WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) – The Bermuda grass field at Ross-Ade Stadium has had a long road to recovery after one of the coldest winters in Indiana history. The consistent below freezing temperatures killed sections of the field and left others with dormant and brown. However, with constant work over the last several weeks, the field is well on its way to a full recovery ahead of the season-opener against Western Michigan on Aug. 30, according to Purdue Sports Turf and Maintenance Superintendent Al Capitos.
“We had extended freezing temperatures all winter long and that is not good for Bermuda grass,” Capitos said. “We lost a lot of Bermuda grass to what is called “winter kill”. It is something we are not immune to, nor are a lot of other places to the south or west of us. A lot of schools were in the same situation we were.”
Purdue installed a cold-tolerant strain of Bermuda grass to its playing surface in June 2006. The change was made after extreme weather and an aging irrigation system caused the field to literally come up in pieces. The field has provided a beautiful green, low cut and strong surface for the last seven years.
Those field conditions are expected to continue.
Capitos and his crew sprigged the field on June 26th, a process of planting stems and roots from live grass into the existing field. The new grass needs consistent water and fertilizer and still takes time, meaning the playing surface has been closed for the last two and a half weeks.
“We introduced new, live plants into the field,” added Capitos. “You keep it wet, but for the first 10 days, it doesn’t really do anything. It just sits there as stick and stems and turns brown. Then, after the first 10 days, it starts to regenerate roots and shoots new roots down and leafs out. What we are experiencing right now is that the rooting has occurred and we are seeing more top growth and lateral growth.”
The crew plans on mowing the sprigged field for the first time on Tuesday afternoon in order to boost the lateral growth of the grass, which Capitos says is very important in field regeneration. The mowing pushes the grass down and slows its vertical growth, but helps it spread its roots across the field which will help the Bermuda grass cover the playing surface.
Capitos feels that the field is where it needs to be at this time in the summer. He expects that at the current rate, the field should be more than ready come Aug. 30 for the season opener, including the logo areas which take longer to recover.
“We anticipate the field to be green and ready to go for the opener,” Capitos said on his way to the field. “We have the luxury of introducing Rye grass as well, which we do every year to keep the green surface since Bermuda becomes dormant at first frost. We can do that early this year if we have to in order to green it up if the process stalls, but I don’t anticipate any changes this year. I imagine that in a few weeks, the field will be completely green and then a few weeks after that, the strength of the grass will be able to tolerate football just fine.”