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Making sport possible

UP AND RUNNING How ECB new recruits are ‘getting the game on’ post COVID

GRAY LEAF SPOT DISEASE Part 2: How to manage it

PITCH ADVISORY SERVICE

Improving grassroots natural turf pitches

NEIL RODGER

Q&A with Playing Surfaces Committee member

June 2021 | £4.00

GROUNDS MANAGEMENT


JUNE 2021

WELCOME Cautious optimism On the back of extended sport restrictions caused by the pandemic, May was a record breaker for rainfall, which has caused further frustration for sports participants, as well as for those of you who prepare the surfaces – particularly in finding a window to renovate winter pitches in time for the new season. However, the past year has allowed us to focus on some of the future challenges our industry faces. These include the falling number of new recruits, industry pay and working conditions and adapting working practices that relate to energy efficiency and sustainability – which are all set to dominate the GMA’s narrative in the coming years. The GMA has also reflected on its membership offering since the pandemic. Mental health is at the forefront of discussions on how we ensure members get the support they need. We are also looking at how we can help businesses bounce back, and how to harness the power of sport to capture a new generation of professionals into our sector. We will not shirk the challenge and, over the next few months, we will be reviewing our membership offer so that we can support you and – at all levels of the profession – enhance the public’s understanding of your role and develop opportunities for your career progression. Together we look forward to better days ahead as we emerge from what has been a very sobering experience for us all.

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REGULARS

FEATURES

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Industry news News and product innovations from across the industry

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PAS update GMA secures investment to boost grassroots sport

Cricket – growing the game How the ECB’s Dr Iain James and Andy Mackay are helping cricket get its game back on, as COVID-19 restrictions lift

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Gray Leaf Spot Part two of an in-depth look at gray leaf spot – a potentially devastating turfgrass disease

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Soil-based rootzones and topdressings STRI’s trial on the benefits of using soil-based rootzones and top dressings to construct, maintain and repair pitches

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Maintenance tips What to do in July

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In Action BLEC steps up at Congleton Lawn Turf and an ISEKI upgrade for NHS Tayside

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Product Showcase Spotlight on natural and artificial turf maintenance, and line-marking

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60 seconds with... Quickfire questions with STRI’s representative on the Playing Surfaces Committee, Neil Rodger

Geoff Webb

This magazine is printed using paper from responsible sources

Chief Executive Officer Grounds Management Association

Next issue of

GROUNDS MANAGEMENT out from August

GROUNDS MANAGEMENT ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Editorial address: 28 Stratford Office Village, Walker Avenue, Wolverton Mill East, Milton Keynes MK12 5TW | t:01908 312511 GMA membership and general enquiries: t:01908 312511 | e:membership@thegma.org.uk Magazine subscriptions: Jo Cornford | t:01908 312511 | e:accounts@thegma.org.uk Subscriptions: £72 UK | £82 Europe | £112 rest of world Published by: James Pembroke Media ■ Editor: Karen Maxwell | e:editor@thegma.org.uk | t:07866 736597 Publisher: James Houston ■ Product editor: Davina Rungasamy | e:davina@jamespembrokemedia.co.uk Head of design: Simon Goddard

GROUNDS MANAGEMENT is published monthly by the Grounds Management Association. All material is copyright of the Grounds Management Association and may not be reproduced without permission. The publishers do not accept responsibility for any advertisement appearing in the journal and cannot be held liable for editorial omissions or errors. The views expressed in the journal are not necessarily those of the Grounds Management Association.

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 3


UPDATE

UPDATE | NEWS

THE LATEST HEADLINES FROM GMA AND THE INDUSTRY

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

GMA member benefits update Watford FC won the Championship League EFL Grounds Team of the Season

AWA R D S & R E C O G N I T I O N

PL & EFL Grounds Teams of the Season revealed AS THE 2020/21 campaign draws to a close, Premier League (PL) and English Football League (EFL) grounds teams have been recognised for their continued commitment, as things were made difficult due to the lack of time for pitch maintenance, as well as the intense fixture schedule, following the outbreak of COVID-19. Manchester United FC are winners of the PL Grounds Team of the Season award, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur receiving Highly Commended status. In the EFL, Watford FC won the Grounds Team of the Season award

in the Championship, with AFC Bournemouth and Stoke City gaining Highly Commended recognition. Doncaster Rovers won the Grounds Team of the Season award in League One, with Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth and Shrewsbury Town given Highly Commended status. Forest Green Rovers are Grounds Team of the Season winners in League Two, with Carlisle United and Cheltenham Town gaining Highly Commended. Congratulations to all involved.

THE GMA IS pleased to announce it will be reissuing the printed edition of Grounds Management magazine to run closely with season maintenance diaries at least four times per year. This issue will be the last monthly edition, with seasonal publications commencing from August this year. This initiative will be supported by the provision of an increase in GMA content online, which will include podcasts, videos and blogs, plus regular digital newsletters and social media engagement to provide a steady stream of technical and trendfocused information relevant to seasonal tasks. This exciting online activity will be supported by a new-look website, to launch in 2022, which will create an easily accessible online experience for members. thegma.org.uk

efl.com, premierleague.com P R O F E S S I O N A L S TA N D A R D S

GMA signs MOU with IGH

NEWS

Obituary: Mike Lewis WE ARE ALL saddened to hear of the passing of long-term GMA member and former voluntary sector Board Member Mike Lewis, who has died after a short illness. Mike embarked on his turf management career in 1962 at a local nursey where, after gaining qualifications, he was appointed landscape contract supervisor. He then moved to Shropshire County Council as

a team leader and gained his IOG (GMA) International Diploma in Turfculture. In 1995, Mike moved to Midland News Association where he managed a number of sites, as head groundsperson, for 16 years and then moved to teaching turfcare and landscaping skills to special needs college students. Mike was a longstanding member of the GMA and also a highly respected and

active member of both the Shropshire Branch and Midland Region. His hands-on approach to supporting the GMA at both branch and regional levels covered a number of roles ranging from treasurer to chairman. Mike was awarded a GMA Lifetime Achievement Award for his invaluable services to the industry.

