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Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline Approaching: Over 130 delegates have already registered for Turf Maintenance Live, the annual showcase of turf maintenance equipment from leading manufacturers and distributors, which is being held at the Woollam Playing Fields, Harpenden Rd in St. Albans on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

Delegates who have already registered and are headed for St Albans represent an eclectic mix from across our industry including prestigious football clubs and stadia, tennis, horse racing, rugby and golf plus landscape contractors and local authorities.

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline Approaching

Entrance to the event, now in its fifth year, is free but pre-registration is essential with BIGGA and IOG members able claim CPD points for their attendance. There’s still time to sign-up, but with registration closing on Monday 21st October, you need to hurry to secure your place.

If you’re interested in attending the event and seeing the latest innovations and equipment in action, register by completing a registration form online at: https://www.turfmaintenancelive.com/ or email register@turfmaintenancelive.com.

ISEKI have supported Turf Maintenance Live since its conception and commenting on the event David Withers said, “Turf Maintenance Live is an excellent opportunity for many groundscare manufacturers to showcase their machinery, allowing visitors the opportunity to see a wide range of products being demonstrated all in one place.  ISEKI will have large selection of machinery available for visitors to ride and drive.  From the top spec TG tractors suitable for all aeration and groundscare needs, to the compact TM range ideal for sports pitches where a lightweight footprint is required but lift capacity and power cannot be compromised.

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline Approaching

“Alongside the tractors will be the highly renowned ISEKI mowers, designed to leave a professional finish whether cut and collected or mulched.  ISEKI machines cannot be beaten on quality and reliability.  So why not see for yourself at the Turf Maintenance Live event, we look forward to seeing you there.”

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Sports Turf Manager – FEATURED JOB

Client Details

Sports Turf Manager - FEATURED JOB

County Turf grow over 2000 acres of high quality turf and supply sports stadiums, golf courses, architects, landscapers and wholesalers.  They grow and supply the best quality natural turf for the sports industry.

County Turf are also a world leader in the Hybrid market due to years of research and experience dealing with Hybrid systems for sports use.  They have built up an excellent reputation after installing Hybrid Systems at several Premiership Rugby and Football clubs and continue to maintain longstanding relationships with these clients.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidate’s main responsibilities will be for all aspects of growing and maintaining the Hybrid sports pitches as well as managing a small operational team to help with production.

In addition, the successful candidate will be a key member in the stadium installation projects throughout the UK, and possibly Europe.  You will be in charge of running the project on site by managing all installation personnel.  Furthermore, you will be required to offer support to the Grounds Team, of each venue, post installation (both on site and remotely).

Other specific duties include:

  • Establish and maintain effective working relationships with managers, colleagues and customers
  • Possess strong communication skills
  • Meeting both existing and potential customers to explore/advise on their requirements to deliver sales
  • Representing the company at various trade shows to promote the brand and products

Due to the nature of this role, you need to have a flexible approach to working hours.  There will be a requirement to work weekends and work away from home, as and when necessary.

Essential requirements

  • Experience of Grounds Management, working in sports turf, including the maintenance of sports pitches
  • Proven experience of leading and managing staff
  • Knowledge of Hybrid systems would be advantageous for this role.

Salary

Competitive, depending on experience.

Accommodation can be arranged if required

If you are interested in this role, please send your CV and a covering letter outlining how you meet the requirements in the job description and personal specification to info@countyturf.co.uk

Wildflower Turf To Debut Products

Wildflower Turf To Debut Products: Two innovative new products have just been released by leading UK wild flower specialists, Wildflower Turf Ltd; Meadowscape Pro™ and Wildflower Turf® Finisher.

After several years of research and product testing the Hampshire-based business has announced the launch of Meadowscape Pro™, an enhanced growing medium used by landscape professionals for effective wild flower establishment which has also been used and approved by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Wildflower Turf To Debut Products

Meadowscape Pro™ allows for the creation of dynamic and biodiverse wild flower spaces in a range of settings with minimal ground preparation, saving time and money.

Extensively tested and enriched with Hydropor™, this specially developed formula supports good water percolation and retention, stabilising the growing medium for much better seed germination compared to more conventional seeding methods.

Meadowscape Pro™ is suitable for a number of different sites and the product delivers optimal seed germination leading to quick, healthy seedling growth.

