BIGGA Turf Management Exhibition (BTME) Harrogate Week is always an enjoyable, rewarding opportunity for me to meet up and socialise with so many turf professionals, colleagues, practitioners and companies that support and work in our great ever changing sports turf environment.
It has been a challenging couple of years for many businesses, and no doubt will be for the next 12-18 months. This was reflected in the down sizing of BTME this year, with many companies not attending the show. However, having spoken to many visitors and exhibitors, they felt the show did have a buzz and cosy feel to it, no doubt due to the fact that floor space was reduced to three halls.
Recent Pitchcare message board postings have also reflected on the same conclusions - the show was smaller, seeming busy with fewer numbers of grounds professionals seen out in the town. I must admit, while out drinking and eating in some of these venues, numbers were definitely down; even Wetherspoons lacked its usual buzz.
As for the show itself, BIGGA has stated that figures were up 2.3% on last year, with 6,000 attending over the three days. They also reported that the BIGGA Education programmes/seminars were attended by record numbers.
Exhibitors were showing off their latest products and services with great passion. Toby at Dennis Mowers stated that business had been brisk due to their takeover of SISIS, with people keen to find out what would come of the acquisition. Ian Howard, MD of Dennis, told an assembled press conference that there was plenty of work to be done to ascertain the way forward.
Taking over such a worldwide brand (SISIS) will help ensure that his company will be able to offer a flexible innovative range of turf machinery options to their customers. In fact, many of the SISIS products sit very nicely alongside the Dennis range.
Dennis will now be looking at making a lot of the SISIS parts themselves, making good use of their factory resources in Derby.
The Grass Group took up a prominent position at the front of Hall A. They had had a lot of interest in their product range, particularly their new scarifier and triple/ pedestrian mower cassette systems. Tim Merrell, MD for the company, was keen to emphasise that the economic climate was a severe test for all who work in the industry, with companies having to work smarter and harder to sell their products/services, with emphasis that quality engineering is always being a better investment in the long term.
Richard Campey is looking forward to celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Campey Turf Care Systems this year. The Harrogate show begins the start of many events where he will be able to highlight the achievements of his staff, the loyalty of its customers and the continuing confidence of the manufacturers which provide such an excellent range of products.
Richard has undoubtedly brought together a great range of products over the years that includes one of the most revolutionary machines ever invented - the Koro Fraise Mower, which has changed dramatically the way we renovate grass surfaces. Other renowned stable mates include the Dakota range of spreaders, the Imants linear aerators and Vredo Super Compact seeder machines.
Crocodile Golf Products made their debut at this year's show, showing off a range of industry related products aimed primarily at the golf market. To help people remember the name of the company, they had a stuffed crocodile on the stand. Ian Marshall, MD for the company, commented that he was not sure what to expect as this was their first major showcase but, by the end of the week, he was pleased with the interest they'd had, particularly in their new triple mower brush attachments and reel cylinder parts.
Paul Lowe, one of the now famous group of Gingerbread Men, was also at the show in his new role of sales manager for Symbio who, in recent weeks have recruited a number of other greenkeepers to help increase sales of their popular compost tea and soil biology products.
British Seed Houses announced the launch of their new vitamix service, which offers a wide range of fertiliser solutions in a three way tank mixing progamme - Vita 1-5 mixes that involve different rations of Vitanica P3, a liquid NK plus trace ellemnts, Vitanica MC NPK with trace elements and kelp, and Ferro Top, a concentrated iron fertiliser. Two other products - Vitanica RZ that has a Bacillus Subtilis which helps reduce pathogen attacks, while Vitanica SI has a high silicon content to help strengthen plant tissue.
The DLF Stand was busy, with Derek Smith and his staff reporting a lot of interest in their iseed (feed per seed solution) to improving nutrient utilization during the early stages of plant growth. DLF has also updated its 2011 range with no fewer than ten new mixture formulations, two new mixtures and three new cultivars. Look out for the Johnson RR Rhizome Recovery, Johnson Rescue and Independence & Cobra Nova (new Creeping Bents).
