Jim Cornelius, Sports Turf Online, October 9, 2012
EXCERPTS FROM THE ARTICLE:
"Let’s begin by acknowledging that synthetic infill fields are NOT maintenance free. No matter what anyone says, these fields need maintenance routinely. Secondly, what comes out of these fields must be replaced, meaning that the infill material disappears from the field as it is carried off by players, wind, rain, snow, snow removal, routine maintenance, etc, and being that the infill material is the supporting substance of these fields, it will need to be replaced.
When we service a field we typically find that most fields are lacking infill material whether it’s all crumb rubber or rubber/sand mix; we also find the turf fibers are laid over with minimal support causing them to prematurely break off. But the worst enemy to the synthetic fibers is the sun and ultraviolet rays that it must endure day after day. By maintaining a proper amount of crumb rubber and allowing approximately only a ½ to ¾ inch of exposed fiber, you are preventing the fibers from folding over and lessening the amount of material breakdown due to ultraviolet rays. On average an athlete or end user will carry off 3-4 pounds of infill material during a playing season. This needs to be replaced annually to support the fibers and provide longevity for the playing surface.
Grooming the field is an essential maintenance task that needs to be better understood. It is highly recommended to use a good groomer designed for synthetic turf such as the Greens Groomer or the Wiedenmann units. When using any groomer, adjusting it so that it lightly touches the fibers will provide the best results. Do not lower the entire weight of the groomer onto the turf unless you are trying to level out or move crumb rubber to fill an area such as a lacrosse goal crease. When tickling the fibers with the groomer’s brushes the intent is to stand the fibers up to minimize the lay over from use.
Weeds can exist and thrive in synthetic turf and if your turf is surrounded by bermuda grass or any other creeping stolon-producing grass, be prepared! These grasses tend to find their way into and under the synthetic turf and since temperatures on these fields reach optimal growing peaks before the surrounding turf, once they start spreading beneath they will find the drainage holes and send their shoots upward for the sun light. These plants become very hard to remove due to their sewing machine affect and in most cases will need to be treated chemically (as approved by the turf manufacturer) to kill them off. Easiest way is to prevent it from growing under from the beginning, understand it, look for it and act quickly when discovered.
Pay attention to heavy wear areas; these fields wear just like natural turf with the exception that you can’t grow it back in once it is gone, so don’t let it wear out.
Dust, dirt, pollen, body skin cells, screws, nails, track spikes, bobby pins and human hair to name a few do not break down in these fields, they remain for much of the life of the field and it is truly amazing how much exists. Special equipment with hepa-filter vacuums will be able to clear this out and remove it from within the turf. Rain, snow sleet and hosing do not help."