The seminar was well attended with a cross section of working practitioners mainly from the South West Region. These included Local Authority managers, contractors, private schools and colleges.
Five leading sports turf companies were on hand to deliver a day of presentations and working demonstrations.
Working demonstrations of the newest techniques in the mechanical maintenance of natural and synthetic turf surfaces - SISIS
Choosing the Right Grass Cultivars & Mixtures - British Seed Houses
The Causes and Management of Hydrophobic Soils - Avoncrop
The Importance of Sand Selection for Sportsturf - WBB Minerals
Turfgrass Nutrition - Scotts
SISIS kicked off the days proceedings with a range of natural and artificial turf maintenance equipment.
'Artificial playing surfaces are not maintenance free', was the clear message being delivered by SISIS. Surfaces require regular maintenance to prevent the systems becoming contaminated and prone to algae and weed infestation. The key is regular brushing on a weekly / fortnightly frequency. However, level of use and type of artificial system (i.e. sand dressed, sand filled deep pile and rubber crumb) will dictate the maintenance requirements.
Brushing techniques are designed to keep the pile standing up and redistribute the sand and rubber infill materials to prevent them becoming compacted.
Full size artificial pitches are expensive, costing in the region of £400,000-£ 600,000 to install. Their life expectancy will be dependant on how well they are looked after and their level of use. Many are reputed to last between 8-12 years but the life span can be severely reduced with little or no maintenance.
The second set of SISIS demonstrations involved a range of natural turf conditioning equipment that included aerators, scarifies, the Quadraplay systems and debris collectors. There was a strong emphasis on the Aeration equipment and techniques with the SISIS Aer-aid being put through its paces.
The second part of the day was conducted in the clubhouse where the attending delegates were educated on a range of topics.
Richard Brown from British Seed Houses gave a talk on the selection of grass species for sports turf and the challenges being faced by Groundsmen when choosing the right seed. Predicting the future seed requirements is not always easy especially in an ever changing climate, combined with the likelihood of reduced chemical control products and the ever-decreasing maintenance budgets.
The key is to understand your needs, what do you want to achieve in the next three to five years? Have you the right soils and resources to sustain your chosen grass species?
Next up was Chris Briggs of Avoncrop Amenity who spoke about the problems of managing hydrophobic soils, how to recognise the symptoms and the choice of products available to rectify the condition which in recent years has become more apparent and widespread.
The final two speakers were Peter Jefford From WBB minerals who gave an interesting insight into sand and rootzone selections. Choosing the wrong sands particularly in terms of particle size can have catastrophic consequences regarding infiltration and stability.
Nick Martin from Scotts gave an informative presentation on fertilising regimes, choosing the right products (granular / liquids) and when and how to apply products.
My second seminar was at DLF's Trifolium Practical Sustainability Road show at the STRI headquarters in Bingley.
Again the day was split between demonstrations and indoor presentations. The day began in the classroom with Andy Newell from the STRI welcoming everybody and briefly explaining the role of the STRI. This was followed by a talk from Derek Smith from DLF Trifolium who spoke about oversowing and grass seed selection.
Derek focused on bents and fescue grass species and the role they have in establishing sustainable swards. The key to any seed establishment is correct sowing practices followed by effective maintenance.
Martin Ward from Symbio was next on stage to discuss the merits of creating a receptive rootzone. David produced some very interesting facts about soil organisms and the benefits they have on promoting health grass growth.
He explained the role of fungi and bacteria in the soil and how they can influence sward quality and grass species content. One of the latest additions to the Symbio range of products has been the Symbio Compost Tea Brewer 720 a special designed brewer that can make batches of compost tea from grass clippings. Basically recycling your own compost into a useable liquid form.
We then went out to the STRI's world famous trial grounds to witness the latest developments in over seeding techniques using a modified Graden Machine.
The machine can create a slit up to 50mm deep and inject kiln-dried sand and any other amendments including seed into the created slit. The added benefit is the machine is quick and leaves the surface in a playable condition.
This machine will be ideal for changing sward compositions on golf greens allowing major renovation works to be completed with little disturbance to the playing surface at any time of the year.
Keith Kensett also demonstrated the latest advances in deep penetration aeration machinery available. The Gwazae and Globe Probe two very advanced air pressure aerators that are now available for sports turf aeration. Keith and Martin Ward from Symbio are also working towards developing a process to inject amendments with both aerators.
The day was completed with two further presentations, one by Syngenta's Simon Barnaby on Primo Maxx and the other from Henry Bechelet STRI Advisor who never fails to impress the audience with his commitment and enthusiasm in delivering information which on this occasion was about managing sward quality. He passionately spoke about the disturbance theory the way in which grass populations can be influenced by maintenance regimes particularly verticutting.
I am sure all those who attended both seminars went away with some interesting thoughts and opinions of what they saw and heard. Seminars are an important vehicle for exchanging information and keeping up to date with the latest technologies being introduced into the industry.
My thanks to all who organised these days and I am obviously looking forward to the next series of seminars and company promotion days.