Article translation G&G

Aminoplast foam used as amendment in golf courses

International guidelines or standards are generally used for the root zone construction of tees, greens and fairways, with the objective to optimise the quality of both root zone and turf, leading to the enjoyment of golf to its full. The upper root zone of greens and tees mainly consists of sand fractions, sourced either locally or from elsewhere. Fine to course root zone sand is often used, where the organic matter content is low. This relatively course sand provides sufficient drainage in wet conditions, but its main disadvantage is that the retention of water is very low. Where water is limited, in such areas as southern Europe, the use of foam in golf courses can play an important role, to reduce annual water consumption.

During the last decade foam has increasingly been used as substrate, soil improver and soil additive in sport, golf, agriculture and horticultural applications. Market leader in the segment of aminoplast foam is Resins Agro B.V. With their head office in Boven-Leeuwen, The Netherlands, Resins Agro B.V. market the foam as Fytofoam®. The foam has vastly improved water/air ratio characteristics, which exceed those traditionally supplied by organic matter. However it does not have the disadvantages of the organic matter (see paragraph of Fytofoam® characteristics later). Fytofoam® can be applied on site by means of a specially developed mobile foaming machine. The product is also available in flakes. Both foam and flakes can be mixed into the root zone of the golf construction. Various international institutes are, or have been, testing Fytofoam®. The results are very impressive. Tests have been carried out by the NOC/NSF (the Netherlands), STRI (England) and IGI (Germany), but also include other practical trials around the world. In order to quantify these practical experiences in a scientific manner, we recently started an intensive trial at the golf course of Mosa Trajectum in Murcia, Spain.

Golf Resort Mosa Trajectum
The golf resort of Mosa Trajectum is located between the beaches of Costa Calida and the city of Murcia. The resort is situated at the start of a mountain chain and the border of a conservation area, which is under the control of UNESCO. Mosa Trajectum is approximately 10 km from Murcia and 85 km from Alicante. This area can be characterised as being extremely dry and having a climate which demands the need for irrigation. Because of these harsh circumstances, the objective of Mosa Trajectum was to increase the water retention of root zone and to decrease the irrigation demand by incorporating a 20% (by volume) of Fytofoam® in the 30 cm deep root zone of all tees, greens and fairways.
From experiences in Europe and world-wide we have learned that the use of foam has a significantly positive effect on water demand, when compared to non-treated courses. In order to prove and quantify the water retention and water saving characteristics of the foam, a scientific experiment was set up to compare the hydrological and physical aspects of a green treated with foam compared to an untreated green.

Objective and purpose of the trial
The objective of this trial is to conclude whether there are significant hydrological effects produced by the foam within a golf course root zone, and to what extend it is creating a significant reduction in the use of irrigation water. The trial was set up just before the summer of 2004 on two specially constructed USGA greens. Two greens were built conforming to the USGA specifications; drainage layer, including separate drainage system, and on top, a 25 cm sand root zone. In one green the root zone was mixed with 20% foam (by volume), and the other green had no inclusion of foam. The foam flakes were dry when pre-mixed with the root zone sand. This mixing process was carried out adjacent to the trial green before the final mix was installed. Both greens measured 10 by 10 metres. In both greens, sensors were put into the root zone to measure and monitor water retention and its possible changes over time, using the latest state of the art technology; a TDR (Time Domain Reflectometry) system. A total 60 TDR sensors were installed in a series of four transverse sections of the green. Each section measuring 150 cm in length and up to 25 cm in depth. Within each section, 15 sensors were placed at depths of 4, 10, 16 and 22 cm, at 10 cm apart. Every hour these sensors automatically measured volumetric moisture content and recorded the data within the TDR equipment. Within one day, the system measures and logs 2,880 readings. This high frequency measuring system provides a reliable reflection of the infiltrated amount of water, the distribution and the fluctuation of the moisture content of the treated green compared to a non-treated green. In fact, it is possible to create images showing total moisture and its fluctuation over time, within both plots. In order to be able to calculate a simple water balance, both greens are equipped with rain gauges, which continually monitor and log rain/irrigation water. At the same time the drain water from the individual plots is collected, measured and stored using a specially modified tipping bucket system. The data collected will then be used to draft a water balance for the treated and non-treated greens. This will provide a quantified insight into the potential water saving of the individual plots.

Initial Results and Future Assessments
The first results from the trial, collected during July 2004, are plotted in the adjacent graph. The upper part of the graph shows that an average 10 mm of irrigation water was supplied on the individual test greens every day. Therefore, within the month of July, traditionally the hottest and driest month of he year, 300 mm of irrigation was applied. It was noted that there was quite a large fluctuation in irrigation requirement varying from 5 mm up to 20 mm per day. The lower part of the graph shows a proportional increase in the moisture content, measured down to a depth of 19 cm in the foam treated plot, compared to the non-treated plot. Two things can be addressed. First of all, there is a clear response relating to the individual irrigation cycles. In other words, there is a fast increase in the water content of the root zone after irrigation has been applied, but it decreases soon afterwards. Secondly, there is a noticeable difference between the higher amount of water retained in the foam root zone compared to the root zone not containing foam. This is most likely caused by the uptake of water by the dry foam flakes. When the trial first started, it would take some time for the foam to absorb the water, but once it started to, it would then continue to absorb the water quite quickly until saturated. By the end of July, under the same irrigation management, the water content in the foam treated green was approximately 10 to 20% more, compared to the green without foam. These initial results lead to the tentative, but strong conclusion that foam mixed into the root zone increases the water retention significantly. The collection of data will continue over the coming months and further analyses will be carried out to complete and provide a full insight into the water balance of both greens. In time the trial will be developed by changing the irrigation schemes on both plots, in order to quantify in detail the actual water saving (and related cost savings of water and nutrients) on golf courses where foam is applied. These results will be published at a later stage.

Characteristics of Fytofoam®:

  • Aminoplast foam
    Biodegradable at a rate of around 5% per year
    Maximum water holding capacity - 70% (by volume) - measured in a block of 10 x 10 x 10 cm
    Easily re-wets after drying out
    Foam can be produced in situ
    High compressive strength
    Lower incidence of thatch build-up