Warm Season Turfgrass Use on Athletic Fields in Chile

Soccer is the most popular sport in South America, and turfgrasses are thus an integral part of the game. Outside of soccer there is not much of a turf industry, and little turf research is done. Most of the expertise in turfgrass management is based on experience. This is the case in Chile.


Chile has a longitude of 2700 miles and it is limited by the Atacama Desert in the north and Tierra del Fuego to the South, due this long geography and thus a wide range of turfgrasses are found throughout the country. Warm season turfgrasses are found on irrigated sports fields from the northern part of the country through the central south part. Due to high summertime temperatures, the absence of rain and low humidity, common and hybrid bermudagrass, and kikuyograss are found on many of the Chilean sports fields. One of the disadvantages of these species in Chile is the loss of color due to winter dormancy, when soil temperatures reach or drop below 10°C (50 F). Dormancy normally occurs from April to September except for those locations near the Pacific coast where wintertime temperatures are moderated. During winter only professional sports fields (Photo 1, National Stadium) are overseeded, mainly Lolium perenne using high seed doses, between 50 to 70 grams per square meter.

The small and local sportfields (Photo 2, local field dormant) do not overseed, and many of these fields show conservable amount of wear due to practice and local soccer games. Irrigation systems are normally disconnected in these seasons, every year, to use seasonal rain as a source of water.

Kikuyugrass is called Peruvian bermudagrass in Chile. Normally kikuyugrass is found on low maintenance local sportsfields. One of the problems of kikuyograss is its aggressive growth during spring and summer resulting in significant thatch accumulation. Verticutting is commonly used in many parts of the world to control thatch but in Chile it is not widely used. The main reason is the high cost associated with the practice and lack of adequate machinery in the market. Kikuyugrass exhibits better winter color than bermudagrass in Chile due to the shorter winter dormancy period associated with it.

The most common irrigation system for sports fields in Chile is surface irrigation by flooding. Only the professional sports fields have irrigation systems using pop up sprinklers located inside the field. Even though not much technology is used in the majority of irrigation systems in Chilean sports fields, the need for water is mandatory during summer especially in the north and central parts due to the absence of rain. A common problem with flood irrigation is the associated weed invasion during spring and summer. Common summer weed species found on athletic fields are Cyperus spp (sedges), Digitaria spp (crabgrass), Echinochloa crusgalli (Barnyardgrass).

Diseases in warm season grasses are not common in Chile, however insects such as armyworm Pseudaletia unipuncta and white grubs has been reported. In Chile there is no insecticide and fungicide registered for turfgrass use therefore there are limited possibilities to control pests.

Regarding fertilization Chilean sports field managers are mainly concerned with turf color on bermudagrass. It is often hard to get a dark green color with bermudagrass and to achieve the desired stripping that many of the soccer clubs desire. Of the nutrients, nitrogen is the most important to manage color, and urea is the most common source of nitrogen. As a general rule 35 grams of Nitrogen per square meter is the common application rate on sports fields from September through March.

There is an increasing interest in Chile regarding the warm season turfgrasses like zoysiagrass and bahiagrass. However no commercial turfgrass cultivars has arrived to the country due to marketing and phytosanitary restrictions.

Turfgrass research is ongoing in Chile but restricted to on location in Pirque central Chile, managed by the Fundación AgroUC, in this site (Photo 3, Turfgrass farm) there are trials with new warm season species such as St. Augustinegrass and new improved bermudagrass cultivars, for more information please contact Alejandra Acuña (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Acknowledgement: Parques Johnson(Chile), DLF (Dinamarca), PGG Wrighton Turf (Nueva Zelanda) y GlobalturfNetwork (Estados Unidos),

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