The Meadowscape Pro™ range will consist of Meadowscape Pro™ Landscape, Meadowscape Pro™ Shade Tolerant, Meadowscape Pro™ Native Enriched, Meadowscape Pro™ Annuals, and Meadowscape Pro™ Species Rich Lawn.

A tailored, bespoke version of Meadowscape Pro™ can also be made available to a more specified brief, in line with individual customer needs.

In conjunction with the launch of Meadowscape Pro™, Wildflower Turf Ltd has also released Wildflower Turf® Finisher after consultation with established landscape contractors.

Wildflower Turf® Finisher is designed to fill joins, edges and small gaps for Wildflower Turf® projects and will eradicate the need for wastage of the Wildflower Turf® product when laying complex areas.

Suitable for application during or after the installation of Wildflower Turf®, this complementary product can be used to dress small bare patches that may have been created within a wild flower meadow design.

Perfect for use around trees, plants and around areas of defined shapes where cutting the Wildflower Turf® becomes more complicated and could create expensive wastage, Wildflower Turf® Finisher will be supplied in convenient 20kg bags that will ensure the highest possible standard of finish to an area of Wildflower Turf®.

Managing Director of Wildflower Turf Ltd, James Hewetson-Brown said, “We are committed to continually improving and widening our product and service offering and supplying our customers with innovative, research-led wildflower solutions. Investment in our on-site Research & Development facility ensures that all our products are rigorously tested and we will continue to pioneer new products that provide guaranteed results.”

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Register For Turf Maintenance Live

Register For Turf Maintenance Live: Registration continues for Turf Maintenance Live, the annual showcase of turf maintenance equipment from leading manufacturers and distributors, which is being held at the Woollam Playing Fields, Harpenden Rd in St. Albans on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

Entrance to the event, now in its fifth year, is free but pre-registration is essential with BIGGA and IOG members able claim CPD points for their attendance.

Register For Turf Maintenance Live

Visitors interested in attending the event and seeing the latest innovations and equipment in action can register by completing a registration form online at: https://www.turfmaintenancelive.com/ or email register@turfmaintenancelive.com .

Having been a founder member of the Turf Maintenance LIVE team, Richard Fry of Rigby Taylor commented,

“Having the opportunity to demonstrate ‘LIVE’ some the products that we distribute is very valuable. In particular, the company’s award winning range of line marking paints and applicators, as well as fertilizer spreaders benefit from being showcased in a practical use situation. At this TML event, there will be demonstrations of the latest advances in robotic line marking, allowing visitors to see how new technology is being introduced to the groundscare industry. In addition, visitors will be able to see the POGO, a major advance in water management in use, in particular, moisture measurement and recording and talk to company specialist on seed selection, nutrition and plant health.

Emma Wilson of Husqvarna added,

“We are once again pleased to be part of the TML team. This event is a fantastic opportunity to meet turf professionals face to face in a hands-on environment. In recent times we’ve seen a surge in demand from commercial businesses for battery product and new, environmentally-friendly technology. This is now becoming the choice of many businesses and at this year’s event we will be showing our latest solutions in turf maintenance, demonstrating our latest technology which covers the maintenance of all areas that complement open green spaces.

Attendees will also be able to see the latest in world leading robotics with the Husqvarna Automower® range, including the new AWD Automower®, capable of 70% slopes. Speak to the Husqvarna Commercial team for solutions and not just a product at this year’s Turf Maintenance LIVE!

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Tackling Summer Turf Stress

Tackling Summer Turf Stress: Last summer saw the highest level of drought stress the UK has seen for years, and many courses are still feeling the effects of this damage in 2019.

Heat and drought stress can often be hard to manage but by looking at above and below ground factors it is possible to mitigate the effects and maintain playability. Dr Colin Mumford, left, Technical Support Manager at Bayer, explains the management practices that can be implemented to protect courses this summer.

Tackling Summer Turf Stress

Above Ground – Heat Stress

Above ground, heat stress is a big issue during the summer months. Heat can cause scorch, wilt and eventually die back of the grass plant which can severely interfere with ball roll and the aesthetic appearance of the course.

“There are a number of management practices that can help to reduce the effects of heat stress,” explained Colin.

“In the US and other hot countries, they use a technique called syringing. This involves spraying a fine jet of water droplets into the air above the green.

