In combination with the right turf grass varieties and turf grass seed mixtures, it is possible to achieve perfect results on sports pitches as well as in ordinary gardens. Even the environment might benefit from automatic lawn mowing.
The reason for the growing interest in automatic lawn mowing is due to the numerous advantages, which by far outweigh any negative aspects. Here are some of the points to be considered:
• Cost efficiency
• Perfect results with automatic lawn mowers
• Choice of turf grass varieties and turf grass seed mixtures
• Types of automatic lawn mowers
The photosynthesis in natural turf grasses is an important contributor to the capture of atmospheric carbon dioxide. On the contrary, the maintenance of turf grasses could "eat up" the benefits, if not carried out correctly.
Firstly, turf grasses should be fertilised optimally (optimal carbon dioxide sequestration and optimal oxygen production) to prevent excessive growth flushes and minimise the incidence of diseases. Secondly, cutting with an efficient mower or, even better, with an automatic mower powered by renewable energy/electricity, further improves the balance of carbon absorption against carbon produced. It is more efficient to mow frequently rather than remove large volumes of clippings infrequently. The high frequency of cuts by automatic lawn mowing not only induces less stress to the sward, but also produces minimal clippings, which are absorbed back into the turf to reduce nutrient loss and the need for composting clippings. There is a far better degradation and less potential for thatch build up cutting little and often.
No matter how good the environmental intentions are of a turf manager, automatic mowers will only become commonly used if they are cost efficient. Today, time and labour costs are always the focal point of any sporting facility's budget, and efforts to streamline costs is the number one priority.
We are not suggesting that groundstaff should lose their jobs but, by integrating automatic mowers into their management systems, time can be released for other purposes beneficial to the business. A cost benefit analyses should be calculated according to local conditions and individual circumstances.
Perfect results with automatic mowers
The advantages of automatic mowing has been known for quite some years, particularly lawn owners, who have experienced perfect results and low maintenance cost. The lightweight nature of the machines means there is less soil compaction, helping to maintain good drainage and root structure. A general rule is to never cut more than one third of the leaf length per mowing. The high cutting frequency achieved by automatic mowing keeps the turf in perfect shape and encourages grass tillering.
Choice of turf grass varieties and turf grass seed mixtures
In order to get full value from your robot mower investment it is important to choose the right grasses. One company, Euro Grass, has, in recent years, been very successful breeding varieties with an outstanding wear tolerance combined with high aesthetical values and suitability for automatic lawn mowing. Lower biomass production and cleanness of cut are important characteristic for varieties that are used for any turf areas. Many of the seed mixtures are well adapted to automatic mowing.
Types of automatic lawn mowers
The first automatic lawn mowers were all of the rotary type. They required a cable along the edge of the lawn in order to keep the mower on the lawn, and stop it from "weeding" the flower beds. These mowers have proven to be very reliable, and the randomised mowing pattern has proven to be very efficient in providing excellent results. These days there is an increasing number of automatic mowers guided by GPS signals. These types of mowers need to be "walked" along the boundary of the turf before they can be let loose for real use. By adding GPS steering systems to the robot mowers they are highly efficient and their use will undoubtedly increase in the professional sector.
Picture 1: The CutCat, from Eurogreen, pictured at work at Schalke 04's stadium in Germany, has a cutting width of one metre and has the capacity of mowing one to two football fields depending on the mowing intensity. Under certain circumstances the capacity is even bigger.
Pictures 2 & 3: The MAS 05 is the latest robotic mower from McMurtry. It offers turf professionals an efficient, selfguided mower for the maintenance of large turf areas. Mowing patterns can be altered on a daily basis to minimise problems associated with compaction and weather damage, whilst benefitting from an output of up to 3.5 acres/hr at minimal cost.
Bottom: With a cutting width of approximately 0.2 metres, the smaller robot mowers have got sufficient capacity for ordinary gardens up to some hundreds square metres.