for wetting agents
Secondary-use claims have
continued to generate interest
among superintendents and others.
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
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-
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
"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
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
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