Eon Bio – a time capsule with a difference

Eon Bio – a time capsule with a difference: David Snowden discusses the benefits of improving your growing medium and why using a soil conditioner is such a valuable tool…

The main benefits of soil conditioners are to improve the soil structure and therefore increase nutrient uptake and root mass. When applying to new greens at renovation time and when used on sports pitches to create a root zone with life in, soil conditioners increase the efficiency of nutrition.

Eon Bio – a time capsule with a difference

Eon Bio – a time capsule with a difference

We want to bring life to the soil and this is what Eon Bio enables our Greenkeepers and Groundsmen to do. When the grass plant germinates, it needs a bio-available food source and we require rapid establishment of the new plant to secure a healthy sward.

We have seen great success working with numerous Premier and Championship Football Clubs, when using Eon Bio, which has the benefit of a prill form, particularly easy to use.

Eon Bio is 100% organic and contains high concentrations of soluble, slow release Humic acid. This ‘time capsule’ releases and encapsulates mycorrhiza fungi and multiple forms of beneficial bacteria, which solubilise phosphates. We need to feed our soils to create the best growing environment.

With Eon Bio, the guess work is taken out, as the bacteria is specifically cultured and proven to benefit the soils and our grass plant, all wrapped up in a Humic acid food source for bacteria.

Surf ‘n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf: A horse’s impact on a surface, whether a racecourse or eventing track, has been much debated in sporting circles. On a professional sports stage the horse, averaging around 500kg, makes a significant collision with any surface. STRI agronomy manager, Steve Gingell, puts on his farrier’s hat to study hoof interaction with grass.

There have been several publications on the action and stages of horse’s hoof interaction with a surface. However, most are related to artificial sand surfaces and less so to grass surfaces.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf

The key works are from the FEI Equestrian Surfaces Guide published through the Swedish Equestrian Foundation and Natural Turf for Sport and Amenity by Adams and Gibbs. ‘Science and Practice’ reviews the surface interactions at several racecourses in terms of firmness, penetration and resilience over time.

This is also a useful guide to how a hoof interacts with the surface.

There are a few testing devices simulating hoof interaction with different types of turf surface. The main equipment used on artificial surfaces is the Orano Biomechanical Surface Tester. This aims to mimic the phases of a hoof’s interaction with a surface.

Testing is also undertaken on turf using devices such as the TurfTrax Going Stick and the STRI Toro Precision Sense Testing, which gives data and maps indicating the surface performance. So how does a sports turf manager adapt their surfaces to ensure a safe and fast or competitive surface for a range of equestrian sports?

SURFACE HOOF INTERACTION

The majority of professionals accept that there are four stages of a hoof interaction with the surface.

Touch down

Where the hoof initially impacts the surface; this is a braking force. The hoof will receive a shock/feedback from the surface depending on whether it is hard or soft. Very hard surfaces will give injuries to the hoof and leg bones. Very soft surfaces give very little feedback as most of the energy of the initial shock is absorbed through the surface.

Loading

Where the full weight and impact of the horse focuses through the hoof. Typically, forces are vertical and therefore the surface firmness is much more important. Hard surfaces will injure tendons, ligaments and bones.

Soft ones give little feedback to the hoof and therefore energy of the motion is lost.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf

Roll over

Where the toe of the hoof starts to push into the surface. A firm, surface can give little grip as the hoof slides on the surface. A very soft surface could dig in and lead to significant divot removal and lack of pace.

Push off

The most important aspect of this stage is a strong turf as this is where the horse is gaining propulsion. The toe is at the maximum penetration and the flat of the hoof is pushing backwards. Traction is vital and therefore an over soft or damaged surface could give little traction.

FIVE FACTORS AFFECTING HOOF INTERACTION AND SURFACE PERFORMANCE

Impact firmness

The surface needs to have impact firmness, ie absorb shock when the hoof hits the ground. This is most important in a profile upper layer hardness. As an example, a very soft surface will have low impact firmness and a tarmac or a bound surface have very high impact firmness. This is very important in avoiding horse injury.

Cushioning

A surface needs to dampen and reduce impact forces (cushioning) and is achieved in various layers within the surface. A well cushioned surface reduces stress, ie soft racecourse, whereas a firm surface is fast but could cause injury.

Grip

Grip is important because a very low grip surface means the hoof slides and therefore injury can occur, whereas a very high grip surface can often have high impact forces. A surface must be able to withstand push off. It is important that some slide occurs to reduce the forces on the hoof.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf

Responsiveness

Responsiveness is a measure of how active or springy the surface is. A responsive surface gives energy back to the horse and this aspect is also related to the firmness and cushioning. A very compacted hard surface may rebound too quickly, whereas a very soft surface will give very little responsiveness.

Uniformity

A surface needs to be uniform so that the horse has confidence to reach its maximum performance. Variable surfaces, particularly in very short distances, can be significantly problematical.

HORSE RACING

In horse racing, the key aim is to provide a fast track that is both safe and fair. In flat racing typically, surfaces are maintained to a slightly firmer level with slightly shorter grass length than jump racing. The aim however must be to provide a reasonable level of cushioning and a medium to high level of impact firmness.

If a course becomes too firm, then the impact firmness becomes high and horses can suffer injury. Conversely, an over soft surface means speed and times are slower, therefore horses will tire more quickly. Grip is also important as horses will be using their maximum level of propulsion push off due to the high speeds of travel. There would be less grip issues as the hoof is not having to absorb any braking that would occur when using a jump.

