Councils across Britain are boosting their `green` credentials and saving money by investing in a new breed of sportsturf mix.
Salford City Council is the latest local authority to overseed its community sportspitches with a blend of microclover and perennial ryegrass, following on the heels of other North-west authorities Bury and Wigan, and Bridgend in South Wales.
Sowing microclover seed along with traditional ryegrass cultivars increases wear tolerance, encourages a thicker sward and helps to maintain a rich, lush green colour throughout the playing season, research has shown.
Amenity teams need not apply as much fertiliser, because the clover fixes nitrogen in the soil and feeds the grass plants. Mid-season renovation is less onerous too, as pitches can resist heavy usage better than traditional grass mixes.
After extensive trials with DLF Trifolium's Microclover Sport mix, Salford's parks department overseeded all its 74 sportspitches with a 5% clover inclusion at the end of May to wide acclaim.
So far this season, the council has been able to boost sports participation on pitches across the city, while local football clubs are increasing the number of teams they can field - in one case from 11 to 24.
Microclover ticks many of the environmental boxes that councils need so that they can gain recognition as greener boroughs via schemes such as the Customer Service Excellence Award, which Salford achieved in 2010.
At the same time, microclover-based pitches reduce maintenance requirements and offer significant cost savings over traditional pitches.
Wigan Borough Council has also sown all its sportpitches with Microclover Sport, while in South Wales, Bridgend trialled the mix on a sportspitch alongside another sown with purely ryegrass. The positive results achieved look likely to spur the council to overseed its other pitches with the blend.
When local authorities are faced with absorbing huge cutbacks in service provision across the board, microclover allows parks and amenity departments to make potentially large savings on sportspitch maintenance, while also demonstrating their `green` pedigree.