THE GMA AND the Australian-based International Greenkeepers for Hire have signed up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to assist with maintaining the highest standards of grounds management and the promotion of the profession on a global scale. This agreement includes joinedup thinking on the development of best-practice advice and support, the sharing of relevant case-studies and helping individuals to access roles and networking opportunities to advance their career opportunities. internationalgreenkeepers.com

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NEWS | UPDATE

S A LT E X

Exclusive: SALTEX registration prize AHEAD OF SALTEX 2021 opening for visitor registration, the show organisers have announced an incredible prize worth approximately £30,000 from Avant UK, which will be presented to a lucky visitor at the show. Taking place at the NEC, Birmingham, on 3 and 4 November, the 75th annual SALTEX event will feature more than 400 exhibiting brands, and will offer visitors an opportunity to experience the latest industry trends and innovations, enhance their education and learn from industry experts. In addition, one lucky visitor will be presented with a battery-powered compact loader from Avant UK – headline sponsor of the Eco Village show attraction. This area will feature daily product demonstrations of cutting-edge, sustainable technology. The Avant e6 is the first compact loader with a lithium-ion battery, which can be fully charged within an hour and operated for

The Avant e6 is the first compact loader with a lithium-ion battery

up to four hours. Attachments on the Avant e6 include brushes, aerators, forks and buckets. The winner will be randomly selected at the show through a live draw, and will get attachments and a charging station, plus an Avant e6 on loan for a set period. To be in with a chance of winning the prize all visitors need to do is register for SALTEX 2021 and visit the Eco Village and the Avant UK stand (E1) at the show. gmasaltex.co.uk

AWA R D S

Sprayer operator of the year THE AMENITY FORUM Sprayer Operator of the Year Awards are back, offering the chance to win a weekend away for two, along with essential education and useful tools to further improve your performance. Managed by the Amenity Forum, and sponsored by ICL and Syngenta,

The awards recognise the role sprayer operators play in turf management

the Sprayer Operator of the Year looks to identify and reward all individuals operating to the highest standards and professionalism. It also recognises the essential role sprayer operators play in the effective management of turf, landscape and amenity areas. There are two prize-winning categories to enter: Landscape & Industrial; and Sports Turf. Both tractor-mounted and handheld sprayer-operators are eligible for both categories. The category winners will be announced from a shortlist of finalists at the Amenity Forum Conference. The overall winner will be announced at the BTME 2022 event in Harrogate. Applications should be made on the ICL website or the Syngenta GreenCast website.

I N D U S T RY N E W S

Wellbeing survey launched PERENNIAL HAS TEAMED up with the Stress Management Society to launch the Horticulture Industry Wellbeing Survey, which aims to help create better futures for people in the industry. The survey, which is open to people who work in all areas of horticulture, is anonymous and takes just 10 minutes to complete. The insights will then be shared with the industry and will help Perennial develop services to offer support. The results will provide a greater understanding of the challenges people are facing and the issues affecting them. perennial.org.uk/survey

icl-sf.com, syngenta.com

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 5


UPDATE | PRODUCTS

H U S QVA R N A

Expert mowers

STIHL

KombiEngine addition STIHL HAS LAUNCHED the new KMA 135 R, adding to its range of high-performance KombiEngines for professional users tackling tough jobs. Featuring a sturdy new battery housing, users can now easily slot in STIHL’s high-performance 36V AP batteries, adding greater versatility to carry out the quick jobs where KombiTool’s are so effective. As well as delivering excellent performance across a wide range of KombiTools, the motor requires minimal servicing, while the easy-to-clean air filter ensures a long service life and optimum engine cooling. The KMA 135 R has an ergonomic control handle with three-level speed pre-selection displayed on a LED panel. There is also variable speed control on the trigger to perfectly match the KombiTool and the work being carried out. Meanwhile, a quick-release coupling allows the splitting of the KombiSystem into two parts for easy transport and storage, and reassembly without any tools required. stihl.co.uk

THE HUSQVARNA RIDER 214TC was voted ‘Best Choice’ at the PriceRunner 2021 Awards. The mower has excellent comfort and manoeuvrability, as well as superb cutting results and suitability for many different natural turf surfaces. The fast, rear-wheel drive ride-on machine also has a replaceable frontmounted cutting deck, meaning it can be equipped with accessories such as a snow shovel, brush or aerator. Other winners from Husqvarna included the R 216T AWD ride-on lawn tractor, which was voted ‘Best Premium Choice’, with its terrain-handling abilities shining through. It is also userfriendly, easy to start, and delivers outstanding cutting with its Briggs & Stratton 12.8kW petrol motor, 12-litre tank and 10-step cutting height of 25-75mm. husqvarna.com

A G R OV I S TA A M E N I T Y

The Naturelle way AGROVISTA AMENITY HAS announced the launch of Evolution Naturelle – a unique range of fertilisers, which replaces the popular Marathon portfolio of products. The premium range of organo-mineral fertilisers are designed with a unique mode of action, and key features include low carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, complexed potassium for slow release, and no scorch risk due to low salt index when applied at the correct rates. Evolution Naturelle also promotes stimulation of bacterial soil life helping reduce thatch build, while ammonium produces large volumes of root hairs to ensure active uptake of micronutrients. amenity.agrovista.co.uk

K U B O TA

New stage for compact tractors JAPANESE MANUFACTURER KUBOTA has updated its range of L1 and L2 Series compact tractors with Stage V engines, and an overall design refresh. Kubota tractors are spacious and comfortable, with the L1 Series featuring a folding rear ROPS frame and height-adjustable steering wheel. The L1 also includes a generous rear lifting capacity at a maximum of 1750kg.

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Compact tractors in the L2 Series combine comfort and efficiency, ideal for demanding work. They have a user-focused design, featuring a onepiece engine cowling that can be fully opened, giving operators effortless access to all-important service points in the engine compartment. kubota-eu.com


PITCH ADVISORY SERVICE UPDATE | INVESTMENT

GMA SECURES £3.9M INVESTMENT TO HELP BOOST GRASSROOTS SPORT The newly named Pitch Advisory Service gains further support from Sport England and its NGB partners to help improve natural turf pitches across football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league

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Jason Booth GMA COO

I’M THRILLED TO REVEAL that the GMA has secured a £3.9m investment from the Premier League, The FA, the Football Foundation and Sport England to help deliver the third phase of the pitch improvement programme that supports local communities and players. Since 2014, we have grown stronger with each phase of delivery. Now, six years later, we’re seeing huge progress through enhanced education and training of both volunteer and professional grounds managers. Formally known as the Grounds and Natural Turf Improvement


INVESTMENT | PITCH ADVISORY SERVICE UPDATE

Programme (GaNTIP), the newly named Pitch Advisory Service (PAS) is part of the GMA’s ongoing commitment to help improve natural turf provision across football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league at grassroots level, in joint collaboration with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL). After a year of disruption to sport, the GMA’s Pitch Advisory Service will continue to focus on raising the standards of pitches to increase playability, maximise player experience and decrease the number of cancellations due to declining pitch quality.