In jump horse racing speeds are lower, and in between jumps over firm ground can create issues in a similar manner as flat racing. There is also a tendency to prefer a slightly softer going to ensure reasonable safety and moderate times. This is partially achieved through racing in winter months when soils are naturally wetter and therefore have less impact firmness, but also through a slightly longer height of cut at around 4-5 inches to give a little more cushioning.

When a horse jumps, grip in the initial stages is important, and then impact firmness and cushioning is vital on the landing phases.

Over a racecourse there will invariably be a degree of difference in uniformity as often different soils will occur, unless that track has been completely reconstructed. It is difficult sometimes to manage uniformity which is only achieved through varying aeration, irrigation cycles and fertility.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf

CROSS-COUNTRY

Cross-country builds on the comments in horse racing. There will be sections of galloping between the sets of fences, coupled with explosive takeoffs, moderate impact landing forces and often turns a stride or two after.

It is important for horse safety that the track is of medium firmness to reduce the impact and has a good level of cushioning. This is usually achieved through a reasonable grass length, although grass height is much lower in eventing than would be in racecourses. So there needs to be appropriate irrigation strategies and grass health management through aeration and fertility to maximise the soil cushioning.

Grip is very important as a horse needs to feel confident to take on the various obstacles. Lack of grip means the horse may slide forward towards a jump or not have suitable footing on landing. As an event progresses the take-offs and landings will often become quite worn. Therefore, exceptional management with good levels of repair in these areas, running up to a meeting, is very important. Frequently woodchip or even gravels are put in and around a landing zone and these will tend to make surfaces very firm over time and should be avoided.

Aeration and an overseeding or returfing of poor areas immediately following an event is essential to maximise the turf condition.

POLO

Polo is interesting in that each horse will only be used for a very short period, but under a very intense level of activity. Due to polo being a ball sport the surface is also kept very short. The surface needs to have a moderate to elevated level of impact firmness, but not to a level that the horse becomes injured because of the shock impact with the ground. This high impact firmness gives good responsiveness, although it should be noted thatsometimes a very firm surface may not be as responsive as one would expect. It is moderately difficult to achieve a high level of cushioning on a very short sward, although the soil profile needs to be medium firm, well aerated and have deep rooting. A little organic matter is quite beneficial to ensure cushioning. However, elevated levels of organic matter can often lead to reduced grip and at significant levels give poor impact firmness.

Probably the most important factor is grip. Polo ponies turn very quickly, execute fast decelerations and accelerations. This means that the surface has to give confidence to the rider and the horse. A very dry soil profile may have less grip as the pony can slide on the dry top.

This is often relieved through sand dressings and through significant quantities of irrigation to create a slightly softer upper surface. Watering can be a problem as insufficient irrigation may only wet the surface and therefore create a shear layer.

Each site will have a different ideal moisture content for performance. It is not uncommon to find the centre sections of a polo field being firmer than the edges as this is where most of the play occurs and therefore targeted verti-draining through the middle of the ground is important.

Sheer Poetry

Sheer Poetry: Scott MacCallum catches up with Andy Richards to learn about his new role at the prestigious Haileybury School.

Many Wimbledon champions have taken inspiration from the poem “If”, which is written on the wall of the Players’ Entrance at the All England Club. You know the one – “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”.

Sheer Poetry

Sheer Poetry

I have no way of knowing if, back in the second half of the 19th century, its author Rudyard Kipling had an interest in sport, or a particular aptitude for cricket or rugby, but one thing is for sure he didn’t benefit from any such stirring words if he were to have marched from the pavilion of Haileybury School to open the batting, or lock the Haileybury first team scrum.

It may have been, however, that it was dealing with the highs and lows of his sporting time at Haileybury that inspired Rudyard a few years later to pen what is one of the best known and finest poems in the English language.

A school can be judged by its alumni and in that regard Haileybury, near Hertford, has an honours board to match most. In addition to Rudyard Kipling we have dramatist Alan Ayckbourn;
film director, Christopher Nolan; actor Stephen Mangan, and comedian Dom Joly, to name just a notable few.

The list of Haileybury’s Old Boys is interesting and eclectic and marks the school out as somewhere special, as do the superb grounds in which the school rests.

It was seeing those wonderful grounds which persuaded Andy Richards that he should move from Shrewsbury School, which he had transformed into a school with sports surfaces the envy of many professional clubs, to create sports pitches to match the quality of the rest of the school.

“Shrewsbury was a great place to work and I really enjoyed it but when the Haileybury job became available I was intrigued,” explained Andy, talking to Turf Matters eight weeks into his new role as Grounds Manager at Haileybury.

Sheer Poetry

Sheer Poetry

“I didn’t know too much about the school but I looked into it and it looked impressive. When I came down for interview I was blown away by the buildings and the wonderful grounds.

The school had a really positive outlook into how they wanted to move forward and it was they who sold me the school and its potential,” explained Andy.

And that potential is truly huge.

The total area of 520 acres, all on one site, includes 300 acres of woodland.

“Woodland management is new to me, but I do enjoy it,” revealed Andy. Pitch wise, there are 17 grass pitches, two astroturf pitches, five cricket squares – soon to be eight squares to embrace girls’ cricket which the school wishes to expand.

“There is a masterplan in place stretching forward into the next 10 years and beyond with most of the facilities being upgraded. This is going to include a new cricket centre, new astroturf pitches, fitness suites, sports centres etc. It is really an exciting time to be involved here as we are right at the start of that programme.”

