Creating optimal growing conditions
at Vanderbilt University

The value of data monitoring and lighting.

Vanderbilt univestiry soccer pitch

About Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Soccer complex

Nashville, Tennessee

Grass type
Perennial ryegrass blend

3x TurfPods & 1x BU10

As if creating perfect grass growing conditions isn’t hard enough already… At Vanderbilt University, the field managers deal with multiple different microclimates across the playing field. In addition, with both soccer and lacrosse, the field gets a lot of traffic throughout the year. A clear overview of the aboveground and underground field values is therefore crucial to determine what maintenance the field exactly needs and to establish uniform grass quality across the entire field at Vanderbilt Soccer complex. A challenge Tyler Morris, Vanderbilt University’s Director of Sports Field Operations, knows all about.

Various conditions across the field

“Right now, in the later months of the growing season, the south end of the field gets no sunlight whatsoever. The low sun angle this time of the year and the trees standing on that side of the field cover the south end’s goalmouth and penalty box with shade. The lack of natural sunlight makes it hard to grow grass on that side of the field.”

The middle part of the pitch usually suffers from a lot of wear and tear from either lacrosse practice or soccer practice. And the north side of the field generally gets the most sunlight throughout the season. Because of the different conditions across the field at ‘the Plex’, the north side of the field needs different treatment than for instance the south side. Therefore, data monitoring is crucial to determine what’s going on above and below these particular areas of the field. We collect valuable data with the help of our three TurfPods that are spread across the field. The data gives us detailed insight into the growing conditions of each of those three areas.”

That field values can vary greatly from one part of the field to another becomes clear thanks to the collected data, as displayed in the TurfPod overview.

Influencing grass growth conditions with the BU10

“In addition to the differences in micromol, soil temperature also is almost 10° Fahrenheit lower at the south end of the field (63.1 °F vs. 51.6 °F), Tyler adds. In order to get uniformity across the entire field, we need to do something to influence the circumstances at the south end. With the help of our BU10 lighting unit we managed to match the field values at the south end with those of the north end of the field, creating equal grass growing conditions.”

“When we placed the BU10 in the goalmouth of the south side, we saw the same amount of light intensity values as compared to the north side. And the soil temperature increased from 51.6 °F to 58 °F, almost matching the north side that gets a sufficient amount of sunlight. This enables us to grow grass on the south side of the field and create uniform grass quality across the whole field, despite the shade. And in a short period of time. That’s very beneficial for us, because in between practice and matchday, there is not a lot of time left to let the grass recover.”

The images below show the goal mouth at the south end of the field before and after grow lighting treatment with the BU10.

“To give you an idea of the short turnaround time, we hosted a home soccer match against the Georgia Bulldogs. A week later the South Carolina Gamecocks visited the Plex for a match up with the Vanderbilt Commodores. With the help of our BU10 lighting unit, we managed to recover the grass quickly in between matches, despite team practice also taking place. On Monday 10, Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 October, we placed the BU10 in the goal mouth of the south side of the field and the results were great. The grass had recovered nicely, we saw a higher plant density and actively growing plants. As shown by the before and after images I took of the goalmouth. But we see the results on the north end as well. We saw great success with the use of the BU10, recovering for our last week of practices.”

The images below show the north end of the playing surface before and after treatment with the BU10.

With soccer season done for the year, Tyler and his team begins preparation for the lacrosse season starting beginning of next year.

“We’ve got 10 lacrosse games scheduled between February and March. And the lacrosse team will have to practice on the game field as much as possible. This means we get a lot of extra traffic on the field and increased wear and tear. But we’re confident we can maintain a high quality and uniform grass field throughout the season with the help of the products that SGL provides.”