How to Select a Sports Field Conditioner

As a broad group, soil conditioners are designed to serve as moisture management tools. Specifically, they are used to help maintain moisture deep in the infield mix and to help remove excess moisture in wet conditions. 

There are many material types that are identified as soil or infield conditioners. Crushed aggregates, vitrified clay (shale), brick dust, diatomaceous earth and calcined clays are all marketed as infield conditioners. There are no specifications or minimum standards that must be met to be classified as an infield conditioner, so essentially any product that can absorb water or have water adhere to its surface can be marketed for this use.  

While each product type has an impact on moisture management to varying degrees, they are in fact vastly different. Variances in material composition, stability, weight and ultimately performance are pertinent. This is where calcined clay products clearly separate themselves from all others.

Calcined Clay

Calcined clay is by far the #1 choice of professional groundskeepers to build and maintain safer and more playable fields. It has long been proven to manage moisture better than other materials. Calcined clay helps keep "just the right amount" of moisture in the field for a longer period of time when compared to what we get when we rely on Mother Nature alone.

Turface MVP®Pro League® Elite™and Quick Dry® are calcined clay products manufactured specifically to condition sports fields to improve drainage, reduce compaction and absorb excess water. However, variation exists between calcined clay products. Many materials are called calcined clay, and many claim to be as good as the quality brands. However, degradation of calcined clays range from 3.5 percent over 20 years as in the Turface brand to calcined clays that degrade or melt to clay in a few days. Turface's quality is due to its unique raw clay mineral and the manufacturing process, which produces a very stable, uniform particle with consistent color and little dust.

Diatomaceous Earth

DE is primarily made of prehistoric diatoms (single celled algae). While it does absorb water, it is more brittle, breaks down more, floats on water and is dustier than calcined clays. Claims that the lighter bulk density of DE will allow you to use less product to condition a field as well as calcined clay are simply not accurate. While lighter bulk density allows you to get more coverage per ton, DE does not condition an infield as effectively as calcined clay so you do not receive equal benefits.

Brick Dust / Vitrified Clay / Crushed Aggregate

There are significant differences between calcined clays and crushed aggregates which are byproducts of non-sports field related industries including the concrete and brick industries. Typically, these crushed aggregates are used as a red infield colorant or as a substitute for a soil conditioner to prevent rain outs. Unfortunately, they do not have the absorption, drainage and stability characteristics to properly manage water on an infield. These materials may appear inexpensive but they typically weigh twice as much as calcined clay thus requiring twice the tons to cover the same area.

Turface Application Rates

The following chart shows application rates of Turface products to regulation-sized fields. Unless otherwise noted, all numbers denote amounts in tons.

  90' Baseball Softball 60' Baseball
High Clay Content 15 12 5
High Sand Content 10 9 3
High Clay Content 1½ tons of Turface® per 1,000 sq ft
High Sand Content 1 ton of Turface® per 1,000 sq ft
*Assumes grass infield; add 50% more Turface® if completely skinned.