Sports facilities are very much what differentiates the private sector from the state sector and it is the quality of the sporting facilities and the coaching which marks one private school out from another private school.

“It’s a bit like selling a house. It is those first 20 or 30 seconds which leaves the biggest impression for the prospective pupil and parents. It is the feeling they get in those first couple of minutes, when they are driving into the school, and it can inform their whole outlook into whether they are going to invest the money into sending their child to that particular school.”

Sheer Poetry

Sheer Poetry

“It is our job to produce the best surfaces, grounds and gardens as we possibly can, and help influence that decision.”

Andy and his new team have very much hit the ground running and within his first two months in post a lot had already been achieved.

“In my first week we fraised mowed all five cricket squares and took three quarters of an inch off each square,” said Andy, revealing that it could have been the first time it had ever been done.

“We also fraised mowed the first team cricket outfield and took 20 mm off it and then we completely reseeded it.”

A recently appointed team at the head of the school, including a new Headmaster, has brought a vision to Haileybury and an ambition to improve standards. This includes a battery of new equipment.

“We are slightly limited on the machinery that we’ve got at the moment but I am working on a machinery replacement programme which will operate on a rolling basis. The school realises that it must invest in machinery and is well aware of the sort of money that will be required.”

“I have always done my own renovations and try not to use contractors at all and be completely self-sufficient. To me it’s the most important part of the job and you live and die by your renovations. I don’t like playing the blame game. We are the people who are going to be working with the pitch going forward so we are going to make sure it is right in the first place and if we don’t get it quite right we learn from it and do it right next year.”

“So, it means we need our own kit. We did a couple of passes with the GKB machine and there was a couple of wickets I still wasn’t happy with so we did them again, we got the surface exactly how I wanted. If that had been a contractor they might have done the two passes and gone on to the next job.

Sheer Poetry

Sheer Poetry

I like being master of my own destiny.”

With a man possessing of such a perfectionist streak the answer to the question, “What are your own expectations for Haileybury going forwards and that 10 year plan?” brought about the expected response.

“I’d like to get there before then. I’d like to think that in 12 months people will have started to take notice of Haileybury’s pitches, heard about us and will have seen lots of the things we have done. Within three years I’d expect it to be on a par with quite a lot of the other schools and then, within five years, I’d like it to be pushing to be as good as it possibly could be.”

“I’d like it to be THE school in the south of England, it not the country. I want Haileybury to be known for having the best sports pitches and grounds in the country.”

And that ambition is shared by the rest of the school.

“My thoughts are mirrored by the Master, the Bursar, the Estates Bursar and the Director of Sport. We all want to get to the same place, be as good as we can possibly be and be the place to be.

It really is an exciting time to be here.”

Andy has been able to make a sharp start to fulfilling those ambitions because of his time within the industry which means that manufacturers and dealers are happy to lend him machines until such time as his new battalion of machinery arrives.

He has been delighted by the manner in which his staff – there are 12 in total including himself – have bought into the new regime.

“After I was offered the job I met the staff. They put a chair in the middle of the room and I outlined my thoughts. To be honest I’ve never known a more enthusiastic staff. They wanted to change and be let off the leash.”

“I told them that I’d come here to make the school the best in the country and that I wouldn’t leave until I’d done that. If they gave me 100% I’d give them 150%. They have all bought into that and are enthusiastic about doing new things. We’ve started to hand cut the rugby pitches so they are walking behind mowers for the first time.”

“The keenness of the staff was what sold me the place as much as anything.”

In general terms Andy is delighted to be a part of a thriving sector on the amenity turf industry.

Sheer Poetry

Sheer Poetry

“To me the schools’ sector is almost in a league of its own and an extremely strong part of the industry. We all have to be multi-taskers and be able to lay out an athletics’ track as well as producing high quality football and cricket surfaces. We are evolving, there is money available and everyone is pushing each other,” said Andy.

“I know most of the Grounds’ Managers at most of the independent schools in the country and we all get on well. They all love what they are doing. Time goes so quickly because we are all working one term ahead of ourselves. In the rugby term you are already planning what you need for the football term and in the football term you are already planning what’s happening in the cricket term.

“I absolutely love it. I’ve worked in professional football, having been Head Groundsman at Birmingham City for five years, but I can’t see me ever moving into any other part of the industry,” revealed Andy, who attributes social media for promoting the work of groundsmen and for promoting the quality now seen at schools such as Haileybury.

“People who had never been to Shrewsbury School knew about the quality of pitches we had and that was in part down to Twitter.”

Those who know Andy well, know that he will achieve his goals, no matter how high the bar is set, but to help him all he needs to do is return to the work of that famous Old Boy, Rudyard Kipling and his magnificent poem, if he reads on to the final verse and the last five lines he will find whatever inspiration he requires for what lies ahead:

If all men count with you, but none too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

It’s all about Grass Seed

It’s all about Grass Seed: Stronger germination and faster establishment are key.

DLF Seed’s ProNitro Coating Technology has been helping greenkeepers and groundsmen achieve stronger germination, faster establishment and lower input costs.

It’s all about Grass Seed

It’s all about Grass Seed

Four years on from its launch, the next generation of ProNitro is now available, featuring DLF’s new Hydroactive Water Management Technology. ProNitro’s targeted combination of controlled release nitrogen and sustainable water distribution optimises the delivery of essential nutrients and moisture to the developing seedling.

With sustainability an everincreasing priority for turf managers around the world, the ProNitro coating ensures available water is used more efficiently.