Grounds management specialists PAS provides an enhanced network of GMA turf care specialists, available to people and organisations maintaining natural turf pitches within local communities, and with the boost in funding, the number of GMA advisers is up by almost 30 per cent. The programme also offers access to dedicated, sportspecific, key account managers at the GMA – a team of grounds management specialists bringing years of grassroots and professional knowledge to the programme. These managers work collaboratively with each NGB, as well as Sport England, to deliver national objectives to sustain high levels of sport and physical activity, now and in future years. During 2019-20, our regional pitch advisors visited more than 4,500 pitches, within the programme, improving grounds maintenance practices at 91 per cent of the sites visited. With lockdown placing sport and physical activity on hold, maintaining playing surfaces remained a vital task for volunteers across the country. New digital applications, such as the Football Foundation’s PitchPower, helped clubs facilitate pitch inspections during restrictive periods, which were each reviewed digitally by the GMA’s regional pitch-advisors removing the need for a face-toface site visits.

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, PitchPower allowed our team to carry out three times as many pitch assessments as before it was launched, and it will remain an important tool as restrictions lift. In addition, the Football Foundation Groundskeeping Community app, managed with support from the GMA – saw a 43 per cent rise in users during lockdown, and now has 2,670 engaged members, with numbers continuing to grow.

Ongoing support Innovative and collaborative practices, such as online services and applications, are at the centre of the Pitch Advisory Service. We aim to provide high-quality recommendations and advice to best support clubs of all shapes and sizes, as well as local authorities, both online and offline. The GMA exists to support volunteers with information, advice and guidance – connecting it with a network of groundspeople from all walks of life. Through our research, we will continue to highlight the challenges within the turf care sector, but we’re now focused on developing the future workforce with the aim to recruit, retain and reward volunteers for their commitment. We will also continue to look at ways to encourage women and individuals from diverse backgrounds to get involved, with the aim of building a stronger workforce. Next year, we aim to launch an industry-leading Pitch Grading Framework to provide a benchmark for pitch standards, alongside an affordable education pathway for all grounds staff and volunteers to gain the right level of understanding for each type of pitch. We hope this programme signals a change in fortune, particularly at a time when restrictions ease and a sense of stability begins. In the future, we envisage that even more people will be able to enjoy the benefits of playing surfaces – whether it’s to develop their sporting talent or just for fun. ■ For more info visit: thegma.org.uk/whowe-are/research-and-funding/groundsnatural-turf-improvement-programme

“We are delighted to be working with partners to deliver the Pitch Advisory Service. This collaboration will provide an exciting and transformational service to improve grasspitch quality and develop a more diverse and experienced workforce of groundspeople.” Charles Johnston, Sport England executive director of property

“Over the past six years, the Pitch Advisory Service has done a wonderful job supporting community football clubs to maintain and improve their grass pitches. During the pandemic the network came into its own; quickly adapting to work with new digital tools, developed by the Foundation, to ensure pitch quality didn’t suffer as a result of the restrictions. This new funding means the PAS can continue to do essential work, providing the football community with the information, training and skills needed to raise the standards of football pitches for the millions of community footballers in England.” Robert Sullivan, Football Foundation CEO

DURING 2019-20, REGIONAL PITCH ADVISORS VISITED MORE THAN 4,500 PITCHES – IMPROVING MAINTENANCE PRACTICES AT 91% OF THE SITES VISITED thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 9


GMA NEWS | LEARNING

GMA TAKES 3G PITCHES COURSE ONLINE The latest addition to the GMA online training covers all aspects of maintaining 3G pitches

FOLLOWING A YEAR of significant growth to its online resources, the GMA has launched its Level 2 ‘Effective Maintenance of 3G Pitches’ training course. The online course is designed to help participants understand how to effectively maintain a 3G pitch in order to provide a safe Miri Buac surface, while meeting performance criteria and Head of optimising its longevity. ‘Effective Maintenance communications of 3G Pitches’ also helps participants understand the signs that display when a surface is coming to the end of its life. With the role of grounds staff and volunteers diversifying, it is increasingly important for more individuals to understand how to maintain and extend the life of different types of playing surfaces. The course is suitable for both professionals and volunteers with basic experience, as well as others involved in sports facility management, who wish to gain more understanding of the maintenance and upkeep of these surfaces on varying budgets. The course is available to purchase via the GMA website for a member and non-member rate. The association now holds seven online courses and aims to relaunch its Continuing Personal Development programme next year alongside its new website. With restrictions now easing, the GMA hopes to reopen its face-to-face practical sessions that complement its online resources, such as its online courses and the Grounds Management Toolkit, later this year. Commenting on the course launch, Jason Booth, COO at the GMA says: “We have seen increasing pressures on grounds staff and volunteers like never before. Facilities are The GMA is a not-for-profit organisation and often understaffed, we thank Redexim Charterhouse and Replay so groundspeople Maintenance for their contribution to this are expected to course. To view a full list of our Corporate understand more and Corporate Plus members, please visit about a range of https://portal.thegma.org.uk/membership/ surfaces and offer corporate_partners/all a helping hand across local networks.”

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He continues: “Contrary to belief, 3G surfaces are not low maintenance and they require a high level of knowledge to fulfil their lifespan. “This course complements our wider learning programme that focuses on grass pitches, helping groundspeople gain relevant skills and best practices when dealing with 3G surfaces.” ■

To find out more information about this course visit: www.thegma.org.uk/learning To discuss a GMA bespoke course at your venue, please contact learning@thegma.org.uk


BEST PRACTICE | ECB INTERVIEW

CRICKET – GROWING THE GAME Dr Iain James and Andy Mackay joined the ECB as COVID-19 restrictions began to disrupt the delivery of sports events a year ago, but with the combined efforts of the NGB and its grounds community, they’ve been able to ‘get the game on’

Andy Carmichael Freelance writer

THE CRICKET SEASON is currently well underway, as evidenced by the hailstones bouncing off the roof as I write this article. It’s a reminder of the challenges of our weather, the particular struggles experienced by cricket groundstaff, and the importance of having a support network within the game. To understand how that network has developed, I spoke with Dr Iain James and Andy Mackay, new ECB recruits, but each armed with plenty of cricket experience. Iain was appointed head of facilities services at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in April 2020 and is well-known for his research and advisory work in cricket. Andy, formerly head groundsperson at Sussex County Cricket Club, was recruited as the national governing body’s pitch and grounds advisor a month prior to his colleague.

They had both experienced a year of rapidly changing events and responses, which was “very different from the work I expected to be doing…” says Iain.

COVID-19 guidelines That work has seen Iain writing COVID-19 guidelines for cricket, right across the game from village to international standard. If this sounds difficult, then consider the fact the governing body encompasses two nations, with England and Wales maintaining separate lockdown restrictions and different timescales for the easing of these. Similarly, Andy found himself in the middle of efforts to support the sport through the pandemic. Not least of which was the decision to minimise risk in the international sphere by hosting consecutive Test matches at Old Trafford. To consider such a move under normal circumstances would be unprecedented, to do so in the summer of 2020, with all its health and safety concerns, was hugely ambitious. And yet, it was achieved, with no adverse consequences and a huge boost to the ideas of what might be possible. While nobody needs reminding of the consequences of the pandemic, it was pleasing in a professional capacity for Andy and Iain to see their sport being played and offering some hope for better times. That there was a cricket season last year, not just internationally but at recreational level too, was an incredible achievement, one that looked in doubt when lockdown was introduced on the eve of the opening matches. The efforts of the ECB, and community of groundstaff they support, in ‘getting the game on’ cannot be overstated.