Richard Walton from Scotts also provided a wealth of interesting information on a range of new Scotts products available this coming year, as seen in their brand new 2011 brochure. I will be undertaking a few trips with some of the Scotts reps throughout the year to report on some of the work they are involved with, which should lead to some stimulating articles for our magazine.
Also, Mike King at the Vitax Stand was promoting their new brochure and latest fertiliser products, along with their new line marker.
In fact, there seemed to be a theme of new biological natural products on show, with emphasis on working with the environment. Syngenta took the opportunity to launch Operation Pollinator along with their new contact fungicide product Bio - Inspired. This new product takes effect on the leaf, thatch and soil surface.
Operation Pollinator is set to establish over 250 hectares of new habitat specifically designed to restore populations of bumblebees on golf courses. Utilising predominantly out of play areas on up to 500 clubs across the UK, Operation Pollinator aims to reverse the plight of the bumblebee and, at the same time, enhance the playing experience for golf clubs, along with proving commercial golf and the environment can co-exist on the same course.
Syngenta Turf & Landscape Manager, Simon Elsworth, believes golf courses could provide essential sanctuaries for bumblebees and other beneficial insect species. Speaking at the launch of the initiative, he said: "Bumblebees play a crucial role as natures' pollinator, but they are in serious decline and need our help now. Helping to resurrect bumblebee populations will help to prove that golf courses can be managed in harmony with the environment and give both the players and managers immense pride in their club."
Golf courses cover 150,000 hectares of UK land area, and creating specialist habitat on less than 0.25% of the area would still make a hugely significant impact on bumblebee numbers, according to Mr Elsworth. "Golf courses provide ideal locations for habitat creation. With the right management these areas could provide ideal habitat for bumblebees and other pollinating insects."
I also attended the Unsung Heroes award presentation in the media suit, ran and organised by Terrain Aeration, the competition is sponsored by The EGU and Pitchcare. The winners were, in the groundsman category, Steve Kennedy of Sandgate Boys Football Club, while the greenkeeper category winner was Iestyn Carpenter of Corhampton Golf Club.
Brian Pierson, Chairman of the British Association of Golf Course Constructors ( BAGCC), invited a number of guests to the St George Hotel for after show drinks to thank their industry colleagues and customers for their support last year.
This was followed by my attendance at the STRI Golf Environment Awards dinner, where I was able to meet up with some remarkable dedicated practitioners who, for many years, have been carrying out sterling work to improve the wildlife, flora and fauna out on their courses. STRI's Bob Taylor presented the winners with their plaques.
The awards have once again attracted a diverse range of clubs, including a notable increase this year in first-time entrants. This is particularly positive news as it indicates that the drive towards ecological best practice is continuing to spread through the industry.
As usual, clubs entering the competition were not judged on financial inputs but on the amount they were able to achieve with their available resources. Indeed, many of the clubs entering this year's competition are prime examples of how drive and enthusiasm can achieve more than simply an influx of cash and we offer our congratulations to the winners:
Overall Achievement Award: Portmore Golf Park
Conservation Greenkeeper of the Year: James Hutchinson, Fairhaven Golf Club
Scottish Regional Winner: Loch Lomond Golf Club
Northern Regional Winner: Silloth-on-Solway Golf Club
Southern Regional Winner: Aldeburgh Golf Club
Welsh Regional Winner: Aberdovey Golf Club
Nature Conservation Award: Delamere Forest Golf Club
Turfgrass Management Award: Royal St David's Golf Club
Water Management: Maesteg Golf Club
Waste Management: Machrihanish Dunes
I also caught up with David Rae, MD of Weidenmann, who was keen to invite me to a number of events to celebrate 20 years trading in the turf Industry. Their fine range of Weidenmann aerators have become a very popular piece of equipment in recent years.