“The new ProNitro formulation has been conceived and developed as a direct action for input optimization on grasses, improving water distribution in the field. Making the best of every drop of water gives both the grass seed and the fertiliser the optimum conditions for establishment, strong root development and healthy, vigorous
growth,” explained Giovanny Lopez, Lead Seed Coat Technologist for DLF.

In trials, the coated seed contributed to a 34% increase in establishing plants and a 30% improvement in root growth. In addition, the targeted nitrogen application system reduces the leaching of unutilised fertiliser into the environment by more than 50% when compared to traditional chemical applications.

ProNitro combines sources of both fast-acting and slow release nitrogen with water management technology, encapsulated in a smooth outer coating for improved seed flow and accurate delivery. This ensures the new seed receives the full benefit of the available water and nutrition, encouraging the roots and shoots to grow rapidly – particularly important when overseeding into a competitive sward.

It is suitable for use on all types of playing surfaces and is available on a selection of popular mixtures from across the Johnsons Sports Seed range. On golf greens and football pitches, even those with low-fertility, sandy soils, ProNitro provides faster establishment, bringing surfaces back into play quicker. The improved uniformity and sward density also make it ideal for turf producers by reducing the invasion of Poa annua and broad-leaved weeds. Replacing the need for seedbed fertiliser, ProNitro saves both time and money.

Leaving the Brits in the shade

Leaving the Brits in the shade: Tuesday February 18 saw two high profile events on the UK calendar. Both had a superb venue, both had a stellar cast of “performers”, both were celebrating significant birthdays, and both had an appreciative audience, many of whom had travelled considerable distances to attend.

But while the 40th anniversary of The Brits, at the O2 in London’s Docklands, experienced its fair share of drunkenness, swearing and miscellaneous bad behaviour, the 10th annual Dennis SISIS Seminar at the Emirates Riverside, home of Durham County Cricket Club, was conducted in impeccable style and there was no need for anyone to resort to the mute button to shield the audience from fruity language.

Leaving the Brits in the shade

Leaving the Brits in the shade

The weather was superb, ironic as Storm Dennis had wreaked havoc in many parts of the country but Seminar Dennis seemed to be blessed, fitting as host for the day was Durham CCC Head Groundsman Vic Demain, the man who had approached Roger Moore, of Dennis SISIS, 10 years ago to float the idea of a cricket-focussed seminar.

In 2020, with an audience of 130 plus and a list of speakers out of the very top drawer, the Seminar has come a long way since that first event in Uxbridge School back in 2011.

Delegates and speakers gathered the night before at Lumley Castle Hotel, overlooking the cricket ground and under the stewardship of the Dennis SISIS staff, Roger, Alison Pickering and Ewen Wilson, everyone enjoyed a superb meal, sharing the sort of tales and gossip which wouldn’t be surfacing in the more formal environment the following day.

Ewen and Vic kicked things off with the latter introducing Marcus North, the Durham Director of Cricket and a former Australian Test batsman. Marcus talked of the need for a strong relationship between the Director of Cricket and the Head Groundsman and how best results were achieved through establishing such a relationship and keeping their respective office doors open.

Following Marcus was Dr Iain James, of TGMA, who spoke on the Construction and Maintenance of a Cricket Pitch. Ian was followed by Ian Powell, the IOG’s Regional Pitch Advisor, who discussed Decision Making for Pre-season preparations.

Among the messages delivered was that good groundsmanship should always be tried before pitch reconstruction and that waiting was invariably a sensible option before undertaking tasks because the addition time often allowed the pitch to dry out even more.

Groundsman’s Corner preceded lunch. Hosted by Vic, an illustrious group comprising Karl McDermott, Head Groundsman at Lords; Sean Williams, Head Groundsman at Gloucester CCC; Gordon Gill, Head Groundsman at Bath Cricket Club as well as two rugby infiltrators, Jim Dawson, Head Groundsman at BT Murrayfield, and Keith Kent, Head Pitch Advisor to Rugby Groundsmen Connected and former Head Groundsman at both Old Trafford (football not cricket) and Twickenham. They talked about how they had entered the profession and shared best advice and best practice with the audience.

The afternoon session was launched by Barry Glynn, who expressed his well known frustrations of a Groundsman. Barry, now retired and based in Brighton where he plays three rounds of golf a week, is such a well regarded speaker that he has been booked to speak at the 150th birthday of WG Grace’s very own cricket club.

Barry was on safe ground and the nods of recognition and guffaws from the floor when he highlighted a perennial gripe made for an entertaining talk.

Keith Kent then took to the floor and he pointed out the synergies which exist when it comes to maintaining cricket and rugby pitches and how often, because a rugby field becomes a cricket outfield in the summer, special care was needed to ensure rogue bounces were avoided as much as possible from a well struck cricket ball.

He also reminisced about his time at both Old Trafford – complete with a picture of him playing for the Manchester United staff team – and Twickenham, where he and his small team were responsible for everything green – with the exception of the seats!

The question and answer session which closed the day was one of the highlights and covered everything from avoiding inadvertently offering information which could be used by illegal betting gangs, to the latest information on worm eradication.

Sponsors for the day included your very own Turf Matters, Limegrain, Poweroll, CricketWorld, Boughton, Fleet, Thomas Sherriff, Headland Amenity Products, SIS Pitches, Stuart Canvas Products and Facility and Sports Club Development.

Big thanks to Vic, Roger, Alison and Ewen for all the work involved in pulling such an event together, and for putting those Brits in the shade!