“These fine droplets land on the turf and evaporate almost instantly. This rapid evaporation cools the canopy of the grass plant, removing a lot of heat.

“If this is done properly you can do a whole green in 30 to 45 seconds and it will be dry before the next group of golfers arrive,” said Colin.

“There is an argument that this will need to be used more in the UK as we seem to be getting hotter summers. But it’s a very labour-intensive process and just doing it once isn’t enough,” he warned.

“Greens need to be syringed at least seven times a day to keep the canopy temperature down. Most golf courses that do this have one or two people who carry out this process throughout the whole day.”

Colin adds that raising the height of cut as much as possible can help to take the stress off grass plants.

“By raising the cutting height, the plant will be able to tolerate stresses because the added growth will make it more resilient. However, by raising the cut height, ball speed on putting greens will be reduced,” he says.

“Therefore, if you decide to go down this route you may want to roll the greens afterwards to counteract the effects of the extra height.”

Colin explained that there are products that can be applied to help alleviate the effects of heat stress.

“UVA and UVB rays from the sun radiate heat on the grass plant causing heat stress. Bayer’s Stressgard formulated range can provide a protective barrier against this.

“Stressgard contains a pigment that coats the surface of the leaf, and significantly reduces the amount of UVA and UVB reaching the grass plant.

“It will also reduce Photosynthetically Active Radiation but allows sufficient PAR through for the plant to photosynthesise effectively,” said Colin.

Eoghan Buckley, Course Superintendent at Birr Golf Club, County Offaly, had problems with summer turf stress last year and used preventative applications of a Stressgard formulated fungicide, as part of his management programme, to prevent disease taking hold of his greens.

“At the end of June our greens endured a prolonged period of heat and drought stress. After taking advice from Greg Collins at Bayer and Aine Daly from Cropcare, I decided to apply a preventative fungicide to help with recovery and minimise any further stress on the plants.

“The results were positive, with the turf looking much healthier. Having witnessed these impressive results, I have integrated this into my turf management programme this year.

“So far, this year hasn’t been as hot as 2018, so my greens are looking in good condition. However, from what I learnt last year, taking a preventative approach to both turf stress and disease control can be vital,” says Eoghan.

Below Ground – Drought Stress

“Below ground it is all about water management. To make informed decisions it’s important to know what you are working with and understanding evapotranspiration is the best way to achieve this.

“ET is the combined effect of water loss through transpiration from the plant, and evaporation from the soil. It is calculated from weather data, and some weather data providers, such as Bayer’s TurfXpert app, provide a calculation of ET.

“Measurements with moisture metres around your course, to assess localised areas of your turf, are also important. When these are combined with ET data, you can calculate how much supplemental irrigation is required,” added Colin.

While there are lots of schools of thought around irrigation techniques, Colin recommends deficit irrigation as the best solution.

“It works by replacing between 60% to 80% of water loss, which means the soil is able to take in additional water during a rainfall event and none of it is lost through drainage,” he explained.

“This way you can make the most of rainwater and save costs on irrigation.”

He warns drainage is not only costly in terms of water loss but also because of nutrient loss.

“If drainage occurs it can leech away nitrogen and other inputs, potentially causing environmental damage and cost to the greenkeeper.”

To combat this, Colin recommends carrying out an audit of irrigation systems to ensure they are running efficiently and used wisely.

“Irrigation is a beneficial tool but if it’s overused, problems with thatch build up and annual meadow grass can occur. This is why getting management techniques and calculations right is vital,” he said.

Below Ground – Pests

Another below ground factor is the damage caused by chafer grubs and leather jackets.

“These pests can have a huge impact on the health of grass plants at this time of year,” said Colin.

“Chafer grubs and leather jackets damage the roots of grass plants meaning the grass plant can’t take up water and nutrition, leading to drought stress effects.

“There may be plenty of water and nutrition present in the soil, but because the roots are damaged, they can’t take it up. The grass plants will then show signs of drought stress, scorching and ultimately will die back.

“In this case, the only short-term answer is irrigation. However, in the long term you can tackle the pest with cultural, biological and chemical controls to prevent damage from happening.

“Introducing new grass species that have rhizomes, fescues for example, into these areas can help with this.

“The rhizomes act as a tube of stored energy below ground which helps the grass plant to cope with a degree of attack from pests.

