NTF Raise the standard in Blackpool
By Laurence Gale MSc
This year's NTF continued to raise the standard in education provision for the turf grass industry. Over 45 presentations were delivered to the 400 plus delegates who attended the four-day conference.
The wealth of expertise on offer was outstanding, with presentations from a number of leading industry professionals representing many different countries.
Martyn Jones delivered a very warm welcome to all the delegates, endorsing the importance of the conference and outlining what challenges our industry faces in the coming years. Martyn also expressed a very big thank you to all the sponsors and volunteers whose hard work and generosity had continued to ensure the success of the NTF.
As with many of Martyn's conference introductions there is always a hidden surprise, and this year was no exception. After officially opening the 2005 conference he duly began to strip off to reveal himself scantily dressed in women's underwear that included stockings, suspenders and corset. The reason behind this sudden change of clothes was to promote one of the conference attractions; a night out to see Funny Girls, a cabaret act. Martyn was generously applauded for his efforts before rushing off to change back into more conservative attire.
David Golding, Director of The Greenkeepers Training Committee, then proceeded to introduce the Conference's first two guest speakers, Professor Al Turgeon and Professor J Vargas Jnr, two of the world's top turf grass specialists. Both have always been ardent supporters of the NTF conference.
Al Turgeon gave an interesting lecture on root development in turf grasses. His presentation showed how root growth can be influenced/stimulated by many aspects, (maintenance, feeding and temperatures) however, seasonal weather patterns, in most cases, have the biggest influence on root development.
Joe Vargas Jnr followed with a topical discussion on the merits of controlling Poa annua using a number of chemical properties that included Triexapac-ethyl, Ethofumosate, Bispyribac-sodium and many others. Some encouraging results were displayed to the delegates.
After lunch NTF delegates had the choice to attend several presentations which included:-
- Alistair Beggs (STRI) who gave a talk on managing golf courses on a shoestring.
- Professor Peter Landshoot, Pennsylvania State University, who gave an insight into the demand and development of compost materials to improve turf performance.
- Keith Happ, Senior Agronomist Mid- Atlantic Region USGA Green Section, who talked about Member conflict.
- Phil Sharples gave an interesting outline for the use and benefits from using the Internet as a management tool.
The debate of the day occurred in the early evening when nearly all the Conference delegates attended a debate on "Sustainable Golf. What, Why and How?" This prompted some practical arguments about our industry, and where we should be going. Many leading industry personnel used the microphone to express their opinions.
There were comments about the sustainability of materials, top dressings, seed and pesticides. Other issues under scrutiny were the fragmentation of our industry, having so many governing bodies and organisations that very rarely meet together to drive and promote our industry collectively.
The Hilton Hotel provided excellent accommodation, food and services throughout the conference. Like most conferences, a majority of information was shared and exchanged in the bar and restaurants, where delegates got the opportunity to network and exchange personal views of the industry.
A variety of speakers delivered a series of talks and presentations. Nineteen presentations were delivered in the two conference rooms in use. I managed to attend a number of these in my capacity as editor of Pitchcare and found them very informative.
- Reinstatement of a seaside Links Golf Course at Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club by Gordon Irving.
- Fescue Culture in Denmark by Bente Mortensen
- A Different Approach by Clive Liddiard who talked about the use of sugars as part of a feeding programme. This involved the use of a Zeolite product that acts as a carrier, improving the CEC exchange capacity of the soil profile.
- Comparisons of Third Generation Artificials with Natural Turf by Stephen Baker STRI, who showed data on the performance of both natural and artificial surfaces.
- Creating the Right Environment by Dr Richard Earl from TurfTrax. A fascinating insight was given into recent drainage techniques being introduced into the industry. These have been derived from recent academic research carried out at leading universities. Conclusions have resulted in a better understanding of the importance of capillarity when specifying drainage materials
Many of the delegates then attended the much publicised "Funny Girls Show" at Blackpool's world famous Show Bar and this was, by all accounts, a very good show.
Delegates were now getting themselves into a routine, attending the seminars that interested them and making time to meet up with old colleagues and make new acquaintances. The Pitchcare Cyber Café was always busy with many people using the facility to access their emails and keep up to date with industry news.