Case for the defence

Case for the defence: The Christmas and New Year festivities are now just a lingering memory but though the days are starting to lengthen, there’s a long way to go before the onset of warmer weather.

With the turf suffering from prolonged periods of wet weather, waterlogged and weakened roots, the grass will be stressed and more open to disease attack. Deciding on which fungicide to defend your turf territory is key to ensuring a successful outcome. For winter applications, the requirement is to identify fungicides that contain ‘actives’ which work well under cool and cold conditions and, where possible, provide added physiological benefits.

Case for the defence

Particularly effective under cool, cold conditions is the broad spectrum turf fungicide Eland and applications now will provide disease protection for up to 50 days.

This long term protection is achieved through the spray deposit being held on the leaf long enough to penetrate and be held within the leaf tissue, which serves as a fungicide reservoir constantly releasing its active ingredient, pyraclostrobin, to provide long term protection.

Eland is specially suited to being applied as a preventative treatment, especially when disease pressure is high. It is very effective against all stages of the fungus within minutes of being applied and can restrain mycelial growth to provide additional curative activity.

Case for the defence

In addition to its proven abilities as a turf fungicide, research has shown Eland to have a number of additional physiological benefits.

Such benefits include improving plant health in the form of stress management under cold conditions and during aerification. This has the effect of helping the plant and root system to endure a stressful event and overcome stress through root system retention.

In addition to combating Microdochium Patch attack, a major benefit during early winter months is that applications of pyraclostrobin allows a plant to recover more quickly from root damage or surface foliar damage caused by ball mark injury.

Of course, prevention is always preferable and more effective than reacting after the event. STRI research trials prove that preventative disease control programmes outperform curative options when analysed for turf quality, colour and presence of Microdochium Patch (right).

The eight months trial compared nine preventative and three curative programmes, as well as one untreated plot. The first three programmes used purely preventative fungicides from Bayer. The rest of the preventative plots used a combination of Rigby Taylor fungicides, together as tank mixes with plant health products to reflect a more realistic approach. See bar chart, below right.

Case for the defence

In general, preventative programmes five to seven (see graph RT prog’s 1, 2 and 3) showed the most consistent results across turf colour, quality and Microdochium Patch presence by using an integrated approach with both fungicides and plant health products. The fungicides within the curative programmes (11 -13) were applied as and when disease developed to an unacceptable level, mimicking traditional control strategies. It is important to note that none of the trial plots had any cultural controls or biological practices applied prior to or during the trial, other than mowing and switching, which was carried out when necessary.

Pre-planning and control are essential requirements as it may be necessary to integrate some of the aforementioned products into the winter programme, which will enable the plant to resist or repel disease attack and be in an ideal state to advance into the spring in a healthy state.

Revolution in professional turf care

Revolution in professional turf care: Strained sports turf surfaces are particularly stressed by the influence of walking on, playing on or driving on, which can lead to a change in the physical or chemical properties of the soil due to compaction. 

Compaction has negative effects on the vital growth of a healthy and durable grass population as well as on the functional safety due to the often highly reduced air and water permeability of the soil, a lack of water and nutrients available to plants, poor regeneration growth and changes in soil organic structure.

Revolution in professional turf care

The remedy can be found with the airter light 14160 – pneumatic soil aeration device for professionals, which loosens the lawn root zone homogeneously into a depth of 22 cm and supplies it with fresh oxygen.

This is done by steplessly adjustable compressed air in a continuous process. A football field can be completely processed in seven hours.

A total of 14 specially developed compressed air injection lances with triple jets push up to one million litres of air per pitch into the ground in an efficient working process.

The airter aerates the root zone homogeneously and with full coverage without any significant visible damage to the top surface. The penetration depth can be selected to match local soil conditions by using different lances so the soil compaction can be reduced up to 30% (verifiably tested). As a result, water flow and air circulation improve remarkably. Novokraft’s airsoftroll roller technology guarantees low ground pressure during sustainable aeration of the root zone with oxygen! Unique and unrivalled!

Advantages at a glance

• Effective and sustainable aeration of hybrid, sports and golf surfaces.
• Reduction of pesticide use and prevention of black layer through active ventilation. Efficient and biological pest control (e.g. larvae & grubs).
• Improved water absorption/storage within the root zone enabling shorter irrigation cycles and reduced water consumption, especially during the vegetation and heat periods.
• A measurable, homogeneous de-compaction of about 30% in the treated root zone layer.
• Reduction of downtime (no need for post-processing work, play areas can be walked on and played on directly, less waterlogging due to improved separating effect).
• Reduction of maintenance time (reduction of traditional aeration intervals and top-dressing needs, lower patch work and over-seeding requirements).
• Low maintenance cost (simple pneumatic/hydraulic system).
• Scientifically validated system (STRI in the UK and University of Hohenheim in Germany).
• Efficient operation (continuous operation, simple machine operation, high productivity).

The airter can demonstrably loosen the hardened hybrid turf systems. In all hybrid turf systems, the root zone cannot be optimally and professionally ventilated using conventional mechanical loosening methods (e.g. deep loosening with solid chisels).

Over time, these procedures inevitably lead to vertical compaction of the lawn base layer.

Novokraft has developed the airter to solve this problem and to professionally loosen the root zone. This prevents the formation of decomposition gases, which are toxic for lawn roots.

Practical tests on new hybrid turf fields have shown that with the loosening effect of the airter, the players subsequently felt the fields to be much softer.

Likewise, this homogeneous pneumatic loosening method massively improves all bioactivity in the soil. The airter is also ideally suited for the reliable maintenance of water permeability.