Incorporating auto-indexing relief with the legendary Express Dual spin grinder technology, Bernhard introduced to the market the Dual Master 3000iR. Driven by customer feedback, Bernhard has responded with a lightning fast spin and relief grinder. Building on the technical foundations of the renowned Express Dual and Anglemaster system, the Dual Master 3000iR is the fastest, easiest and most accurate way to return your cutting units to manufacturer's specifications.
A unique mounting system makes it possible to spin and relief grind "in frame" with rapid changeover so operators don't waste time switching from relief to spin grinding increases productivity.
As usual, Clive Nottingham of Lloyds of Letchworth was a prominent figure, both at the show and out on the town. I enjoyed our evening out together, even managing to stay sober and behave myself! As usual, Clive brought along a fine array of Lloyds products to the show, in association with the company's newest acquisition, Hunter Grinders, who were demonstrating one of their grinding machines.
A couple of innovative new products caught my eye. In fact, they both are associated with golf bunker drainage. The first was Bunker Plug, a clever plastic drainage system incorporating a simple single drain plug with a filter system to prevent clogging up, and Blinder Bunker Liner, a permeable 25mm drainage layer that is texture coated and installed in the base of the bunker.
Continuing on the subject of bunkers, Envirosports Ltd officially launched 'Enviro-Bunker', a revolutionary new concept in bunker construction, at the show. They say the innovative design is guaranteed to eradicate the long standing problem of bunker erosion and offers a viable alternative to traditional bunkering. Three years in the making, Enviro-Bunker has recently been constructed on four golf courses local to the company base in South Wales, including Pyle and Kenfig G.C. (hosts to Welsh Amateur championships) and Maesteg G.C. (STRI 'Golf Environment Award' Winners 2010).
A number of sports drainage companies were on hand to provide advice and information at the show, including MJ Abbott, Speedcut Contractors and Sheltons, to name but a few.
Gary Mumby from Blec (global) Ltd was on his stand promoting their new Multivator, a machine that can can carry out a mutitude of tasks, decompacting, soil recycling and top dressing in one pass.
As for customers, I met up with many greenkeepers and groundsmen visiting the show - Adrian Partridge of Sunderland, Darren Baldwin of Tottenham, Lee Jackson of Man City, Dougie Robertson of West Ham, Ian Forshaw of Wigan, Karl Fulford of Barnsley, On the golfing front , Walter Woods congratulated me on our magazine, The Gingerbread Men were in full force with Jon Wood From Enville GC, Steve Oulton, Wilmslow GC, Andy Ralphs Delamere Forest GC, Simon White, The Chase GC and Carl Crocher, Caldy GC.
Chris Wood from the ECB and Keith Exton, Glamorgan CCC were seen walking the halls, along with Jason Booth from Leeds Rugby and Adrian Kay from York Racecourse .
It was also nice to catch up and have a drink with Dr Kate Entwistle from The Turf Disease Centre who had been invited to talk at the education seminars.
Pat Callaby, Workshop Manager at The Celtic Manor Resort, was enjoying a well earned breather from work. It was staggering feat by all who helped win the Ryder cup at Celtic Manor, with Jim McKenzie and his staff and all the greenkeeping volunteers doing a sterling job in saving the tournament and conquering the worst of the weather.
I also managed to chat with staff from some of the colleges, namely Askam Bryan, Myerscough and Reaseheath, with the aim of getting some of their students to write some articles for the magazine. It's important we encourage students to promote themselves and begin to take the relevant opportunities our industry can provide.
Our industry is a unique, it is so diverse and offers youngsters a wide range and level of working experiences that are not found in any other industry. The opportunity to work at some of the best sporting venues in the world is attainable if you are willing to take up the challenge and are prepared to learn and get educated in the skills of greenkeeping and groundsmanship. However, you undoubtedly need a great deal of passion, commitment and drive to get there.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who I spoke to and met during my hectic week in Harrogate, and those who have contributed to our Pitchcare magazine and website.