“Aeration can also be used to create channels for the roots to grow though, allowing them to descend quickly and easily to scavenge more water and nutrients,” adds Colin.

“As greenkeepers you strive to maintain the health and playability of your course. So, doing everything that you can both culturally and chemically is paramount, especially during the hot summer months,” concluded Colin.

New Exhibitors At Turf Maintenance Live

New Exhibitors At Turf Maintenance Live: Two new companies, Agria UK and Price Turfcare, are exhibiting at Turf Maintenance Live in October, joining the established group that includes Ernest Doe & Sons, GKB Machines, Husqvarna UK, Iseki UK, Martin Lishman, Rigby Taylor, Wessex International and Wiedenmann UK.

Registration is now open for this annual showcase from the leading manufacturers and distributors of turf maintenance equipment, which is being held at the Woollam Playing Fields, Harpenden Rd in St. Albans on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

New Exhibitors At Turf Maintenance Live

Entrance to the event, now in its fifth year, is free but pre-registration is essential with BIGGA and IOG members able claim CPD points for their attendance.

Visitors interested in attending the event and seeing the latest innovations and equipment in action can register by completing a registration form online at: https://www.turfmaintenancelive.com/ or email register@turfmaintenancelive.com .

Explaining why he made the decision to join the Turf Maintenance Live team this year, Rupert Price of Price Turfcare said,

“We have been distributing the Ventrac 4500 compact tractor and its range of attachments for just two and half years and, in that short time, it has been extremely well received by the UK groundscare industry. What we have learned is that prospective customers have to see the machine, up close and personal, to fully appreciate its versatility and that’s why we’ve come on board. We’re hoping that we can demonstrate its capabilities to as many people as possible at St. Albans in October.”

Jason Bristow of Agri UK added,

“Like Price Turfcare, we are new to the UK market and this is the obvious event to demonstrate the range of equipment that we have to offer groundscare sector. Unlike SALTEX, which we will be attending later in October, the visitors here can see the equipment in a working environment and gain a comprehensive understanding of their features and benefits. We’re looking forward to seeing as many prospective buyers as possible across the two days.”

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Register For Turf Maintenance Live

Register For Turf Maintenance Live: Registration for this year’s Turf Maintenance Live event is now open. This showcase from the leading manufacturers and distributors of turf maintenance equipment is being held at the Woollam Playing Fields, Harpenden Rd in St. Albans on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

This year two new companies, Agria UK and Price Turfcare (Ventrac), are joining the established group that includes Ernest Doe & Sons, GKB Machines, Husqvarna UK, Iseki UK, Martin Lishman, Rigby Taylor, Wessex International and Wiedenmann UK.

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Open

This is now the largest Turf Maintenance Live event since its inception back in 2015 with 10 companies displaying an eclectic mix of products for the turf professional. Entrance to the event is free but pre-registration is essential.

Aimed at groundsmen, greenkeepers, contractors, local authority personnel, estate managers and schools as well as amateur and professional sports clubs, the event has an emphasis on working demonstrations and up close inspection of new products for the 2020 season.

BIGGA and IOG members able claim CPD points for their attendance.

Visitors interested in attending the event and seeing the latest innovations and equipment in action can register by completing a registration form online at: https://www.turfmaintenancelive.com/ or email register@turfmaintenancelive.com .

Val Graham, spokesperson for Turf Maintenance Live said: “Emphasis will be on live working demonstrations and product situations rather than static displays, so there’s plenty of incentive to make a day of it.

“We’re indebted to the support from the STRI and our two associate sponsors – The IOG and BIGGA – both of whom will be awarding CPD points to attendees. Starting time on both days is 10.00 with free registration and bacon rolls. Lunch is provided at no charge and those who can’t make the morning can come along grab lunch and do the afternoon session. “

Follow us on Twitter: @live_turf and Facebook: Turf Maintenance Live

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Turf Rewards Now Open

Turf Rewards Now Open: Turf Rewards is now open for 2019 enabling greenkeepers and turf managers to claim their points, and convert them into essential tools for their businesses – to further enhance turf quality and work performance.

This year there are some important new additions and upgrades to benefit from, along with a host of new qualifying ICL and Syngenta products and packages. A new look Turf Rewards website is also easier and faster to see what is available and to make claims.