Prevention better than cure

Prevention better than cure: Ian Robson Prosport UK & Ireland Importer/Distributor for Foley United, explains why relief grinding maximises the performance of reels by giving a factory finish every time.

Firstly, why is having sharp cylinders (reels) that are the correct shape so important anyway? The answer is obvious – unhealthy turf brings a whole host of other issues which are costly to correct. Therefore, prevention is a far more economic approach than a cure.

Prevention better than cure

A huge amount of research and development has gone into designing a cutting unit to produce the cleanest cut possible with the least amount of fraying and tissue damage to the plant.

The result is that all manufacturers of grass cutting equipment supply new units with relief ground edges.

Why Relief Grind?

Tests carried out by leading manufacturers have established that relief ground cylinders stay on cut up to three times longer than spun ground ones and require less horse power to drive the unit, resulting in greater fuel efficiency and less stress on the hydraulic power systems. In addition, a relief ground cylinder will withstand the abrasive effects of top dressing far better than one spun ground because the relief edge on both the bedknife and the cylinder allows the top dressing to clear the cutting blades easily, helping to prevent the dulling effect seen on spun only units.

Continual relief grinding also decreases the squeezing and tearing of the grass as the units get dull, and most importantly it allows the cylinder to be returned to a factory specification perfect cylinder as quickly as possible.

The overall cleaner cut achieved by relief grinding gives a better after-cut appearance, increased recovery rate due to the clean cut of the grass and reduces the stress on components because less horsepower is needed to drive the cylinder.

Horse Power Study

As a reel wears flat and loses shape (becomes coned), more stress and strain is put on the cutting systems.

Using the figures from the above study a 5-gang cutting unit with relief can require up to 4.5 HP (5 x 0.88HP = 4.5HP) to drive the cutting units therefore a 35HP engine has 30.5HP remaining to drive the rest of the traction system. A 5-gang unit which has been spun ground only, can require up to 13Hp (5 x 2.59HP = 13HP) leaving only 22HP to drive the rest of the traction system.

So, it has been established that relief grinding your cutting units saves you money not only by reducing workshop maintenance time with far fewer grinds but also through a reduction in fuel costs and replacement parts.

It is also important to acknowledge what relief grinding does for a reel. By removing metal from the trailing edge of the blade it forms a relief angle, which reduces the contact area of the cutting edges, resulting in less friction, longer wear life. Typically, when a new mower is delivered the reels will be a perfect cylindrical shape. Over time the blade naturally loses shape, and the sharp edge it arrives with becomes flat and dull, often meaning the reel is no longer a perfect cylinder from end to end. This is referred to as ‘coning’ and a natural point for grinding to take place.

The decision then sits between touch-up and spin grinding, or relief grinding. If there is sufficient relief still on the reel then a quick touch-up is fine but once more than 50% of the relief has gone my advice would be to relief grind again and remove any coning. Failure to remove the coning will eventually be seen in an uneven cut appearance of your turf.

But, the main question mentioned at the beginning comes back; how to get the most out of your workshop resources by choosing the most effective method to sharpen your cutting units. The answer is to trust the manufacturers judgement and return the reels as close to the original factory standard as possible, and for that, relief grinding is the best option. The bonus is this method also maximises performance and gives the best cut.

STIHL waters run deep

STIHL waters run deep: It was there from about 20 minutes into the journey and I couldn’t shift it, not that in all honesty I really wanted it to leave. 

The musical piece which had infiltrated my brain is a tune called “Pop Looks Bach” but it is better known as the theme tune for “Ski Sunday” and the reason that it had become my latest earworm was that we were heading into the Alps, or more accurately the Tyrolian section of the Alps, not far over the German border into Austria.

STIHL waters run deep

And the reason our group, comprising of trade journalists, gardening writers from the national press and our hosts, were traveling to this hotbed of Alpine sports was, ironically, to visit a factory which produces lawnmowers and related outdoor ground maintenance equipment.

STIHL is a name renowned the world over. It is synonymous with high quality grounds care equipment whether it be chainsaws, leaf blowers, and more recently professional and domestic ride on or pedestrian mowing equipment.

But not only is it one of the best known names in the world it is also a company which has manufacturing bases all over the world too.

We were being taken to Kufstein, in the Austrian Tyrol, which had originally been home to the Viking company, but which had been bought by STIHL in 1992 and whose name was integrated into the STIHL brand just last year.

Viking’s first product was a domestic shredder in 1981, but it wasn’t until 1984 that they began producing 1984 that they began producing their own line of lawn mowers and it that those products, something which STIHL saw as squaring the circle and allowing them to offer a full portfolio of garden and landscape maintenance equipment, that brought about the union between the two.

With backdrops of snow covered peaks the factory, which has grown from 20,000 square metres to 43,000 square metres in recent times and increased staffing levels from 373 in 2015 to 650 now, is at the cutting edge of technology. So much so that we weren’t allowed to photograph any of the work going on inside.

STIHL waters run deep

The company takes particular pride in its staff who jokingly admit that, such is the length of time that most employees remain at the company, the probationary period is 10 years.

The sheer scale of the production facility at Kufstein is such that a tour of the factory takes over two hours, more if you spend longer than the allotted time watching, for example, the stress tests that every element of a machine must survive – something it was good to see the unique mono handle bars on the mowers dealing with it with considerable aplomb Suffice to say, the recently installed robotic parts’ picker proved to be extremely mesmeric and some of us had to be dragged away.

