university research.        Dr. Keith
                                                                                                 Karnock and Kevin Tucker at the Uni-
                                                                                                versity of Georgia have demonstrated
                                                                                                 that some cases of soil hydrophobia
                                                                                                 are related to the presence on soil
                                                                                                particles of an organic coating pro-
                                                                                                duced by microbial activity, and that
                                                                                                wetting agents are effective in break-
                                                                                                 ing down that coating.
                                                                                                    Studies conducted at turf research
                                                                            ......               centers such as the University of Mass-
                                                                                                 achusetts and Cornell University have
                                                                                                 documented that Aquagro, one of the
                                                                                                 dominant    products in the wetting
                                                                                                 agent market, is effective in suppress-
  Wetting agents commonly are used to improve infiltration on hard-to-wet     areas including    ing Poa annua seed head production,
  localized dry spot on putting greens and along green banks.
                                                                                                                       Continued on p. 32

30                                                                                                      Golf Course Management / June 1993
                                            Wetting agents are used for a variety of purposes
                                           including more effective wetting of thatchy turf-
                                           grass areas.




WETTING AGENTS                from p. 30    ease the controlled application of                  two or three heavy rains - it seems
                                            wetting agents through the water-in-                to almost aerate the soil a little bit. We
and have sparked similar research by        jecting aerator. Emanuel says, "What                must be getting some kind of
other manufacturers eager to make           I have seen work particularly well                  drainage through there."
the same claim. Dr. Robert Carrow,          here - especially during that horrid                   "We are in limestone country,"
also of the University of Georgia, has      summer of '91 - was to spray that                   Emanuel explains. "Some regions of
investigated the mechanism by which         wetting agent on at whatever the rec-               this central Kentucky area have very
various wetting agents effectivelyinter-    ommended rate is, HydroJect your                    shallow soil depths. The limestone is
act with both hydrophobic and hy-           greens and water it in. I have tried it             very porous and it wicks water right
drophilic soils.                            here, and it works really, really well.")           on down through the soil. We've
            *      *      *                                *       *       *                    been able to retain a little more water
    Karnock's results have found prac-    Other attributes of wetting agents,                   before the limestone sucks it all down
tical application at Gull Lake View however, aren't easily quantified -                         to the caverns of Kentucky.
Golf Club, a. 72-hole complex in Au- particularly claims of marked water                           "This club was built in 1906. I have
gusta, Mich., where Charlie Scott is usage reduction.                                           sand greens and I have clay greens.
superintendent.                           ''I'm not one who subscribes to                          "Just by running a standard injec-
    "We have a couple of greens at one those 25, 30, 40 percent water re-                       tion program on these greens, I see
of our golf courses that in the middle duction claims," Emanuel says. "But I                    firmer, drier clay-based greens, and I
of summer get extremely hydropho- do believe there's some kind of effect.                       see better water retention in the sand
bic - you can hardly get water            ''I'm dealing with double-row irriga-                 greens. It's doing something some-
through them," Scott says. "What tion with Toro 670 heads, and this is                          where. I think that, depending on soil
we've done is to go out in the evening my sixth summer here. I brought the                      types and applications, you're accom-
and inject our wetting agent, so that wetting agent injection in my second                      plishing both.
it's in the lines. The next day we go summer. I am an as-needed-only wa-                           'Tve had people over here from
out and run the HydroJect - and we terer, but I probably have gone from                         clubs all around who have absolutely
just plug it into the water system so 25- to 30-minute sets on irrigation to                    marveled that my fairways were
that there's some of that wetting no more than 20 minutes. I don't be-                          showing no signs of stress at all when
agent in the water system - and it's lieve that I've ever watered a fairway                     they were watering heavily two or
really made a difference in those for more than 20 minutes in three or                          three nights in a row and I hadn't wa-
areas where we had localized dry four years here, so I know there's                             tered in four or five days. We have
spots. It's really made a vast differ- water usage reduction."                                  ryegrass fairways here, and there is
ence."                                    Both Emanuel and Scott also have                      some difference in water usage be-
    (The combination of wetting agents noticed changes in drainage patterns                     tween ryegrass and bentgrass fair-
and Toro's HydroJect aerator is find- and water retention in areas where                        ways.
ing support from superintendents,      wetting agents are applied.                                 "We have a number of clubs in the
particularly since Toro announced its     "I see a little better retention of the               area with bentgrass fairways. Those
acceptance of the combination as a water," Scott says, "and we don't                            are the superintendents who, on 85-
turfgrass management technique last have as many wet spots after a heavy                        degree sunny days, were hating life.
year. Aquatrols, the manufacturer of rain. I do see some drainage effect.                       Several of the clubs in this area have
Aquagro, has even developed an ap-        "I have noticed that one of the best                  started to use the injection system
pliance called "Dose-It" designed to times to apply wetting agents is after                                            Continued on p. 36

