Lord's full of praise for new Toro irrigation system
By Lucy Ohsten
Lord's head Groundsman Michael Hunt couldn't have picked a better time than this year's long, hot summer to install the first automatic irrigation system at the home of cricket.
Put in as part of the ground's overhaul, the system has a Toro Gemini PC-based control system that runs the whole watering programme for him. It's a development he feels is well overdue. He says: "Before the reconstruction, we used travelling sprinklers, which made irrigation very time-consuming.
"Invariably it meant watering at the wrong time - in between matches, or in the heat of the day, when evaporation is at its highest rate. And because the soil profile was clay-based it wasn't very porous, so the old type of irrigation gave us problems with ponding.
"Now it's a whole new ball game. The Gemini controller is so simple to use and completely worry-free. It enables me to program the watering schedule so the sprinklers come on at the optimum time, usually overnight when it's cooler. So I don't even have to be on site. It makes everything easier to plan, including the fertilisation programme."
Michael first put his new system through its paces in preparation for the England versus South Africa npower Test at the end of July. "The weather was very hot in mid-July, but with the Toro control system I was able to maintain moisture levels during these hot periods and keep stress on the grass to a minimum," he says. "I programmed the sprinklers to come on between, say, 8pm and 2am, for a 4mm watering - or on cooler days a 2mm burst overnight - just to keep it looking its best.
"I can also spot-water specific areas at any time using Gemini's hand-held radio remote controller. This is ideal for use on patches of turf that need a little extra attention. The pitch looks superb at the moment, so I'm really pleased with how the irrigation system is working. And if I need help, Toro gives me all the back-up I need.
"I wouldn't go back now," Michael adds. "That's the thing about modern technology - when you have it you wonder how you ever coped before."
The outfield at Lord's was completely reconstructed, with soil down to half-a-metre removed and replaced with a faster-draining, sand-based rootzone material, before re-turfing. The irrigation system was designed by specialist consultants Robin Hume Associates Limited, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and specified and installed by irrigation contractor Lakes and Greens, Uckfield, East Sussex.
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