Volunteering spirit The ECB are keen to support volunteer groundstaff

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Iain and Andy both remain involved in local cricket. Iain prepares pitches at his local club, and Andy, having recently moved up north, has offered his services to his nearby club. This proves how close


ECB INTERVIEW | BEST PRACTICE

the voluntary grounds care sector is to the elitelevel in the sport. Help and advice flows between the two, people can begin by helping at their village venue and progress to a career reaching the top of their profession. Those at that level now will happily share their expertise in pursuit of something they simply enjoy. The pair concur that being outside, trying to create the best surface possible, amid all the challenges that arise, is its own reward. If those challenges require a groundsperson to seek additional support, the initial action would be for the club to contact the local cricket board who would involve a county pitch advisor. If work is likely to be more substantial, they liaise with their regional ECB advisor, and Iain and his team would be brought in to help the club make sense of processes – such as consultancy and planning – to achieve the best possible outcomes. For Iain, it is all about the outcomes, whether that’s the implementation of the new Pitch Advisory Service, developing training courses, refining the Pitch Grading Framework or delivering information programmes for groundstaff. In this, Andy has a crucial role raising the understanding and expertise across cricket grounds management.

ECB members often lend their expertise at local cricket grounds

Future planning The ECB team also includes a person with responsibility for sustainability, a vital consideration if the sport is to negotiate the challenges of the next few decades. There is opportunity for a sport to lead on this, in a sector that is seeing the volume of relevant research work expanding rapidly. Regarding similar ambitions in technical support for groundstaff, the ECB is also investing in research, and through my discussions with Iain and Andy, they are focused on what they want to achieve and are working together to attain that. This cooperation extends beyond the individual sport, with the ECB being one of four NGBs involved in the Pitch Advisory Service – a new and exciting multi-sport programme supported by Sport England. Iain explains that the Pitch Advisory Service will look to bring the Pitch Power app (currently being used successfully by football groundstaff) to cricket. This aligns with one of the ECB’s objectives to reinforce the pitchadvisor network, and he is keen to highlight it is a programme that has “been designed by grounds managers for grounds managers”. They are both keen to support the volunteer groundsperson, to whom the sport owes so much, and emphasise how essential it is to help the person who may be in the position of having to prepare a pitch for the first time. It can obviously be a daunting prospect, and they believe we need to embrace the importance of the groundsperson, highlighting the crucial role that pitch preparation constitutes in an event’s outcome. For now, they are hoping for a more stable year, building upon

The sport has the ability to lead when it comes to issues such as sustainability

All levels of the game were impacted by COVID-19

the work over the past 12 months. Research has shown that better facilities for sport are essential for attracting and retaining players. After a year of restricted activity, attracting a wide range of participants to play the game and enjoy its health and social benefits is crucial. Whether it be the junior All Stars initiative, up to adult cricket, indoors or out, the work that Iain and Andy is doing is key to growing the game. ■

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 13


Photo Andy Cole - iTurf Management

TECHNICAL UPDATE

PART TWO

HOW TO MANAGE GRAY LEAF SPOT DISEASE If left unchecked, Gray Leaf Spot disease could kill a stadium pitch within a couple of days. Part 1 of this two-part article, published in the May issue, looked at the fungus, how it infects the plant and the symptoms. Part 2 now looks at minimising a potential occurrence and how to manage an outbreak

Sabine Braitmaier Managing director, ProSementis GmbH

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Dr Deborah Cox Lagan Valley Scientific

Dr Kate Entwistle The Turf Disease Centre


GRAY LEAF SPOT | TECHNICAL UPDATE

Cultural conditions that help reduce Gray Leaf Spot (GLS) disease development should focus on reducing temperature and relative humidity around the turf. Sustained temperatures above 28°C promote rapid disease development. The use of cooling fans in stadia, for example, will decrease air temperature to approximately 6-10°C below the ambient temperature and the fan alone will help dry the leaf surface. By ensuring the rootzone does not remain wet around the base of the turf, we can decrease humidity in the sward. It is important in high-sand-content rootzones that the plant does not suffer drought-stress. Irrigation timing and application volume are critical factors during periods of potential disease activity, to ensure the plant has access to sufficient water, but that the leaf surface is kept dry for as long as possible. Ideally, susceptible turf should not be irrigated after 6pm, so that the leaf surface remains dry overnight. Nutrient availability is also a key factor. Observations have shown GLS disease severity typically rises with increasing and rapidly available amounts of nitrogen (N), whereas controlled-release fertilisers can help reduce the risk of disease. Low rates of nitrogen, applied at shorter intervals, are less likely to encourage disease and, ideally, application rates should be kept below 1.25g N/sq m/ application. Balanced nutrient availability, at rates needed to maintain strong turf growth, should reduce the plant’s susceptibility to disease and enable it to grow through minor disease outbreaks. Rapid, weak leaf development should not be encouraged, as this will be more susceptible to infection by the fungus. The turf should be maintained at an optimal height for the grass type, but where disease symptoms begin to develop, the height of cut can be lowered slightly and the clippings removed. This height reduction is the opposite to what would be recommended for minimising other Leaf Spot diseases (typically caused by Drechslera spp. or Bipolaris sp. fungi). If GLS is severely affecting the turf, clipping removal is unlikely to make a significant difference to the disease progression.

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Disinfection system with foam

We know that young plants are susceptible to infection and, therefore, where disease has previously been confirmed on a site, be prepared for a likely infection at four to five weeks post-emergence.

Disease-tolerant grass There has been worldwide interest by turfgrass breeders to produce grass varieties (cultivars) that show reduced susceptibility to GLS disease and several such varieties of L. perenne are now available. Since 2000, Lolium perenne varieties have been developed and tested in the USA for tolerance to GLS at the various sites of NTEP (National Turfgrass Evaluation Program: www.ntep.org) and at Rutgers University in New Brunswick (NJ) (https://turf.rutgers. edu/research/reports/). Breeders in the US refer to ‘GLS Resistant’ varieties, but these plants actually have reduced susceptibility to infection. On previously affected sites or on turf where infection could potentially develop, the use of these GLS-tolerant varieties is highly recommended. Varieties showing reduced susceptibility to GLS, have a darker green leaf colour than many L. perenne varieties and may not blend well in an existing turf. However, in Germany (since 2017) and in Austria (since 2018) many previously affected stadia have used the dark GLS-tolerant varieties after their Koro-

renovation. High seed purity is essential for these varieties because ingress of the pale-green Poa annua or P. trivialis will be more obvious through the turf. Another option is to use grasses that are not affected by the disease. For a sports field, the use of Poa pratensis might be considered, but with different germination and establishment rates between the grasses, P. pratensis could be an unsuitable choice in certain cases. Some grounds managers have achieved success in limiting GLS infection by seeding initially with 100 per cent Poa pratensis (dark varieties) and some weeks later, overseeding with 100 per cent GLS tolerant L. perenne. Other managers are using a hybrid system consisting of a 30 per cent Poa pratensis and 70 per cent of GLStolerant L. perenne mix of varieties for the summer renovation.

