Tandridge District Council in Surrey has been working with specialist grass seed breeder Barenbrug to find low-input playing surface solutions for the football pitches, and various sports and amenity sites it manages.
Senior groundsman Phillip Waterman struggled to get cover on two high-wear public football pitches at Tandridge District Council's Queens Park and Caterham Valley Sports Ground sites. As he explains: "I tried other ryegrass mixtures but couldn't get them to survive due to our limited fertiliser and water resource, and not being able to water in the summer in the very hot, dry conditions we get here."
Recognising that water and chemical inputs are increasingly costly, short-term solutions, Phillip instead made the commitment to getting better-quality, drought-tolerant grasses into the surfaces to provide a long-term, low-input solution. "Our ultimate aim is to get better grasses into the soil that will survive and be self-sufficient," he continues. "I'd rather spend £100 on an extra couple of bags of quality seed than spend on costly irrigation and herbicides, especially now there are fewer herbicides available."
Working towards this, Phillip and the Barenbrug team established a trial at the two football pitches last summer to identify cultivars and mixtures able to cope with the challenging conditions. BAR Low Input containing heat- and drought-tolerant Bardorado perennial ryegrass and drought-tolerant tall fescue mixture BAR 10 RTF shone through in the trial.
"We sowed the BAR Low Input in the centre circle and the BAR 10 RTF around the goal mouths," says Phillip. "We had initial germination but this was followed by a very dry spell - I came back from a week's holiday and was literally on my hands and knees trying to find some growth! Fortunately, it rained soon after and the Bardorado and tall fescue had survived, and came through strongly. We're now at the end of the season and, even though it's showing wear, you can still see that growth. I'm amazed it survived. I'm very pleased with the results."
Phillip now plans to continue the trial by sowing these two mixtures later this spring to see how they fare. "We'll sow BAR Low Input on the outfields and the BAR 10 RTF the width of the six-yard box and out to the edge of the 18 yard box," he adds. "The tall fescue on its own might not give us the initial cover we need so, if necessary, we'll support that by sowing Barenbrug's BAR 50 SOS later in the season. And if that goes as well as we hope, we plan to use these mixtures for the remaining 20 pitches Tandridge District Council maintains for the UK Sports Association come our renovations end of next season."
The trial has confirmed to Phillip that finding grass seed solutions to cope with the hot, dry conditions and reduced inputs across all the sites he maintains is the right approach. "Since using Barenbrug seed I haven't sprayed the cricket or croquet lawns in Queens Park for three years - the croquet lawn got fusarium after the snow last winter, but recovered without treatment. We seem to be getting good results using Barenbrug, so that's the best way forward as far as I'm concerned."
For more information on Barenbrug's services and grass seed solutions, call 01359 272000 or visit www.barenbrug.co.uk.