Sport soils vs agriculture soils

What are the differences between an sport soils and a agriculture soils? Soils are pretty complex systems, they are not just a mix of water, air, mineral particules and organic matter, their microbiome is also pretty important, but today we will highlight the differences among sport and agriculture soils.

Let’s look at the fundamental differences between sports soils and agriculture soils.

Our sport soil profiles have some agronomic characteristcs quite different to those from agriculture. On one hand, soil texture at most high level sport turf surfaces are sandy soil with very poor structure if any, while at agriculture, soils are from different mineral natural sources, pretty heterogeneus textured and structured with agregates from clay-humus and mineral fractions.

Sport soil profiles are tipically structured as a layer of thatch (fresh organic matter) built up at the first 10 mm up to 30 mm in the top soil, depending on the management ( amount of fertilizers inputs, etc) then it follows a mix of sand and humus which increases its sand/humus ratio as it goes deeper in the soil profile.

Modern sports soils are constructed according to standards designed to establish the turf and optimise its maintenance.

Sport soil profile with over 20 mm thatch and low sand/ humus ratio content

Due to the high sand content, infiltration rates are ussually greater at Sport Surfaces than those from agriculture, unless high level of compaction, bad drainage systems, intermediate layers (like anaerobic black layers for example ) or excesive organic matter built up is on them.

Distribution size at different Sport Surfaces

Particule size distribution in sport surfaces follow specifications while agriculture use natural soils. These particule distribution sizes can be shown through curve graphs like these above, on which x-axis show particule diametre and y-axis show %. Sport Curves will keep these shapes while agriculture curves will be of all types.

Choosing the right sand mixture during construction is optimal to avoid maintenance problems.

CO2 volume % at sport soils are much higher than those in agriculture due to high roots density, large breathing volumes, high porosity, high water and fetilizer inputs, getting up to 3% CO2 volume while at agriculture, CO2 vol % soil profiles are closer to atmospheric content, which is about 0.03 volume %, 100 times less. The different roots mass along the soil profile produce different breathing CO2 vol %, changing pH readings. As the pH probe goes deeper into the soil or if the soil sample is taken outside the soil, pH changes due to different CO2 vol % in the profile or because the CO2 balances with the atmosphere.

Changes on pH reading at different depths due to different % CO2 contents

Irrigation water quality, specially sodium and bicarbonates do not affect sport soil structure in the same way than for agriculture

Bicarbonate and sodium salts are traditionally irrigation hazards to agriculture and native soils as they can cause drainage issues if their content in irrigation water are too high. The use of these irrigation waters increase soil exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) which help to breakdown agregates, lossing their structure, lowering infiltration rates and finally decreasing their fertility. This phenomenom do not happen at sport soils as they do not have aggregates or structure at all.

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