The man who is now a brand name as much as a family name – up there with the likes of (Henry) Ford; (Enzo) Ferrari; (Willian Henry) Hoover; (Walt) Disney; (Gianni) Versace and (Ronald) MacDonald – is Andreas Stihl.

Andreas was an engineer and a Swiss national, and he designed and hand built the first chainsaw back in 1926.

Andreas was onto a winner and the STIHL name soon became popular, and also synonymous with professional grade chainsaws and soon became the number-one selling chainsaw company in the world, a title that the company can still boast.

Company headquarters is in Waiblingen, Germany but has assembly facilities spread across the world in Brazil, China, Switzerland and the United States in addition to the plant in Kufstein and a sales and marketing base in Camberley, Surrey,

Now the company boasts a product range that cannot disappoint any amateur gardener or professional turf or estates manager.

Power tools (cordless, gasoline, or electric) – chainsaws, pruners, brushcutters, shredders, scarifiers, tillers, sweepers, blowers, sprayers pressure washers, pedestrian mowers, ride on mowers, hand tools and forestry accessories, Personal Protective Equipment and more recently, some superb imow robot mowers, the technology for which is growing at a pace.

STIHL waters run deep

The staff, who are blessed with the finest “views out the window” to be found anywhere in the world, are universally keen to explain and demonstrate their products.

Some, if you are lucky, are even happy to share their chocolate with groups of journalists!

What is evident is that the care shown in assembling a machine is matched by the care shown in ensuring that part has been added just as it should and that it is ready to move on to the next stage of production.

Our group of 25 was treated royally during the two days of the trip. We ate and, purely in the interests of not being reluctant guests, drank well at our wonderful hotel and two unforgettable restaurants, including the oldest restaurant in the whole of Austria.

We also took in a traditional Christmas market and the Riedel glass factory – another world renowned company in what is a relatively small Austrian town – where we watched some of the finest wine glasses in the world being produced – four highly trained people to make one glass!

With an unexpected additional cargo of wine glass, it made the flight home rather anxious for some of our party.

It was a superb, and informative, trip and a big thank you to everyone at STIHL, and HROC, for making it such a rewarding visit for us all.

I can also add that despite the surroundings no skis, nor indeed lederhosen, were donned during the trip but that earworm is still there and beginning to become a little tiresome.

Better with a bit of Buttar…

Better with a bit of Buttar…: In his first interview since taking over as Head Groundsman at Twickenham, Jim Buttar speaks to Scott MacCallum about his new role.

Sunday February 23 will be a huge occasion at Twickenham.

Better with a bit of Buttar...

It is the first chance for the 82,000 supporters to congratulate England on a fine World Cup. Sure, they didn’t get over the line in the final against South Africa, but they snatched away the cloak of invincibility from New Zealand in the semi. A feat worthy of congratulation in itself.

With Ireland the opponents it is sure to be a massive match and when the 46 players take to the field for the anthems there will be much emotion.

Add another one to that list. Number 47 will also be full of emotion, pride and a few nerves. His chest will swell and the odd tear will be wiped away as those anthems ring out.

Except, except, except…

That was the introduction to this article I had fully intended writing, until “number 47”, recently appointed Head Groundsman Jim Buttar, answered the question I had specifically posed
to elicit the appropriate response.

It was an answer which wouldn’t delight any feature writer, but would certainly please his new employer, the Rugby Football Union, and give them confidence that they had appointed the right man.

Question: “How do you think you will feel when the teams run out on February 23rd for your first Six Nations game against Ireland – Nervous, excited, proud? What do you think your emotions will be?”

Answer: “To be honest, Scott, you get to that point in your career when you’ve done a certain number of games that you have gained the ability to tune out. You are aware that it is going on but busy focussing on pitch performance and noting where scrums have taken place for repair etc.”

Thanks Jim!

In fairness, perhaps having sensed my disappointment, he did go on to throw me a bit of a bone.

“How will I feel? I think I’ll probably be a little bit excited, with it being my first match under England Rugby. It will be slightly different to what I’m used to doing.”

Better with a bit of Buttar...

But then he couldn’t help himself. “On the whole I’ll be cool, calm and collected and too busy to have my mind on other things.”

Taking over from the redoubtable Keith Kent is a big task, but Jim boasts a strong CV, one which suggests he is a good fit to maintain one of the most iconic patches of turf in, not just UK sport, but worldwide.

He was Stadium Head Groundsman at White Hart Lane for a number of years before moving to become Pitch Consultant for ProPitch, a role which saw him jetting around the world working on pitches at events such as the Champions’ League, the African Cup of Nations, the Club World Cup and the Asian Cup.

It was while travelling between two countries in his ProPitch role that he saw the advert for the Twickenham Head Groundsman job and decided to throw his hat in the ring.

“My time at ProPitch pushed me right out of my comfort zone and put me in places where I had to deliver pitches where there weren’t the resources, and there was often a language barrier.

It was a very good test for me as a manager and as a groundsman.

“I must also pay tribute to Dean Gilasbey, who was there to guide me in many of the scenarios we dealt with and how to deal with different climates and countries,” explained Jim.

Better with a bit of Buttar...

The opportunity to work with the RFU at such a magnificent national stadium as Twickenham came at a time when was spending more time away from his wife and three young children than he was at home.

As you can imagine the interview process was rigorous and demanding, while his opportunity to view the pitch itself was limited as the stadium was being prepared for a Metallica concert!

