Engineered Soil or Native Soil?
It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Choosing your infield skin surface will directly affect the success and availability of your playing surface in various weather conditions. You’ll need to choose between locally-sourced native soil or an engineered infield soil.
► Cost considerations.
There is a pretty significant difference in cost when comparing native soil to engineered soil.
- Native soil is typically $0.70 to $1 per sq ft for a 4-inch profile.
- Engineered soil is usually $2.50 to $4 per sq ft for a 4-inch profile.
While choosing the least expensive locally-sourced native soil might seem like the right decision to make, consider this: not knowing the complete makeup of that soil could mean future problems. Invest in soil testing to expose any potential issues of your chosen infield surface.
► Practical considerations.
The shortcomings of native soils can lead to canceled games, additional field prep labor and material costs. These shortcomings ultimately mean sacrificing player safety and playability. Native soils are often susceptible to:
- soil migration from wind and rain.
- structural instability when wet.
- slow recovery after rain events.
- rapid lip build up.
Engineered infield soil materials (like DuraEdge) are produced the same way as USGA spec root zone materials. They are meticulously manufactured using precise measuring and blending. Regular testing of the raw products going into the blender, and the finished product in the stockpile, results in complete understanding of the engineered soil. You know exactly what you are getting with an engineered soil:
- A soil that stays in place and will not migrate
- A soil that is structurally stable when wet — no slipping, no sinking
- Little, if any, dust
While relatively new to the this industry, engineered soils have had similar impacts to ballfields as USGA spec root zones had to golf courses in the 1960s. At that time, “push up” native soil golf greens were the norm. Golf courses quickly realized that the engineered root zones far outperformed the native soil greens and now native soil greens are a rarity.
Re-entry following a rain event onto a native soil infield (figure 1)
versus a properly engineered infield soil (figure 2).