Disease control Fungicide applications will be effective against the causal fungus, but as GLS becomes increasingly aggressive through the summer months, the relative efficacy of fungicides is likely to be reduced. Early or preventative applications will effectively manage summer outbreaks, but there have already been reports of resistance or reduced susceptibility to the strobilurin and DMI fungicides. Products with a multi-site mode of action are likely to

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Photo grashobber GmbH & Co. KG, Germany

How can we manage this disease?


GLS can partially or completely destruct a stadium pitch within 3-5 days

offer a more dependable, long-term control and should be included in any fungicide programme. There has been research into potential biological control of GLS by using bacteria populations or Trichoderma sp. formulations to naturally antagonise the pathogen population. However, the limited and inconsistent evidence of any significant control means this should not yet be relied upon to produce an effective management option. In recent years, there has been much use of UVC to manage fungal spore inoculum (primarily spores of Microdochium nivale) on leaf surfaces, and it could be a benefit in an integrated programme against Pyricularia spores too. Although it is unlikely that UVC would target inoculum around the base of the turf or fungal mycelium in plant debris, any positive reduction in spore activity on the leaf surface will reduce infection rates. On areas of L. perenne turf where this disease is not yet established, it’s worth investing in all options that aim to minimise the potential introduction of fungal spores or infected plant material that will act as a primary inoculum for the disease. All equipment used on different sites/ pitches should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with special disinfection

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Disinfection mat

IT IS CRITICAL TURF IS MONITORED FOR EARLY SIGNS OF INFECTION

Molecular biology has the advantage of detecting species-level specificity and excellent sensitivity, making it well suited to surveillance programmes and preventative strategies.

In conclusion systems, before being allowed onto a new turf area (see photo 1, previous page). Even the smallest amount of infected plant material could start a disease epidemic, which may result in complete loss of the turf. All footwear should be cleaned before entry on to the turf, because spores of this fungus can be easily moved between sites in debris from affected areas. Disinfectant mats may be used (see photo 2, above) – especially on sensitive sites or where foot traffic is difficult to control. With airborne spore movement, these mats should be used within an integrated management programme. With recent advances in molecular biology, we may be able to get near ‘realtime’ analysis of microbial communities. New technology can detect extremely small quantities of DNA belonging to a particular genus or species, and could confirm the presence of pathogens on, or in, turf that appears healthy. It is also possible to analyse spores collected in sticky traps and assess the risk to turf from airborne infection sources.

GLS is a fungal disease that poses a potentially serious threat to managed L. perenne turf. If left unchecked and under ideal weather conditions for fungal development, the disease could kill a stadium pitch within a couple of days. It is critical that turf is monitored for the early signs of infection and that suspected outbreaks are confirmed by analysis. Due to the risk of confusion with various other diseases, i.e. Pythium and drought stress, rapid and accurate diagnosis is required when the first symptoms appear. Once present in any turf area, the fungus completes successive cycles of infection, rapidly building the level of spore inoculum until eventually, the turf simply dies. By managing turf strength, turf quality and by implementing an effective fungicide programme, the chance of severe disease can be minimised. ■ For more information, please contact: sabine.braitmaier@prosementis.de, deborah@laganvalleyscientific.com, kate@theturfdiseasecentre.co.uk

Photo grashobber GmbH & Co. KG, Germany

Photo R Clark, AGS

TECHNICAL UPDATE | GRAY LEAF SPOT


TECHNICAL UPDATE | SOIL-BASED ROOTZONES & TOPDRESSINGS

Andy Spetch National TOPSOIL manager, British Sugar plc

SOIL-BASED ROOTZONES AND TOPDRESSINGS Independent scientific trials, by STRI, support the use of soil-based rootzones and topdressing materials for constructing, maintaining and repairing winter games pitches I’VE CHAMPIONED SOIL-BASED rootzones and topdressings for many years. As a trained agronomist, former amateur rugby player and RFU volunteer groundsperson, I understand from personal experience the pressures on grassroots clubs and their groundspeople to deliver playable pitches, week after week, throughout the season, with little budget. If it isn’t the climate providing challenges, it’s budgetary constraints. With this in mind, I was keen to prove scientifically that using soil-based rootzones and topdressing materials for constructing, maintaining and repairing winter turf pitches could reduce the requirement for both irrigation and additional inputs of inorganic fertilisers. As both these aspects can have a marked impact on maintenance budgets, especially for grassroots clubs, I commissioned independent scientific trials by the STRI on Landscape20 topsoil and Sports&Turf top-dressing products, to give clubs the independent, scientific evidence

18 GROUNDS MANAGEMENT | JUNE 2021

that is needed when considering alternatives to traditional sand and compost-based mixes.

The trials The four trials were carried out under the head of research Dr Christian Spring at STRI Research in Bingley, West Yorkshire, during the autumn and winter of 2020. Each trial was run as a randomised complete block design, with each treatment replicated five times in pots measuring 11cm x 11cm x 12cm deep. The trials compared British Sugar TOPSOIL’s Landscape20 65:35 and Sports&Turf 90:10 sand and soil mix products with the following sportsgrowing media: • USGA style free-draining mix (80:20 sand:peat mix) • Tee’s mix (70:30 sand:peat mix) • Sand: soil mix (80:20 sand:soil mix) • Clay loam soil Note: Peat was used experimentally to ensure peat-amended mixes did not have a greater nutrient reserve compared to other treatments.

Trial pots B, C and D started in September 2020 in STRI’s greenhouse and finished in mid-November. Trial A pots were placed in a controlled environment chamber to help facilitate the creation of moisture deficit. The trial was started in November 2020 and concluded in February 2021.

Assessments The weekly assessments on each of the four trials included: • Turf density • Turf quality • Turf colour • Visual turf uniformity • Turf stress • Sward height • Rooting length and density score Trials A (seeded drought trial) and C (seeded nutrient trial) were also assessed for grass germination and rate of maturation, the latter were assessed twice weekly for the first month of the trial and weekly thereafter.


