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Field of Dreams - Athletic Field Topdressing as a Commercial Market for Compost from Dairy Manure

There are thousands of communities, school districts, and universities/colleges in Texas with athletic fields. Each grassed field should have annual or more frequent maintenance to preserve the quality and safety of the playing surface. The maintenance, in addition to the normal cultural practices of irrigation and fertilization, includes aeration and topdressing. Topdressing is typically done with sand. The Leon Bosque Resource Conservation and Development Council teamed with Tomlinson Ballfield Material to gain commercial acceptance of a blend of dairy manure compost and sand for topdressing of athletic fields. This demonstration project contributed to the North Bosque River Restoration Initiative by utilizing dairy manure compost from the Bosque River Watershed.

In 2003, the Leon Bosque Resource Conservation and Development Council was awarded an EPA CWA §319(h) grant through the TSSWCB for an incentive based program to provide 60% cost share to participants who utilized the compost/sand blend. Thirteen entities used a total of 1,053 ydof dairy manure compost. These sites were then used to demonstrate to other entities the benefits of using the blend over sand alone as a topdressing material. The athletic field maintenance industry is very pleased with the performance of the compost/sand blend and has added it to their product line. End users were also pleased and rated improved grass vigor and improved playing surface as benefits of the blend.

Supplemental funding was provided in 2004 to expand the demonstration to additional areas of the state and to increase the number of athletic fields that could be topdressed with the compost/sand blend. The cost share was reduced to 50%. Currently, 26 new entities have used a total of 4,840 ydof compost. The supplemental project expires in March 2007.

Five participants from the original project became repeat customers during the supplemental project. Furthermore, eight of the new participants in the supplemental project requested repeated applications. Repeat business is an indicator that the product is well received and that athletic field managers will continue to use the compost/sand blend.

These projects have succeeded in establishing a new commercial market for composted manure from the Bosque River Watershed. This market can afford the production and transportation costs of the compost and is expected to continue long after the cost share incentives are no longer available.

Project Goals/Objectives: The overall project goal is to gain commercial acceptance of a blend of compost and sand for topdressing of athletic fields through demonstration on athletic fields. The blend of 50% compost and 50% sand is superior in many respects to the sand that is now used for the periodic topdressing of athletic fields, and is easily affordable by the municipal, school district, college/university, and sports associations that maintain the fields. Erath County will be the source of the compost, so removal of the compost from the watershed would contribute toward TMDL objectives for the impaired water bodies.

Project Location: Erath County, with demonstration fields throughout Texas.

Project Costs: Federal ($300,000); Non-Federal Match ($282,500); Total Project ($582,500)

Project Participant(s): TSSWCB and Leon-Bosque RC&D Council

Project Workplan: 04-03

Project Final Report: 04-03

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