32                                                                                                      Calf Course Management / June 1993
WETTING AGENTS                from p. 32  shows that use of one wetting agent is      Ongoing research probably willset-
                                          5 or 10 percent better than another      tle the question of exactly what wet-
 through their irrigation systems, and wetting agent, how important is             ting agents do and do not do under
 they're showing some improve- that?"                                              controlled conditions, but there's little
 ment."                                     Carrow is .particularly concerned      doubt that superintendents will con-
                                          about claims of reduced water usage.     tinue to rely on experience.
               *      *      *              "I don't know where anyone would          "I started out years ago working for
     Though pleased with the effective- get data on that," he says. "I've actu-    a superintendent who began using a
 ness of wetting agents on his courses, ally completed some work for a paper       wetting agent that was no more than
 Scott wasn't happy with the sug- I've got to get published that does              a nonionic, non-caustic, hospital
 gested injection technology offered document that treated plots down              hand-cleaner-type soap," Emanuel
 by his supplier.                         here - and we're talking about red       recalls. "He began using one with a
     "When you get your wetting agent, Georgia clay - did drain more in the        coconut oil base. So not only were
 they give you a pump and say, surface 4 inches than untreated plots.              you using a surfactant with the soap,
 'Here's this timer ... adjust it so that But that appeared to be because of a     thereby making water wetter, but we
 when the pump comes on, the wet- lower ET rate, and that will show up             also always believed that the coconut
 ting agent comes on, and when as stronger soil structure. The result              oil was indeed adding something to
 you're through your water cycle, the was less rooting by the plants. That         the operation."
 wetting agent stops.' I didn't like that can lower turfgrass quality. "              And maybe it was.                  0
 at all.
     "I had my electrician wire an outlet
 into the pump house and put it in line
with the pump, so the only time that
 outlet has electricity to it is when the
 pump is running. When we want to
                                                         Proven products
 put our wetting agent on, we just plug
 it in, and it doesn't come on until the
water system comes on. So you don't            There are numerous wetting          Hydro-Wet
have to worry about timing it, or any-      agents on the market that are          Kalo Inc.
thing like that. When the pump shuts        demonstrably efficacious in their      4550 W. 109th St.
off, the wetting agent shuts off."          primary application of "making         Overland Park, KS 66211-1311
                                            water wetter,"as mentioned by the      Surf Side wetting agent
                            *               author.
                                                                                   Monteo Products Corp.
    Georgia's Bob Carrow won't dis-            Among those products - and          P.O. Box 404
pute individual claims of wetting           the source companies for them -        Ambler, PA 19002
agent efficiency, but he urges caution      are the following:
in assuming that the products are uni-                                             Naiad wetting agent
                                            Aquagro soil wetting agent             Naiad Co.
versally beneficial. Carrow's work ap-      Aquatrols
pears to indicate that local soil                                                  5627 Stone ridge Drive, Suite 316
                                            5 North Olney Ave.
conditions - particularly soil struc-                                              Pleasanton, CA 94588
                                            Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
ture and the corresponding degree of                                               Paragon turf/soil wetting agent
hydrophobia or hydrophilia - have a         Aqua-Aid wetting agent
                                                                                   Precision Laboratories Inc.
significant impact on the perfor-           Aqua-Aid Inc.
                                                                                   333 Anthony Trail
mance of wetting agents.                     11412 Pulaski Highway                 Northbrook, IL 60062
    "I can't say that anyone's ever sys-    P.O. Box 223
                                            White Marsh, MD 21162                  NOBURN
tematically gone through and done a                                                ROOTS Inc.
study that addresses all the claims that   Hydraflo soil wetting agent             25 Science Park
are made," he says. "Even if there's       Grace-Sierra
                                                                                   New Haven, CT 06511
some data to indicate differences in       P.O. Box 4003
performance, I think you need to look      Milpitas, CA 95035
at how significant it is. If a study

36                                                                                        CoIf Course Management / June 1993

				
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