Turf Rewards Now Open

Operated by ICL and Syngenta, Turf Rewards includes offers to improve turf quality, provide education, aid business management and enhance the environment.

ICL UK Sales & Development Manager, Ed Carter, reported the popular scheme has continued to grow year-on-year: “Not only do people get great quality products, but there’s the opportunity to improve turf management, business performance and the whole team – at no added cost.

“Some of these tools may be difficult to get directly from the turf management budget, but Turf Rewards makes them accessible and affordable.”

Customers simply log their purchases of qualifying Syngenta and ICL products from any authorised distributor on the Turf Rewards website, and points are automatically added to their account.

Glenn Kirby, Syngenta Technical Manager, highlighted that many of the Turf Rewards offers have been selected to improve Integrated Turf Management programmes and get the best results from the qualifying products involved.

“Using tools such as remote sensors and precision measuring devices can help with better decision-making processes. Turf Rewards makes some of the latest technology readily available, without additional club investment.”

This season there is greater emphasis on ITM packages involving ICL nutrition and Syngenta fungicide programmes designed to optimise turf health and surface quality. Some popular products and combinations carry double Turf Reward points to multiply the benefits for customers.

At West Malling Golf Club in Kent, Course Manager, Samuel Young, used his Turf Rewards to claim a Team Scout precision pedestrian sprayer. “The sprayer is great quality and very useful, but it might only be used five times a year, so without Turf Rewards it would be difficult to justify the expenditure. It’s just a great and beneficial scheme,” said Samuel.

New qualifying Turf Reward products for 2019:

  • Ryder
  • H2Pro DewSmart
  • H2Pro FlowSmart
  • Sierrablen Plus Pearl

You can view the Turf Rewards website by visiting https://turfrewards.com/

For more information, please contact ICL on 01473 237100 or visit www.icl-sf.co.uk or www.icl-sf.ie if you are in Ireland.

For more news and insightful views, you can follow ICL on Twitter @ICL_Turf

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Turf Science Lite A Success

Turf Science Lite A Success: ICL and Syngenta recently held a successful series of Turf Science Lite events, which took place at Aston Villa FC’s stadium Villa Park, Slaley Hall Golf Club in Northumberland and Liverpool FC’s Academy facility in Kirkby.

The series, which showcases the latest research information and technological innovations in turf agronomy, attracted over 200 delegates including turf managers, groundsmen, agronomists, greenkeepers and course managers.

Turf Science Lite A Success

Syngenta Technical Manager, Glenn Kirby, kick-started each event with an insightful presentation entitled Life After Propiconazole – an outlook on future disease management strategies. Within his presentation Glenn explained that good practice of integrated turf management techniques to promote turf health is going to become ever more important with the loss of important fungicide actives. He also revealed that there are exciting new fungicide options in the UK registration system, and that the company’s £1.4bn annual investment in R&D will continue to create new innovations.

“The loss of propiconazole is undoubtedly a serious concern for maintaining turf quality,” warned Glenn. “Adopting new turf technologies alongside fungicide programmes, such as Ryder pigment, Qualibra wetting agent and the potential for bio-stimulants will be key. Furthermore, pioneering innovations, such as sensor technology, predictive modelling and application, does offer a positive future for turf management.”

Dr Andy Owen, ICL’s International Technical Manager, was next to take to the stage to present The Devil is in the Detail in which he talked about controlled release fertilisers (CRF) and the technology which goes into developing each product. Andy focussed on how to select a CRF in a crowded marketplace and the questions that could be asked about products; for example, what is the % coated material in the bag? How are the claimed longevities calculated? Also featured in the presentation was the Pearl technology found within two new SierrablenPlus products and how these can be best used to support sports turf renovation and establishment.

Following a complimentary lunch, Daniel Lightfoot, Syngenta’s UK and Ireland Business Manager, gave an informative presentation on the Art of Application, explaining how best to get the active ingredient where you want it. According to Daniel, this includes understanding the product being applied, where you want it to end up and then fine tuning the variables of nozzle selection, water volume and sprayer set-up to deliver to the right place at the right time. Daniel also demonstrated how too little water volume may not achieve sufficient coverage, while too much could over wet leaves and run off. “The sprayer operators’ role is vital to balance all these factors to optimise results,” he added.

