The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses: SubAir Systems, a high-tech system provided by Bernhard and Company to EMEA and parts of Asia, is one of the most revolutionary products in the turf industry, being trusted by some of the most famous golf courses and natural grass stadiums around the globe.

We sat down with Steve Wilson, PAC-Asia Business Development Manager from Bernhard and Company, and Matt Cindea, Global Project Consultant from SubAir Systems, to learn more about the product and why it is the ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses.

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

“As a concept, SubAir is a vacuum and aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses,” said Matt.

“In pressure mode, the system simply pushes clean oxygen into the selected root zone of any pitch or green, encouraging the best possible growing conditions for the grass plants. This is extremely important, as grass naturally develops waste gas that formulates around the root zone – even more so during high temperatures. Being able to remove these gases and replace them with fresh oxygen means that the growing conditions can be regulated continuously and kept at optimal levels.

“The vacuum mode essentially works in the complete opposite way, by pulling air out and away from the bottom of the root zone.

When you remove air from this zone, it also pulls moisture away at the same time, which allows the user to be very calculated when determining the amount of moisture they want within their soil profile.

“This use of SubAir Systems is perhaps the most globally recognised and is certainly one that our customers appreciate, because it allows them to maintain a constant moisture level despite any large storms or deluges of water that might otherwise flood their pitch or course.

“We also install sensors in the playing surfaces that can monitor the salinity, moisture, temperature and oxygen levels of the turf. The information collected by those sensors then directly feeds into our system which can create an auto-response. For example, the system can be programmed so that if there is a spike in moisture levels, the vacuum will automatically pull air out until the moisture level drops back down to the desired number.

“Initially, the SubAir product was created purely to push air into a root zone. The prototype product was actually derived from a powerful leaf blower, which was used to blow air through a drainage system to provide fresh oxygen to a green that struggled particularly badly with flooding each year. Over the course of a couple of months, it became obvious that the green was able to recover quicker due to the better-quality air circulating beneath the soil. From that came the realisation that if you could push oxygen into the subsoil, with a reversed power source you could just as easily remove air and water.

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

“Every SubAir System that we install has to contend with a different growing environment. We have systems all over the world, in Asia, North America, South America and Europe. The systems in each of those locations need to be programmed differently to tackle each totally unique climate. We work very closely with the turf manager at each individual site to determine their exact treatment requirements. With so many variables in play at each location, it is extremely important for us to go through a rigorous consultation process to understand the bespoke needs of each client and how we can deliver the best possible results.

“An example of the differing climates and how they have totally unique requirements would be with one of our more recent installations in Qatar. The amount of rainfall each year in Qatar is extremely low and the temperature rarely drops below 25 degrees Celsius.

This kind of installation very much goes against the misconception that SubAir Systems are all about moisture control. In Qatar, the turf management teams will be using the system almost exclusively in pressure mode, to provide fresh, cool oxygen to the pitches and help remove the waste gases that build up much more quickly in intense heat.”

Steve added that they had learned a lot from installing SubAir in Qatar.

“At one particular venue that is located by the coast, there is a very high water table. At this time of year in Qatar, they will overseed with Rye grass, which means they are watering the surfaces a lot. As such, the moisture levels within the turf have been very high, so they have been using their vacuum system to pull some of that moisture down which inadvertently reduced the salinity of their soil.

“In addition to reducing salinity, some turf managers will also use the vacuum system to help with their chemical applications. If they are looking to apply a root treatment, they can use the vacuum system to draw the chemicals further down into the root profile for maximum efficiency. I really can’t overstate how valuable it is to have control of a natural grass pitch, and the ability to pump in clean air and remove water. Not just from a maintenance perspective, but it is also so important from a safety side of things. The ability to dictate a perfect playing surface means that the field will be in the safest possible condition for those competing on it.”

Matt explained that each system has its own control panel that is housed on-site and allows turf managers to quickly and easily control their system.

“We have access to all our installations through an oversight app that allows us to make manipulations if requested, and we are always happy to consult with our customers on process recommendations. Ultimately though, it is a tool that we are providing to turf managers that will give them the ultimate platform to deliver the healthiest and most effective pitch or golf green.

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

The ultimate aerification system for natural grass pitches and golf courses

“It’s important to note that SubAir is by no means just a product for golf. It was developed to help and improve any natural grass pitch or green. We have installations across multiple different platforms, from golf to cricket, baseball, soccer, horse racing and tennis, just to name a few. Every installation is completely bespoke – our team of engineers will take a look at the space provided, then custom engineer a system to fit that location.

“A SubAir System is the best insurance policy in the world for sporting venues that host major events or tournaments. Events that take place on an international or global scale have millions, if not billions of dollars pumped into them – look at the World Cup for example. If the heavens opened and a deluge of rain came down, it is completely feasible that pitches would quickly become unplayable and the cancellation of games in international and global tournaments can cost organisers millions. In the grand scheme of a project, having that insurance when it comes to game day is priceless.

“The future of SubAir is extremely bright. Maintaining a pitch is far more than throwing some seed onto a field and applying some fertilisers. Turf care is a science and modern-day expectations are very high.

When new pitches and golf courses are being created, everything has to be done to the highest possible level, including the turf, and SubAir is essential if you are looking to deliver the very best possible turf.”