School IPM Best Practices

Outdoor BMPs: Athletic Fields

Best Management Practices to Reduce Pest Issues on Athletic Fields

Integrated pest management is the practice of using knowledge, monitoring, recordkeeping, and communication to reduce pest risk with the least amount of pesticide use possible. Encouraging turf health is the number one way to reduce pest damage.

For Highest Level Fields:

Note: The frequency of soil testing, fertilizing, aeration, and other practices listed below can be reduced for practice fields and many varsity fields. (See BMPS for Low-Maintenance Turf.)

  • Assign a management level to each field based on intended use, budget, and school and community expectations (example: Level 1—some varsity football fields; Level 2—soccer and field hockey, football practice, all middle school fields; Level 3—playgrounds and high visibility lawns; Level 4—lower visibility lawns and utility areas).
  • Establish a maintenance schedule for each area based on its assigned management level.
  • Assess turf quality at least annually. Note bare areas and poor drainage, grass density and color, or other problems (see Turf Quality assessment checklist in our resources section).
  • When establishing, renovating, or overseeding, choose the right grass for the site’s use; learn what grass tolerates your fields’ conditions.
  • Irrigate when necessary—generally 1″ a week if there is no rain.
  • Test soil every 1–5 years.
  • Maintain proper pH (6.0–6.5). Adjust pH with soil amendments and fertilizers according to soil test results and recommendations.
  • Fertilize in fall for root growth and again in spring, using slow release N and other nutrients according to soil test results. Note: Adjust dates for warm season grasses.
  • Mow at highest setting for field use and, if possible, higher in off-season.
  • Overseed thin spots often during and after “sport” season.
  • Schedule regular overseeding for entire high-end fields as allowed by constraints.
  • Scout for and monitor changes; record incidence of weeds, diseases, and insect pests in turf.
  • Reduce thatch to reduce incidence of some molds and insect infestations.
  • Aerate at least 1–2 times per year, or as often as you can.

Common Pests




Birds and Animals

  • birds—coming soon...
  • skunks, porcupines—coming soon...
  • deer—coming soon...


Checklists and Forms

Guidance Documents and Fact Sheets

For More Information