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Our analysis indicates that electric lighting for turfgrass growth is highly cost effective, if it is coupled with appropriate genetic and environmental changes.

Inadequate light levels for vigorous turf growth is the key challenge associated with growing turf in enclosed and retractable dome stadiums. The light levels of closed stadiums are too low to maintain vigorous plant growth that can quickly recover from the damage caused by athletic events. As a solution, retractable-dome stadiums have been built. However, even with the roof open, light levels in these stadiums are less than half of natural sunlight because of shading from the side walls of the stadium. As such, maintaining an attractive, uniform playing field has been difficult.

Vigorous plant growth without sunlight is routinely achieved in commercial hydroponic lettuce and tomato production using electric lamps. This same technology can be used to maintain live turf grass in closed athletic stadiums. It can also be used to supplement natural sunlight in retractable roof stadiums. The challenge is to determine the optimal combination of genetic characteristics and environmental parameters to grow turf in a closed stadium using artificial light and to quantify the benefits of supplemental lighting in retractable dome stadiums.

The research development needed to achieve vigorous turf growth under the low light conditions of enclosed and retractable dome stadiums ca be accomplished in four phases which included:

  • Develop stadium design requirements for vigorous turf growth in enclosed and retractable dome stadiums based on a thorough feasibility study of current state-of- the-art for turf production in low light.
  • Quantifying the response of the two most promising turf grass species(Zoysiagrass C4, warm temperatures or Poa supina C3, cool temperatures) to low light and determining the value of growth regulators, CO2 enhancement, temperature, etc. for enhancing growth under low light.
  • Examine all promising turf grass species and the genetic variation within each species to enhance vigorous turf growth under ever diminishing light levels (10 to 1 mol m-2 d-1), and initiate preliminary evaluation of turfgrass species and critical levels of secondary inputs (i.e., growth regulators, CO2, temperature, nutrients, etc.) in stadiums.
  • Implement full-scale testing of turfgrass on indoor athletic fields in direct collaboration with stadium engineers and field managers.

Following we review the current state-of-the-art for turf production in low light and discuss in detail the research needed to achieve healthy, live turf on indoor playing fields.