Turf & Rec

News Agronomy
CTRF supporting variable depth rootzone study at Michigan State University

$10,000 financial support provided for project

May 15, 2023  By Turf & Rec

The Canadian Turfgrass Research Foundation is financially supporting a Michigan State University project, titled “Environmental and economic comparison between variable depth rootzone and capillary hydroponics system to promote sustainable putting green management.”

The CTRF is injecting $10,000 into the project led by Dr. Thomas Nikolai.

Project summary

Sub-ground irrigation systems (SIS) have been proposed as the best method to conserve water and, over the past 60 years, several SIS designs have been installed on golf courses or athletic fields. All, however, have essentially failed due to the lack of research and because SIS were impractical for golf because they required flat surfaces.


The Variable Depth Rootzone (VDR) diverges from USGA recommendations by decreasing the rootzone depth at the top of slopes (8–10 inches) and making the rootzone thicker in low lying areas (14-16 inches). Research has indicated that VDR have a more uniform moisture retention and they have been considered for inclusion in USGA Recommendations but have not been added because the only study performed with VDR was insufficiently replicated.

In the summer of 2022, Frontier Golf constructed a putting green research site at Michigan State University that includes three VDR and three SIS with slopes of 1.5, three, and five per cent each. The green surfaces have sufficient density entering winter and we will initiate a study in the spring of 2023 comparing the two systems regarding water use, energy use, pest outbreaks, organic matter buildup, and playability factors such as surface firmness and green speed.


Print this page


Stories continue below