SOIL-BASED ROOTZONES & TOPDRESSINGS | TECHNICAL UPDATE

structure allowing root development. At the end of the trial, turf grown in Sports&Turf tended to be greener and have less visible symptoms of turf stress and the longest roots compared to comparison treatments.

Andy Spetch speaks with Dr Christian Spring (left) about the trial

The results TRIAL A – assessing water retention of the six sports growing media mixes in pots when seeded. Landscape20 performed well under moisture deficit and was the optimum treatment, providing significant benefit in terms of turf density, turf quality, turf colour and visual uniformity. Although seeds sown in Landscape20 took longer to complete germination compared to other treatments, the grass matured more quickly. Sports&Turf performed similarly to the sandier mixes in the trial, although growth tended to be slower. TRIAL B – assessing water retention of the six mixes in pots when turfed. Landscape20 performed well as one of the optimal mixes. Turf laid on the growing medium was able to withstand moisture deficit better than on sandier materials, but it also had optimal root density, being closer to that found on the sandier rootzones. Sports&Turf performed similarly to the comparative growing media. TRIAL C – assessing nutrient retention of the six mixes in pots when seeded. This trial tested treatments with and without a pre-seeding fertiliser. Both British Sugar TOPSOIL sand soil mixes performed strongly in comparison to similar mixes, and had visible and measurable benefits. At the end of the trial Landscape20’s greater natural soil nutrient reserves resulted in less turf stress and optimum growth rates throughout. In the pots without pre-seeder fertiliser, turf grown in Landscape20 had longer rooting length than comparison treatments, as a result of healthy grass growth combined with open pore

TRIAL D – assessing nutrient retention of the six mixes in pots when turfed Differences among treatments in this trial were less clear than when pots were seeded, due to the turf layer providing a degree of pre-existing life support network for the grass. Landscape20 and Sports&Turf tended to perform broadly similarly to other mixes.

Conclusion These trials illustrate the benefits to be derived from using soil-based products on soil-based pitches rather than sand-based dressings and rootzones in terms of moisture retention and nutrient availability. When mixed with the correct sand, and with the correct maintenance programme in place, sustainably sourced, soil-based rootzones and topdressings will deliver a good supply of valuable nutrients to encourage turf growth and establishment where areas of heavy wear, such as goal mouths and scrummage areas, require overseeding, while delivering the drainage rates needed. The trials showed that the 90:10 sand and soil topdressing mix can also be used to establish turf. In the seeded trials it produced turf that tended to be greener and have less visible symptoms of turf stress. It also produced turf with the longest roots when compared to other treatments. This gives roots greater anchorage, leading to reduced turf loss and greater nutrient and water recovery at depth. On established turf, it performed broadly similar to the other treatments, providing an effective turfbed growing media and demonstrating enhanced soil nutrient reserves. The 65:35 sand and soil mix performed very strongly in the trials, displaying good levels of natural soilnutrient reserves leading to less turf stress and promoting good growth. It has been successfully used for many years in the construction of pitches, but it is unsuitable for use as a topdressing. ■

The trials from A to D

A

B

This trial assessed water retention in pots when seeded

This trial assessed water retention in pots when turfed

C

This trial assessed nutrient retention in pots when seeded

D

This trial assessed nutrient retention in pots when turfed

For more details on these trials, contact topsoil@britishsugar.com

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 19


GMA MAINTENANCE TIPS

July operations Our monthly maintenance guide to help you keep your sports surfaces in top condition all year round Bowling Greens • To assist in irrigation management, consider doing a soil-moisture deficit chart, combined with observations of the sward and dryness of the soil profile. This will act as a useful guide and can help towards reducing the costs of water used – be mindful to irrigate at a time of day that minimises water wastage. • Ensure rink usage is spread sideways on a regular basis and that rinks are also turned 90 degrees daily. • Continue to mow regularly and raise the height of cut. A good, dry sward of fescue/bent grasses will produce a faster surface when mown higher in comparison to an annual meadow grass sward. • Be careful when verticutting at this time of year, as you do not want to stress the plant, which will reduce its ability to withstand wear.

Cricket Squares • Besides the continuing preparation of wickets to meet user demands, the square should typically be cut twice a week and the outfield once a week. • Wickets used and renovated earlier in the season could be reused if they have recovered. • July is a good time for a light nitrogen-only fertiliser application

to the whole square, as this will help maintain sward strength without encouraging unwanted excessive growth. • Be mindful of pitches drying out too quickly during preparation works.

Cricket Outfields • If herbicide was applied to control broad/narrow leaved weeds, this should have cleared up the problem – spot overseeding may be required to promote increased coverage in isolated areas. • Continue to cut outfields, in line with requirements of play and needs of the surface – reducing frequency of cut and raising the height during extended dry and hot spells.

Football Pitches • The pitch should be establishing itself following the end of season renovation, however, there are several tasks that will need attending to. • Any thin areas will require a light topdressing and spot overseed, keep moist and cover to retain moisture to promote germination and establishment of these areas. • Continue mowing regularly to thicken the sward when weather conditions allow, being mindful not to stress the grass during extended dry and hot spells. • A light nitrogen liquid or granular fertiliser application may encourage growth if the weather conditions allow. This should only be given if soil moisture is adequate, there is artificial irrigation and the grass is still maintaining growth.

Horse Racecourses • Routine maintenance work over the summer months will include: • Artificial irrigation to produce a suitable firmness of ground for the day of a race meeting. • A liquid nitrogen fertiliser may be considered for the home straight, show paddock and ornamental

lawns around the grandstand area. Alternatively, the whole of the racecourse might be treated to a light nitrogen application. • Continue to divot and repair after each meeting. • Weed control may be required. • Continue to mow regularly and do not neglect courses rested over the summer.

Rugby League Pitches • Frequent cutting is advised to thicken up the sward. • Irrigate if possible. • A fertiliser application may be required to promote sustained growth, a liquid or granular may be used, but a longer-lasting option is to use a balanced controlled release product. • Verticuting may be required to help control the poa annua and keep the sward clean. • Overseeding may be required – lightly dress and irrigate sufficiently to promote establishment.

Rugby Union Pitches • The pitch establishment should be coming along nicely. • Besides artificial irrigation and light topping of the sward, some additional works may include: • Overseeding if any areas did not establish as well as expected. • Apply a light nitrogen fertiliser, possibly as a liquid feed.

Tennis Courts • Artificial irrigation will probably be the norm for now, ensure application is carried out evenly and at a time of the day that minimises water wastage. Check all equipment is functioning properly. • Rolling may cease, unless rainfall is regular – then continue to firm the surface. • Continue to use a spiked roller. Consider the use of a water-injected aeration machine during the summer.

