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17 Apr

Turf Tips with Golf Course Superintendent Bob Volpe

Choosing the best soil surfactant, wetting agent or soil penetrant for various conditions

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Golf Course Superintendent Bob Volpe shares 40 years of expertise with several tips, including choosing the best soil surfactant for specific conditions.

“When I was 14 years old, I started working on a golf course in Ohio in the summers clearing fairways… Forty years later, I’m still picking up rocks,” says Volpe. “And that’s a true story.”

Humbly, Volpe has picked up more than rocks in those 40 years. Now the superintendent at Palmira Golf and Country Club in Bonita Springs, Florida, he’s gathered decades of experience balancing factors he can control with the factors that he cannot control.

While he does not control the weather, for example, he shares that his understanding of weather patterns and conditions helps him manage water, a key factor in turfgrass and soil health.

“It hasn’t rained. The use of wetting agents is really important right now. And I’ve probably tried all of them, “ says Volpe, on a warm spring day in Southwest Florida.

During the dry and windy weather conditions in Southwest Florida this winter and spring, Volpe benefits from the use of Humawet and Profasorb.

“Humawet has a longer residual than the other brands. So I don’t have to have guys pulling hoses as often,” says Volpe.

Which brings up a common question for golf course superintendents: How do you choose which soil surfactant, penetrant or wetting agent to use?

Choosing a wetting agent, soil surfactant or soil penetrant


1Results: Immediate and Lasting

“The reason I stay in this business is because it’s a science. The grass is either going to live or it’s going to die,” says Volpe. “If I put out a product, I want to see a result, or I won’t go back to that,” he adds.

Geoponics’ product Humawet is providing nearly immediate results. Volpe also reports that the benefits to the turf are lasting longer than with other products he’s used.

“Other products worked, but I’m getting more longevity, more residual out of this Humawet,” says Volpe.

2Solutions: Addressing  key problems

The best soil surfactant or wetting agent for the season

While Volpe cannot control the weather, his foresight and appropriate selection of the best soil surfactant, wetting agent or soil penetrant helps with water management to keep his grass thriving.

Cooler, dryer months

“This winter was very difficult for growing grass . The wind blew for eight weeks. Evaporation was at an all time high. Temperatures went from high to low, hot to cold,” says Volpe.

That’s the time of year when you want a soil surfactant that holds water, which is why Volpe chooses Humawet and Profasorb.  SoilPlex not only retains water, but also provides a natural food source for micro organisms. (More on choosing the best soil surfactant for moving or retaining water here.)

“In February, hot spots were showing up. We applied the wetting agent (Humawet) and watered it in lightly. It’s difficult when players are out here playing. We want to get that product where the problem is instead of sitting on top,” says Volpe.

Spring weather conditions continued to add similar challenges.

“March was a fantastic month for humans but put stress on the grass.”

Humawet provided a solution to help get water deep into the soil with the combination of humates for added long term effects, maximizing the moisture that was present in the soil, mitigating the losses caused by winds and evaporation.

“Humawet worked. I got more longevity, more residual out of Geoponics’ products,” says Volpe.

Another soil surfactant, Profasorb, is also used to lower surface tension and for retaining water.

“I’m using Profasorb in the irrigation tank daily. I’m using it at a very low rate, but there are not as many hot spots as we used to have. I know I’m barely touching the surface of what it can do but I’m getting just what I can afford and it works,” Volpe reports.

The transition from spring to summer brings new challenges and conditions as South Florida heads into its hot and rainy season.

Summer heat, humidity and high rains

“I’ve tried to master weather patterns. I’m looking out two to three weeks from today,” says Volpe.

Heat increased through April, with low precipitation continuing despite some increasing humidity and decreasing winds.

As Southwest Florida, and South Florida in general, enter the rainy season later in May, Penterra is a popular choice for moving water in times of such excess moisture that are expected to then continue throughout summer. Penterra moves water quickly through the soil profile as it is the fastest-acting soil penetrant on the market. It is highly economical. Another option for moving water is HydraHawk, which is derived from natural fruit and vegetable extracts. HydraHawks aids in water and nutrient uptake during extreme weather, such as heat, drought and soil salinity.

Solving poor soil health on old greens using the most appropriate soil surfactant 

Because Palmira’s greens are old, about 20 years old, they contribute to a set of challenges in the conditions of the soil.

“They need to be rebuilt. That’s a variable. The age of those greens,” says Volpe.

The soil profile creates a challenging environment for optimal growth of the turfgrass.

“It’s dry in the middle of the fairway. Three and a half inches down, it’s like hitting concrete,” he says.

Then he’s got a half of an inch of thatch and sugar sand to contend with.

“I’ve got to open that soil up and get down five to six inches where I can get some water in there,” Volpe says.

That’s where Humawet comes into play.

“I spray that out really where it’s at, right were it needs to be,” he says.

3. Science and Service

Selecting the best product to use is as much about how it’s used as it is about formulation, Volpe says.

Geoponics’ customer service and knowledge of how to use the products for the best results is as helpful for the longtime pros as it is for the newer superintendents.

“You have to use the right product the right way at the right time,” says Volpe.


Learn more about the wetting agents, soil surfactants and soil penetrants provided by Geoponics, including Penterra, HydraHawk, Humawet and Profasorb: Click here.