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Rain Bird Europe appoints Tina Baumgärtner

Rain Bird Europe appoints Tina Baumgärtner: Tina Baumgärtner joins the Rain Bird Europe Golf Team this month as Regional Sales Manager Golf for Central Europe, DACH region – Germany (D), Austria (A), Switzerland (CH) and the Netherlands.

Having worked in a variety of global industrial companies in sales, marketing, portfolio and technical product management, Tina has a wealth of expertise in technical and commercial sales which will significantly strengthen the Rain Bird Golf Team in the Central European region.

Rain Bird Europe appoints Tina Baumgärtner

Rain Bird Europe appoints Tina Baumgärtner

Commenting on her recent appointment, Tina said, “I see many parallels with my application experience in different sectors which I bring to the role. I am looking forward to new challenges at Rain Bird, to working in close partnership with my colleagues and all our Rain Bird customers”.

Didier Genty, Europe Golf Sales Manager for Rain Bird added: “I am delighted to welcome Tina to Rain Bird and to our expanding European team.

Tina can be contacted via email at tbaumgaertner@rainbird.eu and mobile on +49 (0) 179 617 4554.

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Can Europe be pesticide-free by 2050?

Can Europe be pesticide-free by 2050?: With the ecological consequences of food production and agricultural practices coming under increased scrutiny, and being reassessed and remodelled, a leading biopesticide technology developer believes Europe can be free of its reliance upon toxic pesticides by 2050. 

Emerging advances in biopesticides and biostimulants – eco-friendly, nature-based alternatives to the harsh, chemical pesticides we have used for many decades to control pests & diseases and increase yield – are transforming the industry. And they are ushering in a new era of cleaner agronomy that could see Europe being pesticide free in the next 30 years, envisions Dr Minshad Ansari Founder and CEO of Bionema Ltd, UK. Bionema Ltd, a Wales-based BioTech firm, develops natural products to protect crops from pests and diseases and reduce the use of synthetic pesticides.

Can Europe be pesticide-free by 2050?

Minshad chaired the Biopesticides Summit, which was held in July 2019, in Swansea. The Summit gathered hundreds of policy-makers and experts from industry and academia, to discuss the most pressing issues and threats facing crop production today and, crucially, the need to bring more sustainable alternatives to marketplace swiftly.

“We are living in very crucial times for food production and land management. Safe, responsible and sustainable food production is a cornerstone of the continued survival of life, and some of the most exciting solutions to the biggest problems facing food production are to be found within nature,” said Minshad.

“These biopesticides are, in many cases, already being developed or used successfully, and others are well within our grasp. In fact, I believe Europe can be free of its reliance upon toxic pesticides by 2050.

“We are at a point in time where the public is more aware of, or more vocal about their expectations, when it comes to the impact the practices of industry upon our environment. And public scrutiny is a very powerful driver of the practices of the biopesticide industry.

“It is very clear that we have reached a watershed moment. There is a growing acceptance among food producers that practices need to be modernised. There is a groundswell of public awareness that we cannot continue to lean upon traditional, damaging pesticides, some of which we have been using for many decades, to support production,” he said.

“The long-term negative effects of using chemical pesticides on the fertility of our land, and the threat this brings to our survival, is well documented. Also, health experts and scientists have been flagging up links between pesticide use and a host of diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, brain, prostate and kidney cancers, for many years.”

The World Health Organisation reports that pesticides are responsible for up to five million cases of poisoning each year, of which 20,000 are lethal. And, it says, pesticides affect children and infants disproportionately.

Can Europe be pesticide-free by 2050?

“The evidence to support wholesale change is there, credible science is there, the will is there, and, to some extent, the funding is increasingly there to ensure efficacious new products to fill the gap in the market created by the removal of pesticides. The remaining hurdles are largely around the slow pace of regulation and licencing these products for the marketplace,” he added.

Some of Europe’s largest growers are already reaping the benefits of using non-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides. In Spain’s notorious ‘Sea of Plastic’, the 30,000 hectare corner of Almeria which produces most of the fruits and vegetables that are consumed throughout Europe, sachets of miniscule mites are used, which are draped from pepper, tomato and courgette plants, and attack the parasites that threaten these crops. In fact, the use of insecticides in Almeria has, according to local authorities, dropped by 40 percent since 2007.

Dr Ansari says: “The biopesticide movement has experienced a very interesting development arc over the past few decades. Our use of insecticides surged in the 1960s, at a time when, at least in the Western World, there was a public awakening to the fact that our chemical-laden environment was perhaps hostile to health and life.

