Comparison of wetting agents on recovery of wilt from dry spots in fairways

Water repellency of turf can lead to localized dry spots and can cause waste of irrigation water.  Not only that, it also can cause the turf to repel other products, such as pesticides, that after application need to reach the root zone of turfgrasses to be effective.  Wetting agents are surfactants used to increase water penetration.

One of our MGCSA-member partners noticed that a surfactant that was labeled as an adjuvant for pesticide applications had chemistry that indicated it might also function as an infiltration tool/penetrant.  They found that while using this product in the growing season of 2016, there were no dry spot problems; however, 2016 was also the wettest growing season in MN history. In early August of 2017, we partnered with this superintendent to compare this surfactant and other products to combat wilt from dry spots.

Turf with patches of brown due to wilt
Figure 1. Wilt from dry spots on August 8th at Centerbrook Golf Course in 2017.

Research question

Which wetting agent would assist in recovery the quickest?

Study location

Centerbrook Golf Course (Superintendent – Steve Makowske)


9 wetting agent treatments and an untreated check (see table below). Treatments were applied in plots on two fairways.

Table listing treatments for wetting agent study
Table 1. Wetting agent treatments used in this experiment.


  • Very wet August resulted in a lack of significant conclusions.
  • No soil water repellency was evident.
  • All treatments had similar visual recover, soil moisture, and soil moisture uniformity (Figure 2).
golf course with recovered turfgrass
Figure 2. All treatment plots (including the one that was not treated with a wetting agent) had fully September 9th.


Wetting agents were not useful in this situation due to the wet month of August allowing all treatment plots to recover.  We can’t make recommendations on the wetting agents based on this small trial that occurred during a period with plentiful rain.

Contact Maggie Reiter, Extension Educator - Turfgrass <[email protected]> for more information on this program.