“The whole process was how I expected it would be for an elite sporting organisation – very stringent, very thorough, with lots and lots of queries and questions. Afterward there were a million things going through my mind, and I must admit, a little self doubt. As usual I sought counsel from my mentor, my Dad, who I can always rely on for sound advice.

“That advice and being at an age now when I think that’s done, park it and see what happens, saw me through and it worked out,” he revealed.

He has already prepared the pitch for a Barbarians verses Fiji match and, as we talked, he was a couple of days away from the Varsity Match. Overall, however, he has had a good chance to bed in before the start of the Six Nations.

“Because I started in a World Cup year there were no Autumn Internationals, so it’s given me time to get up to speed with policies and meeting all the different teams of people who work for the RFU. I am slowing starting to remember names now.”

Having majored in football for most of his career a move into the oval ball game presents a different set of challenges.

But he is confident that while there are differences, it is fundamentally about plant health.

“With hybrid reinforcement the grass plant for rugby are very similar to football and they are only to move so far before they able to get traction, even during scrummaging, so the aim for a rugby groundsman is the same as every other groundsman – make sure the turf is as healthy as it can possibly be,” explained Jim, who added that it was a case of working to deal with the stress of sports being played on the pitch, and in the stadium environment “We have an array of products we can use to pre-condition the pitch and help it recover as quickly as possible while the introduction of stadium lighting rigs which came out in 20052006 has been a real game changer.

There was a learning curve with something so new but in the last three or four years everyone has got to the point where we understand what they can do and how to get them to work at their best – some underestimate what they can do and others overestimate.

It was trial and error for a few years,” said Jim, who will be working with the rigs of Dutch company, SGL.

Better with a bit of Buttar...

Jim is an advocate of pitch performance data and using the evidence provided to develop the best maintenance practices for the pitch and to help other stakeholders understand with data to measure pitch performance.

“There are many variables, the most obvious one being the weather, which we can’t do anything about, but we can gain a bit of control over other variables and by checking data and tweaking practices where necessary we say that we’ve done everything possible to make the playing surface as good as it can be.”

Although born in Kendal, Jim is very much a Northamptonshire lad, commuting home daily when he was at Tottenham and it is something he will continue to do in his new role.

“It gives me time to catch up with my voicemails and make my phone calls. I like it where we live, it’s, nice, quiet and out of the way.”

As a youngster, career wise, it was toss-up between a Governmentsponsored groundsmanship apprenticeship and following his father into the Weetabix company on an engineering apprenticeship. The popular breakfast cereal manufacturer missed out and groundsmanship gained a new recruit. The thought of working in sports and being outside were the big attractions for me and making my decision And so it was a week before his 17th birthday he started at Kimbolton School, in Cambridgeshire, which combined with day release to Moulton College, in Northampton, to give him a solid start in the industry.

“I absolutely loved Kimbolton. I was working predominately on cricket and athletics, and I spent three and a half years there during which time I completed my Level 2 and started my Level 3. Then an opportunity came up at Rushden and Diamonds Football Club and I went in as an Assistant Groundsman. Three years later I was Grounds Manager. I was 22. My then boss had left to go down to Tottenham Hotspur and when a position came up there, I went for the job.

“I was 23 and thought it was now or never! I did have the option to stay but it was a chance to go and work at the very top end and it was a good time for me to go.”

That was in 2003 and by 2005 he was Stadium Head Groundsman, a position he held until 2017 when White Hart Lane closed.

He holds his first bosses in extremely high esteem and still uses the qualities he saw in them as part of his own skills’ package.

Better with a bit of Buttar...

“The Head Groundsman at Kimbolton was Andy Trainell and he was one of those guys who showed me what it took to deliver good surfaces. You have to work hard and if you think it’s not good enough then the likelihood is that it won’t be good enough. He was of the work hard, play hard mentality.

“Ray Bailey, Head Groundsman at Rushden and Diamonds, was a very laid back character, but he showed me that if things were starting to go wrong, just how quickly and easy it was to fix. Just because it doesn’t look good now doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to be looking good when we need it to look good.

“I was Deputy Head groundsman to Paul Knowles. We made a very good team and really strived to produce the best surfaces we could with the resources we had. I learnt what it took to work as a team, we still talk weekly as friends, he’s really great guy.

“Those were the cherry picks that I took for those two guys,” revealed Jim.

Other motivating driving forces over the last decade have been provided by his peers.

“There has been a generation of groundsmen who have really pushed things along and you really want to be a part of that. They are all delivering surfaces which are the envy of the world. That is what gives us the hunger to strive and keep going.”

Jim is relishing his new role and getting the pitch into the best possible condition for the Six Nations.

Better with a bit of Buttar...

Frustratingly, he has to wait for the third series of matches until that first home fixture, then has a couple of weeks to prepare for the visit of Wales.

He has touched base, via twitter, with his fellow Six Nations comrades-inarms and is looking forward to meeting up with Jim Dawson (Murrayfield), Lee Evans (Principality), Majella Smyth (Aviva) and Tony Stones (Stade de France) once engagement commences.

Before that, and a couple of weeks after we spoke, he had a double header on December 28 with Harlequins playing Leicester Tigers followed immediately by a ladies’ match. It might seem that it’s not much of a Christmas break but, coming from the congested Christmas football schedule, Jim is happy to accept his own festive assignment.

It is exciting times ahead for Jim Buttar and Turf Matters wishes him, and the rest of the grounds team, Deputy Ian Ayling and Assistant Andy Muir, all the very best for the future.

Just one thing please, Jim, give us a bit of a hand with the intro next time!