Friday, January 5, 2018

Winter 2018: Melting Ice on Turf

By: Scott Mackintosh
While many enjoyed a peaceful white Christmas, it wasn’t long before many throughout New England received a coating of ice! Since then arctic weather has had a strangle hold on New England with air temperatures well below freezing, many below zero. Yesterday winter storm Grayson hammered most of New England with at least 6 inches of snow. Experienced turfgrass managers have already started their clocks and asked themselves; How many days have my greens been under ice or snow? When should I clear it off? What can I use to melt ice if I have any when the time comes?

Historically, many have turned to a product called Milorganite. It was developed back in the roaring 20’s and has been used on greens ever since.  Milorganite, is a finely ground black pelletized sewage sludge particle with a 6-2-0 minimum nutrient analysis. Applied to the ice on sunny days Milorganite flows with water and collects in low areas. As turf breaks dormancy, the nutrient release in those low areas can be excessive and concerning. Today, black sand has proven to be a great option. It’s simply high-quality topdressing sand treated with a black pigment. Sand, of course, has a cation exchange level of 2 or less. Applied on a sunny day it also quickly melts ice but it has zero nutrient release and only a limited increase in canopy temperature in the early spring.  Another ice melt option has been to use sunflower seeds. They are easy to apply, they melt ice and birds love them. Unfortunately, many superintendents pick sunflower sprouts out of aerifiction holes.  

Are there other options? Yes. Many turf managers apply Solu-Cal gypsum. The greens grade or regular grade particle has a dark brown to black color.  Gypsum is calcium sulfate. Applied at 5-10 lbs./1,000 sf on a sunny day it too will melt and bore into ice. The particle slowly dissolves to smaller forms of soluble calcium and sulfur. Calcium and sulfur improve cell wall thickness and chlorophyll formation, respectively. Another interesting option is Profile. Profile is a porous ceramic inorganic soil amendment. The greens grade or regular grade particle is 74% pore space which allows it to hold water and oxygen in perfect balance.  The particle is available in an emerald green color or a natural reddish color. Applied to ice at 5-50 lbs./1,000 sf it will also bore into and melt the ice on a sunny day. As it nestles into the turf canopy it will merely improve the nutrient holding capacity and help balance air and water pore space in the rootzone.
            As we roll into 2018 all of us at Atlantic Golf Turf resolve to support, serve and promote the Turfgrass Industry and the Professional Turfgrass managers of the Northeast! Please call us at 413-863-4444 or visit us at


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