“However, global population pressures have driven producers to increase their output and to find ever more efficient ways of meeting demand. Insecticides have done much to help meet those needs. But, they have done so at great cost to human health, to the environment and to the long-term viability of our soil. Growers are also having to meet the man-made challenge of crop resistance to those chemicals we have been using so liberally for years.”

Firms like Bionema, Ecolibrium Biologicals, Maxstim, Aphea.Bio and many others, often working in collaboration with researchers at key universities, represent a growing number of experts who are spearheading change.

“There is still work to be done to educate farmers, many of whom are in a holding pattern of disinfecting their land with fungicides, and using other chemical agents, simply because this is what they have always done, and because these chemicals are being recommended and sold to them by companies they have dealt with over many years and which they trust.

“However, the biopesticide market is expected to grow from $3 billion dollars in 2016 to almost $10 billion dollars by 2025. Around 30% of plant protection tools now available are biological, and more than 50% of new regulatory applications are biological products.

“But the regulatory barriers are complex, and they are consistent challenges. They require the efficacy of a biopesticide to be quantified and proved, they require the biopesticide to pose minimal or zero risk, toxicological and eco-toxicological evaluations, and other stringent tests. These tests have been put in place for chemical pesticides, but they are perhaps not appropriate for biopesticides. Meeting the current requirements can be prohibitively expensive for biopesticide developers, many of which are SMEs.”

Aquatrols Europe At BTME 2019

Aquatrols Europe At BTME 2019: Aquatrols is the world leader in the development of cutting-edge soil surfactants and other speciality technologies that optimise soil : water : plant interactions and enhance the health of the growing environment in the sports turf, agricultural and horticultural markets.

Would you like to optimise your water and operational inputs? Are you looking to improve soil health and support consistent root growth?

Aquatrols Europe At BTME 2019

With the introduction of the world’s first commercially available soil wetting agent in 1954, Aquatrols created an entirely new product category to address the world’s water problem. In the 64 years following, they have continued to lead; developing innovative technologies to address inefficiencies in the growing environment and maximise grower inputs.

In addition to the premium surfactants range and with the completion of the acquisition of Farmura Ltd in January 2018, Aquatrols has been able to build on the extensive organic expertise that the company inherited. Backed by R&D and investment with STRI and other global research organisations, 2018 saw the launch of Aquavita technology. This highly refined bio-extraction process is the first of its kind in the UK market and has already been introduced commercially in the new surfactant Zipline.

At BTME 2019, Aquatrols will showcase this new technology and will also officially launch their advanced bio-nutritional product, Attain containing Aquavita technology. Industry professionals will be able to discuss the difference between the old organic product, the existing products on the market and understand how this new technology differs by improving soil health and maximising soil efficiencies.

Aquatrols combines state of the art research and development techniques, a long history of industry expertise and a technically knowledgeable sales force who will be on hand to discuss your individual turf requirements.

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British Groundsmen In Europe

British Groundsmen In Europe: Amid the spending spree since Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, the signing of a 35-year-old Northern Irishman might not have made many headlines but he arrived to huge promises from the club’s owners.

Jonathan Calderwood arrived in Paris in June 2013, headhunted on the advice of former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier. Immediately Calderwood was told he would play a key role in the new owners’ vision to make PSG one of the biggest clubs in the world.

British Groundsmen In Europe

“It was a big decision for me. It’s a huge challenge but a unique opportunity,” Calderwood tells The Independent.

As head grounds manager, Ballymena native Calderwood is responsible for PSG’s pitches being among the world’s best. When the club’s new training complex is complete, he will lead a staff of 55 groundsmen overseeing 32 pitches, including the Parc des Princes.

The reputation that brought PSG calling was earned in 12 award-winning years as Aston Villa’s groundsman. Since his arrival, PSG have complemented their domestic dominance by winning Ligue 1’s best pitch for four consecutive seasons.

While players from the British Isles have historically struggled outside their own lands, Calderwood is one of a flurry of home-grown groundsmen cutting it abroad.

On the other side of Paris, Yorkshireman Tony Stones is in charge of ensuring the turf at the Stade de France is perfect for the French national football and rugby sides. Formerly head groundsman at Wembley, Stones got his start looking after bowling greens and golf and cricket pitches in Barnsley.

At Real Madrid, Galactico groundsman Paul Burgess is another Brit considered one of the best grass masters in the world. He has spent nearly nine years overseeing Real’s pitches, including the Bernabeu stadium, after leaving Arsenal where he played a big part in the design of the Emirates Stadium to ensure optimal grass-growing conditions. In October, he was joined in the Spanish capital by Anglo-Spanish groundsman Dan Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who had been in charge of the turf at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, was poached to become head groundsman at Atletico Madrid’s new ground, the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.

