What is carrying capacity?

Within the turfgrass industry the term carrying capacity (or sustainable use) can be defined as the maximum level of surface use, or activity on a turf surface before unacceptable levels of deterioration begin to occur. Potential carrying capacity is what could have been achieved given optimum use and management strategies being implemented. More of a ‘forecast’ for sustainable usage. This can always change due to a variety of factors but mostly due to topography, weather and amount of use.

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Other factors which may reduce or prolong the carrying capacity include but not limited to:

-Management strategies

-Soil texture

-Technology such as lighting rigs and hybrid pitches

-Soil ecosystem


-Ground cover

The carrying capacity of a surface is only a guide to the level of use.

Concluding research online the following recommendations have been published for the ‘appropriate’ carrying capacity of natural turf pitches. This will change from site to site and should only be used as a base to work out your field’s carrying capacity.

  • Natural soil-based pitches 50-70 hours per season
  • Natural sand-based pitches 60-90 hours per season
  • Sand-silt-based pitches 90-120 hours per season
  • Sand specification pitches 120-180 hours per season
  • Golf courses 40,000-60,000 rounds per year
  • Tennis courts 200-800 hours per season
  • Cricket wicket 15 hours per wicket, per season

Note to remember this is a guide based on sustainable use, deterioration of a field suggests you have reached the limit for carrying capacity at that time. With sufficient repairs, the pitch can be made playable again in the same season.