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 21


IN ACTION

Twice the efficiency at Congleton Lawn Turf BLEC steps up to deliver optimum results For the past decade, Congleton Lawn Turf has used BLEC machinery and after a bumper busy year in 2020, the time was right for owner Matthew Worth to upgrade to a duo of new units. And so, a Blecavator 300HD and Turf Seeder 3000 from Redexim were swiftly put to work. Matthew and brother Roger, have been looking after the 140-acre family turf farm in Cheshire since 2003. “We’re taking a turf crop off roughly every 12-15 months, and then a lot of work goes into preparing the bed ready for new seed to go in,” he says. “Once we’ve broken up compaction, ploughed the area and

The Blecavator and Turf Seeder (right) make light work of the acres at Congleton Lawn Turf

cultivated it a couple of times, we’ll then go on with the Blecavator to bury the stones deep enough to be clear of the blades when it comes to harvesting the turf. It also levels the ground and provides a nice tilth for the seed to go in.” With the ground prepared, the TurfSeeder 3000 is then used to deliver the seed in two different directions.

“We’ve noticed the improvements in this machine compared to the previous model,” says Matthew, “Particularly in the ease of adjustment and seed calibration system, which gives us the required accuracy in delivery.” Following the delivery of the BLEC units in April 2021, the new Blecavator was in use for the first time less than an hour later. Matthew says: “Demand for turf is currently so high that our investment in new equipment was made at just the right time. We’ve already used the Blecavator and Turf-Seeder on over 65 acres and have been seriously impressed with the results.” Find out more at blecmachinery.com

ISEKI upgrade for NHS Tayside New ISEKI introduces improved performance for NHS green spaces Malcolm Ross is the grounds maintenance manager at NHS Tayside, where he and his team are responsible for a portfolio of properties throughout Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, covering a variety of NHS locations of different sizes, settings and challenges. “We’re not just municipal parks, we are hospital sites, and our aim is to create a well-maintained and attractive greenspace environment when members of the public come for treatment or to visit and when members of staff come to work. The grounds are uplifting and create a feeling of wellbeing.

Malcolm purchased an ISEKI SF300 mower in 2003, due to the superior build quality and service. He says: “Our mower has lasted the test of time hence we haven’t purchased that many new pieces of equipment, until now.” The new machine – an ISEKI SF450 – is a direct replacement for the SF300 and has the adaptability Malcolm’s team requires. He says: “We’re hoping it’s as consistently reliable as the last

NHS Tayside gardener David Laing on the ISEKI SF300 with Muthing flail

ISEKI. Our previous out-front Muthing flail proved its worth on our Ransome HR 300, so the new cut-and-collect facility on the ISEKI SF450 will be a big plus for us; the engine is more powerful, so more able to deal with wet and longer grasses when needed.” For more information visit iseki.co.uk

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 23


Perfect play requires Perfect maintenance

All the tools of the trade for synthetic turf care brushes | cleaners | decompactors | regenerators

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The art of water management A multi-rate surfactant effective on sand, soil and organic matter

Enhance, reduce or accelerate turf and surface moisture Managing Dry-Patch and maintaining optimum soil-water balance, in both wet and dry periods of the season needs proven products that provide consistent results. Carefully managed moisture levels can play a significant role in turf disease reduction.

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AMENITY PRODUCTS

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PRODUCT SHOWCASE

NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL SURFACE MAINTENANCE

REDEXIM

Cleaning to the Extreme The Redexim Extreme Clean is a horizontal rotary unit designed to remove debris, breathe new life into compacted synthetic carpets or target specific neglected areas. The stiff bristles of the rotating brushes ‘scrub’ the surface to loosen infill, lift flattened fibres and remove debris and contaminants. Available in 120cm or 180cm working widths, the Extreme Clean is adjusted on four threaded spindles, allowing the brush-head depth and pressure to be set accurately – depending on the aggressiveness of cleaning work required.

This machine is particularly effective on sand-dressed surfaces, making it a popular choice for the regeneration of tennis courts, football and hockey surfaces. By loosening hardened and/or compacted infill materials, the Extreme Clean will help restore both the aesthetic and physical play characteristics of a carpet – improving drainage, player safety and ball roll/ bounce, and reducing the likelihood of more serious and costly surface repairs being required further down the line. redexim.com

SISIS

Brushing up on maintenance The SISIS Osca is perfect for synthetic surface maintenance. From the very beginning, these types of surfaces need a good maintenance programme, and failure to maintain the surface could lead to issues such as compaction, loss

of porosity, inconsistent playing characteristics, damaged fibres and contamination of the infill. The SISIS Osca tractor-mounted powered oscillating brush is used by many groundstaff, and is ideal for a sand or rubber crumb surface.

A pair of oscillating brushes allows periodic aggressive brushing to be undertaken to agitate the upper infilllevel helping reduce compaction, encourage the fibres to stand upright and reduce the risk of contamination and surface water. It can also be used for regular light brushing, helping to stand the fibres up, move the infill around, create a level surface and minimise the threat of moss and algae. It uses fewer passes than a conventional drag brush, and has the option of adding a further 1.8m-wide brush to the system, which helps to enhance the final finish. sisis.com

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 25


PRODUCT SHOWCASE | NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL SURFACE MAINTENANCE

DENNIS

Battery-powered solutions Dennis Mowers has been working with battery technology as an optional alternative power source to the combustion engine. The ES-860 is a 34in (860mm) battery-powered mower and maintenance system that uses lithium-ion battery technology for maintaining football pitches, rugby pitches and cricket squares. The machine is fitted with a weather-proof colour LCD programmable display and keypad, to operate the machine and feed back information including ground speed, battery level, instructions and more. The interchangeable cassette system allows a variety of cassettes to be used for various tasks including cutting, scarifying, verticutting, brushing and surface spiking. The cassettes are also interchangeable between the ES-860 and the G860 (petrol version). For clubs looking to use battery mowers, the E-Series range helps meet sustainability and environmental initiatives, minimise carbon footprint, emissions, running costs, HAVs and noise without any range anxiety. dennisuk.com


NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL SURFACE MAINTENANCE | PRODUCT SHOWCASE

REDEXIM

Better than before The Verti-Drain 2519 continues to prove its credentials as the ‘next generation’ of Redexim’s iconic Verti-Drain range. Thanks to its 1.9m working-width and ability to accept a good range of tine options, the 2519 gives turf managers a high-productivity aerator, with the versatility required for yearround operation. The 2519 model incorporates the best of Redexim precision design and engineering. Together with a new draw-rod system, it features an easy-to-adjust heave lever and slip clutch PTO drive – offering a PTO speed of up to 540rpm, which allows it to cover up to 8739sq m per hour when spaced at 165mm. As standard, the Verti-Drain 2519 comes with 12mm solid tines, but it can accept a range of solid tine options up to 19mm, and hollow tines for coring. This versatility, combined with a variable working depth of up to 250mm, makes it suitable for an array of end-users, across the full spectrum of the maintenance calendar. The 2519 swiftly completes the job with minimal disruption. redexim.com


PRODUCT SHOWCASE LINE-MARKING

T U R F TA N K

Robot-powered lines The Turf Tank ONE is an autonomous line-marking robot, which has revolutionised the sports field linemarking industry. Gone are the days of traditional line-marking techniques, with the Turf Tank ONE you will be able to paint lines more easily and efficiently. Top features include low paint consumption with a low-pressure pump set up to reduce paint consumption by up to 50%, and custom layouts, so you can control the settings to fit your specific layout and size. Meanwhile, long battery life means you can work four full-sized football pitches fields in one charge of the lithium-ion battery. The Turf Tank ONE has superb precision on natural grass, as well as artificial turf surfaces, plus it can handle rougher surfaces too, with two strong, individually powered brushless motors.