British Groundsmen In Europe

From preparing penalty spots for Ronaldo and Neymar to cultivating pitches to suit the demands of coaches, the achievements of groundsmen are often unsung. With manicured surfaces the expectation in modern football, groundsmen, like referees, aren’t noticed until there’s a problem.

“Nobody wants to see a consultant when the pitch is perfect. It’s like seeing the dentist,” says Richard Hayden, an Irish grass consultant who once drove a tractor on a golf course and now advises on World Cup final pitches.

Sometimes called when the pitch equivalent of root canal is required, Hayden knows the pressure groundsmen face – from critical coaches to players looking accusingly at the grass after missing a sitter.

“It can be a very thankless job because if the pitch is perfect nobody really hears about it and nobody wants to talk about,” he says.

“I can’t watch the games. I sat in the World Cup final in 2010 and other finals and I couldn’t even take in the score during the game. My entire focus is on the turf and how it’s performing and interacting with the player.”

Calderwood says groundsmen take on a dual responsibility – ensuring the risk of injury, and a bad pitch bobble, is minimal.

“We have gone from basically cutting grass, to protecting the club’s investments. It’s almost an insurance role now,” he says.

“People talk about the Championship play-off final being the £100 million game. If the ball rolls across the six-yard area and there’s a bad bounce off the pitch so the striker misses, that can cost the club £100 million.”

Since the days of “England’s greatest gardener” Capability Brown, the British Isles has had a reputation for producing green-fingered talent. But Geoff Webb, from the Institute of Groundsmanship, says the willingness of UK and Irish groundsmen to embrace advances in technology is one reason “the rest of the world plays catch up”.

Technology has outdated the image of a groundsman as an amateur gardener casually pushing a mower around. Modern turf managers must consider everything from pesticide and fertilizer legislation, to often unpredictable stadium microclimates.

The international popularity of the Premier League – and the perfect pitches the teams play on – has also been a great advert for groundsmen.

“I have no doubt that the impact of live sport on television, for example with Sky TV, has helped raise awareness and made the UK groundsman attractive worldwide,” Webb says.

Azerbaijan-based Phil Sharples is one of those fulfilling the demand to emulate the Premier League’s pristine pitches from further afield. When he arrived in the country in 2010 there was one professional-standard pitch – a synthetic one – but the development has been such that Sharples is currently setting up Azerbaijan’s first formal qualifications to train a new generation of local groundsmen.

“Sport is developing and the demand for quality, strong, resilient and very presentable playing surfaces is high,” Sharples, whose first grass job was on a golf course in hometown Watford, says.

Dean Gilasbey, from Llanelli in Wales, has overseen the past two Champions League and Europa League final pitches and also works with Fifa to train aspiring groundsmen in countries including Iran, Macedonia and Ghana. Last year, he was in charge of pitches at the Under-17 World Cup in India.

“The Premier League is always on TVs across the world, the guys in India for example watch the matches and they want pitches as good as that,” he says.

“I have seen six out of the 10 pitches in India that would compete with Premier League standards nowadays and lots (more) across the globe.

“Slowly but surely, the rest of the world is catching up.”

Away from the British Isles’ unpredictable but relatively tame climate (notwithstanding the recent Beast from the East), challenges can be as extreme as the weather.

Overseeing pitches at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Richard Hayden developed a world-first pitch-cooling system for the Arena Corinthians, to cope with the 40-degree days in São Paulo’s rainy season. He was also tasked with recreating the surface at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv in Ukraine – while ensuring it was hardy enough to withstand minus 30-degree temperatures.

Unusually for a groundsman, Calderwood has found himself a mini-celebrity since moving to Paris. In France, where, like other European countries, it is still common for stadiums to be owned and managed by the local government, Calderwood’s signing was reported like that of a star player. Former PSG boss Laurent Blanc publicly thanked him after winning the title. And striker Zlatan Ibrahimović joked he was jealous of the attention the Northern Irishman – dubbed ‘L’Anglais Jardinier’ (‘The English Gardener’) by the media – was getting.

He has also been “pleasantly surprised” by how appreciative PSG’s superstar players are.

“These guys are world-class and when they are at that level the pitch is a weapon for them,” Calderwood says.

“It’s like a snooker player’s cue or a tennis player’s racquet. They know that to be able to perform at the highest level, the pitch is so important.”

But while he appreciates the attention on his work, Calderwood knows groundsmen are ultimately judged on the performance of their pitch.

“In football they say to a player ‘you’re only as good as your last game’,” Calderwood says.

“I’ve always said ‘you’re only as good as your last pitch’.”

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