0 KORO Gives Competitive Edge

KORO Gives Competitive Edge

By Sue Meeken

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London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games has implications reaching far beyond the capital. Great Britain's athletes will be drawn from all over the country, and facilities of the highest standard will be needed.

Budding Olympians will need to train at local sports grounds and leisure centres, and this will inevitably place greater demands on public sector facilities and school playing fields. Since London's success was announced, many commentators have voiced concerns over inadequate levels of provision for today's youngsters, placing existing facilities under even greater strain.

Hard-pressed local authorities could do worse than follow the example of Rotterdam. The Dutch city, which was voted the European Capital of Sport in 2005, has a reputation for pitches of uniformly high quality, whether they are council playing fields or top-flight stadiums.

Rotterdam's secret is its extensive use of turf maintenance equipment developed by the city's Parks Superintendent, Ko Rodenburg. Named Koro, after their inventor, these machines keep grounds free draining and healthy, without undue reliance on chemicals.

Koro machines are distributed in the UK and Eire by Campey Turf Care Systems. The Macclesfield-based company recently took 30 grounds care professionals to Rotterdam, where they saw various models demonstrated, and they assessed the long-term quality benefits that they achieve.

Richard Norton, Stadium Manager with Bolton Wanderers Football Club, was amongst the delegates. "The way in which the Dutch look after their facilities is very impressive and we could learn a lot from them," he says. "They are committed to providing top quality playing fields and involving local people in sport."

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In all, the city has 294 sports fields, ranging from local authority pitches to major stadiums. They accommodate levels of usage between 200 and 1100 hours per year, and all have been under Ko Rodenburg's control for the last 25 years. "The machines I developed have enabled us to maintain sports turf to the highest standard, despite reduced capital budgets and fewer personnel," he says.

"Success lies in maintaining a naturalistic top soil layer with a balanced rootzone that holds moisture and essential nutrients," continues Ko Rodenburg. "It is also vital to reduce thatch, which can restrict grass growth and encourages disease."

The Koro line-up comprises machines designed to tackle pitches with drainage problems of varying degrees of severity. The Koro Top Drain relieves surface compaction and allows water to percolate through existing main drains that are in good condition. The machine cuts three trenches simultaneously, measuring 4cm wide, 20cm deep and 50cm apart. A conveyor belt carries the removed soil into an adjacent trailer. The Top Drain then fills the trenches with sand, which is then firmed by the rear wheels."

The Koro Field TopMaker is ideal for annual renovation. At a high setting, its blades will fraise mow the ground to restore a level surface prior to overseeding. Set lower, the blades remove thatch and shallow rooting poa annua, to encourage perennial ryegrass and other desirable species. A deep scarifying head attachment is also available for the removal of thatch down to 5cm, restoring a healthier rootzone.

Often used for more intensive renovation work, the Koro Recycling Dresser invigorates hard-pressed grounds with uneven surfaces, having been used intensively for several years. The machine enables aeration, decompaction and top dressing to be achieved in one operation. It has two sets of blades, with digging blades to break up ground to depths of 20cm, and coulter blades that are pulled through the soil to restore the drainage profile. Soil that is removed during the operation is redistributed onto the playing surface as a top dressing. This reduces the need for imported dressings and provides a soil that matches the indigenous ground conditions.

For turf areas that are subjected to the heaviest levels of wear, such as goalmouths, the Koro Culti-Roll relieves compaction without affecting surface levels. The 1.5m-wide machine has a double row of winged compaction legs that till the soil down to 20cm prior to seeding.

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Ko Rodenburg is passionate about the importance of real turf surfaces. "Soccer and most other sports are best played on natural grass, and professional sportsmen prefer it. Artificial grass is only needed for facilities that are used so intensively that real turf cannot grow properly. The pitches we have in Rotterdam show what can be achieved on natural grass, using Koro equipment."

Richard Campey, Managing Director of Campey Turf Care Systems, has championed the benefits of natural turf for many years, and offers equipment designed to maximise playability. "The considerable amount of money needed for, say, an artificial pitch could be used to bring several local authority pitches back into peak condition. Moreover, if a real pitch is correctly drained, maintained and seasonally renovated, then there is no reason at all why it should not last forever, as a naturally growing medium. Youngsters wanting to be like their sporting heroes need good, local facilities, and the obvious choice is their nearest park."

Local authorities and sports clubs seeking to emulate Rotterdam might find help from the Football Foundation, which claims to be the UK's largest sports charity. It is a partnership funded by the FA, the FA Premier League and the Government. It can provide grants from £100 to £1m for projects ranging from pitch drainage work to infrastructure improvements.

Councils should get out of the starting blocks now - otherwise, the 2012 Olympic Games may not see much home success.

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