Henry Bechelet, ICL Technical Manager for UK & Ireland and Simon Taylor, ICL Product and Business Development Manager for Turfgrass seeds, were next to provide top tips on how to Improve your Grass Seed Knowledge in which they discussed various topics regarding seed breeding, selection and management. The audience were asked to select from a list of 10 seed topics and then Simon and Henry thrashed out the issues in an entertaining and forthright fashion to get to the nub of each issue.

Turf Science Lite A Success

Commenting at the event which took place at Liverpool FC’s Academy facility, Tony Sinclair, Manchester United FC Grounds Manager, said: “I came along today and realised just how important these days are in terms of upgrading your education and learning new things. One thing about the industry we work in is that everything changes so quickly and every day is a new day so it is important to keep up with everything that is going on. There is no question that as things continue to move forward ICL will be a part of that – they are a massive player in educating people around the country.”

Scott Reeves, Course Manager at Leyland Golf Club, added: “We are at an interesting point within the industry regarding the use of chemicals and there seems to be a lot hearsay and misinformation around. Therefore it is worthwhile coming to an event such as this to get an update and find out exactly where we are.”

Dr Christian Spring STRI, Research Operations Manager, said: “Today we have been looking at the practical demonstrations and they have been really fascinating because they have focussed on how to get the best out of the products we use and how to get optimum efficiency when we are applying wetting agents, fungicides, liquid nutrition and granular nutrition. It has been incredibly beneficial because it is all about getting the best bang for your buck and looking in details at all the stages we need to focus on in order to get the best possible results.”

Please contact ICL on 01473 237100 or visit www.icl-sf.co.uk or www.icl-sf.ie if you are in Ireland.

For more news and insightful views, you can follow ICL on Twitter @ICL_Turf

For the latest industry news visit turfmatters.co.uk/news

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How Turf Changed Tennis

How Turf Changed Tennis: The STRI’s Mark Ferguson explains how an improvement in the grass deployed on tennis courts changed the way in which the game was played, writes Scott MacCallum.

Remember back to the Wimbledons of the 70s and 80s. There was little British involvement beyond the second round; in the second week the courts looked like a yellow massive “T” surrounded by varying shades of green; and, for the men at least, a rally of over five shots was something of a novelty.

How Turf Changed Tennis

It was the days of Ilie Nastase, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Roscoe Tanner, and the man with the best name in the sport – Vitas Gerulaitis. It was all white balls and wooden racquets. It was also the days of the “You cannot be serious!” and “Chalk dust blew up!” moments, and the bad bounce.

To a significant degree it was the bad bounces which forced players to adopt a serve and volley approach, rather than remain at the back of the court trying to work openings but risk a low bounce ruining all the great lead up work. Racquet technology improved dramatically in the 80s and led to the grass court game becoming dominated by big servers. This meant that the game was dominated by short rallies and became predictable.

That was all to change in the 90s.

The STRI had always been involved with Wimbledon on an advisory basis, but it was in the early 90s that they became more heavily involved with the All England Club and The Championships.

As part of that a whole raft of research, surveys and botanical assessments of the courts were carried out – a programme which continues to this day.

“The most important trial was the ‘Grasses for Tennis’ trial which was set up in 1993,” explained Mark Ferguson, the STRI’s Research Manager.

“What quickly became apparent was that there were better grasses out there which could be used on the courts.

That wasn’t the fault of anyone as no research had been done prior to that and new breeding technology had only recently brought in new varieties.”

The new cultivars of perennial ryegrass provided a much better surface. More consistent than the old seed mixtures that had been based on golf course grasses such as bent and fescues, which quickly became invaded with annual meadow-grass.

“At the start of The Championships, the surface had a low bounce due to the cushioning effect of the poa, but as it wore down (to avoid using out twice?) whole plants kicked out, leaving bare patches which led to unusually high bounces. This encouraged players to keep rallies short.

How Turf Changed Tennis

With the arrival of the new rye grasses the game changed, the courts became much more consistent and players were confident enough to play from the back of courts which performed a bit more like hard courts, albeit the ball came through much more quickly.” explained Mark, who has been STRI’s Mr Wimbledon for 13 years.

“The work that has been done on grasses has played a big part in the way the game has been played.”

The current Wimbledon mixture is supplied by Limagrain and has been used for the last 10 years. It comes from three cultivars – Melbourne, Malibu and Venice.