Another 14 seminars were presented throughout the day offering a range of core subjects that included:
- Soil Stress, Strain Relationships and Interactions with the Playability of Winter Sports Pitches by Mark Jennings (Cranfield University).
- Moss Control By Professor Joe Vargas Jnr (Michigan State University).
- A World Beneath our feet - Understanding Soil Properties by Alex Vickers (Cranfield University), Alex's enthusiastic delivery in a "Magnus Pike style" and innovative use of presentation aids was a joy to experience.
- Nematodes - A growing Problem on New Greens By Philip Chiverton, Course manager from the Grove GC. A very informative presentation detailing the damage now occurring from nematode activity on newly constructed greens.
- Communicating Effectively with Members and Staff by Billy McMillan. As usual Billy enthralled his audience with some nice anecdotes and humour whilst providing excellent examples of good and bad communication practices on golf courses.
During the conference there was plenty of opportunity for the delegates to talk to one another and visit the NTF sponsors stands during each day. The main sponsors were:- Syngenta, Scotts, TurfTrax, Toro, British Seed Houses, M J Abbot, LELY and Campey Turf Care Systems.
The NTF also provided the opportunity for Syngenta and Scotts to launch Primo MAXX a new growth regulator product that has had extensive trials in the UK. Some of the benefits being promoted were:- It reduces clippings, increases sward density, improves root mass, thus improving the grass plants tolerance to drought and helps retain a consistent colour. The product works on the ability to control the amount of Gibberlic Acid being produced in the plant thus controlling its growth characteristics. There were many trialists in the room quantifying the benefits they got from using this product.
The official launch of the product will be at the BTME show in Harrogate.
During the evening the NTF had organised their Gala event, which combined an evening meal, entertainment, and the BRITTIR Awards.
Award Categories :-Presentations were made for the following categories:
The Final Day
Again we saw some fascinating presentations by leading industry professionals talking about a wide range of issues:
- With water and other environmental issues coming to the fore the presentation by Graham Francis ( Hydroscape Ltd) entitled "Conducting a Golf Course Water Audit" was very relevant and provided specific criteria which many Greenkeepers could benefit from using.
- Encouraging Wild Flowers on Golf Courses, Sports Grounds and Urban Highways by Liz Manley (Flora Locale) was another interesting talk that highlighted ways to introduce colour and new habitats into the landscape.
- Maintaining an Optimum Water Balance in Soil by Dr Coen J Ritsema.
- Pesticide Usage on Golf Courses and Sports Turf in Europe By Ruth Mann STRI.
The conference was an outstanding success for all who attended. The opportunity for delegates to mix and socialise with companies and guest speakers was an extremely rewarding experience that also allowed some informal discussions of the most contemporary issues now facing our industry.
I am sure that next year the NTF will go from strength to strength, as long as the industry continues to support the hard work and commitment shown by Martyn and Louise in securing the services of the world's leading agronomists, turf researchers, producers and companies.
I believe it should be the duty of all the sports governing bodies and industry leaders to come together and continue to drive the success of this conference.
The interaction of academic minds and sports turf practitioners at all levels should be embraced. The NTF vehicle has started this process well. We need to continue with this to ensure that everybody involved, from top to bottom, have the opportunity to meet and share ideas for the good of our industry.
The industry has been fragmented for far too long. It is time to bring associations together. I firmly believe that the role of the turfgrass industry has a major part to play in the future sporting success and health of our nation.
In recent years, in my capacity as a sports coach, I have noticed how unfit and uncoordinated children are becoming. The constant demise in the quality of playing fields has certainly helped towards this decline. We should be encouraging kids to play sport by the fact that we can offer quality pitches and golf facilities at all levels.
One thing is for certain, Martyn has begun to make people aware of what the NTF can achieve in promoting and maintaining quality natural grass facilities, which in turn will improve the long term health of our future nation.
I for one will be securing my place at next year's conference and am thankful to the NTF for providing the opportunity to learn of the latest research and technologies that are embracing our industry.
See you at the 2006 NTF.