Since their Turf Tank One arrived at the Nigel Doughty Academy, Nottingham Forest Football Club has marked every pitch and grid they have with the robot. The Turf Tank was brought in to mark the pitches comfortably within a day, and after seeing it in action, it was difficult for grounds manager Ewan Hunter and academy head groundsman Matt Tietjen (both pictured above) to let it leave the site. “I was very impressed,” Matt says. “It’s very accurate, and every time it goes out, it’s spot on. It saves us a lot of time. To mark one pitch, it would take myself or two of my staff up to two hours. But using the Turf Tank to mark one pitch, only takes

20 to 25 minutes. This means our staff can carry on with the other jobs that need to be done, and the machine can basically look after itself. Generally, we’d use five to six litres of paint to mark a pitch, but with the Turf Tank, we use just four litres.” The Turf Tank One is easy to use and set up with a smart tablet and intuitive app, allowing you to control everything from one screen. turftank.com

FLEET LINE MARKERS

Fleet is looking forward to new challenges Fleet Line Markers will be the official sponsor of The Sports & Grounds Expo (SAGE), at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern from 27 to 29 July this year. This is a key event in the company’s calendar and the latest Fleet Line Markers innovations will be released at this event. As the world’s number-one manufacturer of pitchmarker linemarking paint, Fleet are a wellestablished brand who supply to sport at all levels, including the World Cup, the Olympic Games, Premiership clubs, as well as to local teams. And, as such, there is no doubt that the brand’s innovations at this year’s SAGE, will be hotly anticipated. Over the past 12 months, Fleet Line Markers have launched several projects, using their expertise in line marking, to show a spectacular

28 GROUNDS MANAGEMENT | JUNE 2021

display of support for the NHS, key workers, VE Day, Remembrance Day and Red Nose Day – and staff voluntarily gave their time to provide encouragement for the community and wider causes. Fleet have been overwhelmed by the support for the projects within the national media, as well as international news agencies – with its VE Day rainbow gaining coverage in New Zealand and Japan news reports. The recent Fleet Line Markers Comic Relief challenge was also a popular news item and a massive thank-you goes out to all involved.

As the country moves out of COVID-19 restrictions, Fleet are looking forward to what the summer will bring now that competitive sport is returning at all levels. fleetlinemarkers.co.uk


CLASSIFIEDS | GMA

thegma.org.uk | GROUNDS MANAGEMENT 29


60 SECONDS WITH…

Neil Rodger Neil Rodger, STRI’s representative on the Playing Surfaces Committee discusses the PL and EFL Grounds Team of the Season Awards’ judging process and the challenges faced by grounds teams during COVID-19 restrictions What is your career background and when did you join the Playing Surfaces Committee?

Karen Maxwell Editor

When Dr Stephen Baker was nearing retirement and stepped down from the Playing Surfaces Committee in 2019, I had the opportunity to replace him as STRI’s representative. I have been lucky to work with many UK and international grounds teams over the past 10 years in my consultancy role at STRI. My involvement with UEFA and FIFA competitions has allowed me to experience a wide range of pitches, so it seemed natural to move into the position when Stephen stepped down.

What is the committee’s remit? The committee, chaired by Simon Barker of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), meets two to three times per season to discuss pitch-related matters. It provides guidance to the Premier League (PL) and English Football League (EFL) and organises networking events for grounds personnel across the country, as well as administering the Grounds Team of the Season Awards. The committee members include representatives from STRI, the GMA, the PFA, the PL, the EFL, the FA and we also have groundsperson representatives from PL and EFL clubs.

What challenges have grounds teams faced during the COVID restrictions? Grounds teams have done an incredible job to ensure the quality of pitches has remained high throughout the pandemic. Maybe the biggest challenge was the uncertainty around the restart of the 2019/20 season after it was suspended in March 2020. This, along with the shortened gap before the start of the 20/21 season, made the planning and implementation of renovation works difficult ahead of the condensed season. In some cases, the furlough scheme resulted in a reduction in staff numbers, which put pressure on grounds teams, particularly for those looking after multiple pitches. Naturally, this meant the maintenance inputs had to be reduced. Cuts to operational and capital expenditure also made this a very challenging time.

30 GROUNDS MANAGEMENT | JUNE 2021

Neil Rodger is STRI’s representative on the Playing Surface Committee

Can you explain the judging criteria related to the Grounds Teams of the Season Awards? The shortlist of finalists is determined by the average pitch marks scored throughout the season. The shortlist comprises the top five clubs in the PL and the top three clubs in the EFL’s Championship, League One and League Two. There were four clubs shortlisted in League One this season because of joint scores. I visit the shortlisted clubs’ grounds teams, discuss the management of the pitch and observe its current condition. I then share my recommendations for the winners with the Playing Surface Committee, before we finalise the winners and highly commended teams. The four elements of judging criteria include: •A  verage pitch marks – scored throughout the season by the referee and the match delegate in the PL and the referee and away team manager in the EFL. •P  itch condition – this includes a visual assessment of grass cover, turf health, the presence of pests, weeds and disease, as well as the general presentation. •E  nvironmental conditions and usage – includes an assessment of stadium environment and the impact of shade, annual rainfall, average temperatures and usage. •P  itch management assessment – includes the pitch construction, staff numbers, resources and pitch management practices.

How do these awards promote best practice in grounds management? Hopefully, the awards help to promote and raise the profile of expert grounds management throughout the PL and the EFL. In recent years, the appreciation of the work carried out by grounds teams has increased with clubs recognising the role the pitch plays in the team’s success. ■


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Grounds Management June 2021  

Grounds Management is the magazine for GMA Members. The Grounds Management Association is the leading not-for-profit membership organisation...

Grounds Management June 2021  

Grounds Management is the magazine for GMA Members. The Grounds Management Association is the leading not-for-profit membership organisation...

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