“Breeding has hit a bit of a ceiling, improvements are now more marginal. Ryegrasses have become so good now that it is difficult to genetically engineer something which is better. There are some coming through and there are some excellent companies out there which have had great success in trials and they are tested at Wimbledon as part of the trial work.”

As part of Mark’s wider role, he is involved with the Lawn Tennis Association, ensuring that all the venues used by the LTA receive support and advice.

This is important as a few years ago the future of grass court tennis was in some doubt particularly with the US Open moving away from grass courts in 1975 and the Australian Open following in 1988.

“Funnily enough I’ve just finished writing an article called the ‘The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Grass Courts’.

When tennis became a sport everyone played on grass. Clay became an alternative in Europe and then in the 70s and 80s we got the hard courts as the game became much more fashionable. These courts were much more maintenance friendly, although I only recently learned that the US Open courts are resurfaced every year,” explained Mark, adding that the ITF now recognise 10 official surfaces but there are hundreds of variants within them.

Mark spends time visiting lawn tennis clubs up and down the country offering advice and support at places which don’t have large budgets – perhaps a one-man band looking after the courts. It is part of the LTA’s use of the revenue – £40 million a year is the latest quoted figure – which comes from The Championships.

“They can’t afford to do everything they would like, but they are doing their best to prepare a good surface and we can really help these people.

“There has to be a grass court legacy within the UK for Wimbledon to survive as a grass court tournament. There has to be a grass court season so that players can become accustomed to the grass each year and that Wimbledon doesn’t become a grass court tournament in isolation,” explained Mark.

Today’s Wimbledon is a massive sporting event – Mark believes that it is the biggest annual sporting event in the world – and Mark and his four strong team attend from the week in advance of The Championships each year.

How Turf Changed Tennis

They take daily measurements on each court, including practice courts and the qualifying courts at the Bank of England Sports Club, using the famous old Clegg impact hammer, to measure surface hardness. Soil moisture readings, ball bounce, chlorophyll index and live grass cover is also measured.

“To measure live grass cover we go to the same eight areas on each court, every day and take a count of live grass, that’s 800 spot identifications per court, per day.”

All measurements are processed and made available to Neil Stubley to direct specific management on Championships and practice courts. If, for example, a player questions the playing quality of a court, the measurements can prove that surface characteristics are consistent with other courts and other Championships.

“We have readings for every court going back to the 1990s so we can demonstrate objectively how a court is performing compared to previous years.”

Mark is a friendly, interesting and open interviewee, but there was one question which elicited a more cautious response than the others.

“Can we say now that the courts are measurably better than they were a number of years ago?” That was the question.

“I hate to use the phrase ‘better than ever’ as it is a real hostage to fortune and can become a stick to beat you with. We aim for surface characteristics to fall within certain parameters, but there are a number of factors that can influence how courts play, the weather is an obvious one, also hours of play, type of play etc”.

“Last year for example the two men’s semi-finals went to five hours 15 minutes (Djokavic-Nadal) and six hours 36 minutes (Anderson-Isner) and that put so much wear into Centre Court for the final two days. A year before there were much shorter semis and the wear would have been much less. However, Centre Court still played great for the final weekend.”

By the same token the Centre Court roof has not had a real impact on the day-to-day condition of the surface, but in another way, it does make a difference.

How Turf Changed Tennis

“The roof on Centre Court is at the north end so it doesn’t impact in terms of shade but what the roof does bring is continuous play when the rain comes. Live TV want play all the time so there is a temptation to overuse the court, and it needs to still be in good condition on day 13. Other courts are brought out of play as the fortnight progresses and there are fewer matches to play.”

With the No.1 Court roof coming into use at this year’s Championships the Centre Court workload can be managed a little more easily.

Mark is seen very much as part of the Wimbledon team, travelling down from his base in Bingley once a month throughout the year and more regularly as The Championships approach and he works very closely with Neil and his team.

Mark is immersed in tennis and doing what he can to ensure that the traditions and beauty of the grass court game are maintained, but he certainly doesn’t see it as a chore.

“For me it’s not just another job. It is an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be involved with Wimbledon. It’s an honour to be down there each year and to have an input in a positive way on what goes on.”

It’s fair to say that with Mark’s expertise and the talents of Neil Stubley and his team the future of Wimbledon is secure for the long, long term.