Amending Infields: A Scientific Approach

WRITTEN BY: LUKE YODER

Sports Field Managers (SFM’s) have been amending their infields since I got into the game in 1994.  This process has included (but not been limited to) tilling in sand, heavy clay, calcined clay conditioner (CCC), polymers, and even ground up corn cobs! Amending infields was not based on science, but determined on touch and feel (art), vendor recommendation, or what was considered industry standard. Tilling in sand may have been attempted to get games in quicker after rain or used as a remedy for a “hard” surface. Tilling in clay may have been done to tighten up a loose or shifty mix. An industry standard that has been marketed very well and even become common practice is to till in huge amounts of CCC into the infield profile. This practice has been recommended to cure just about any pain point. Read the back of most branded bags and it will tell you: Infields should be conditioned at approximately 15% to 20% by volume by rototilling 1-4 inches deep or 15% by volume, 4 inches (10 cm) deep. This equates to > 1,800 pounds of CCC per 1,000 square feet. Today, the innovation of the DuraEdge engineered amendment process is streamlined and proven based on science that is predictable, replicable, and testable—not based on guesswork. 

The process entails: testing your existing infield material, analyzing the data, determining who you are and where you should be, and then selecting the proper engineered amendment based on raw data and science. DuraEdge has 6 different engineered amendments called FieldSaver (FS). Incorporating the proper FS amendment into your infield will leave you with a permanently modified infield profile that will provide higher performance moving forward and reduce maintenance. It has been quite liberating for me to learn and see this firsthand over the last 10 years. 

For the first 10 years of my career I implemented the practice of amending infields with CCC. After working with and being exposed to the science of engineered soils, I understand that amending an infield with CCC is counterproductive and will not create a well-balanced infield profile, will not provide proper soil structure, will decrease stability and resiliency, will not reduce migration, will not extend the window for ideal moisture holding capacity, nor will it provide a more predictable and consistent surface moving forward. However, tilling in calcined clay into just about any rootzone is beneficial because it will relieve compaction, increase pore space, reduce black layer, promote vertical drainage, and increase CEC. This too is a permanent modification of the soil profile with long term benefits. My point is, an infield profile vs a rootzone profile could not be at further ends of the spectrum. After I grasped this concept and understood the DuraEdge engineered amendment solution for infields I only used CCC to amend rootzones and just on the top 1/8” of my infield surface for a safer sliding surface and increased efficiency in regards to moisture management.  

This relatively new approach not only makes sense for long term success but makes good financial sense as well. Taking advantage of what is at your disposal today can change your game forever. A couple of quotes from Albert Einstein that hit home: 

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   

Coming next: real life amendment examples—stay tuned!

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