Re-turfing at Juventus
When the management team from Juventus FC came to our Richter Rasen turf farm in Austria, they were interested to look at our sports turf products and management practices. During the discussions, we talked to them about soil substrates, turf species, dimensions of turf for harvest. They were very satisfied with their tour and I list the important information below for you.
85% Kentucky Bluegrass/Smooth Stalked Meadow grass (Poa pratensis)
15% Ryegrass (Lolium perenne)
(Regeneration strategy for the turf, Poa pratensis regenerates via rhizomes, always in the soil. Lolium perenne regenerates via overseeding.)
Option for overseeding with Supina Bluegrass (Poa supina) for Stadiums with shady microclimate.
Soil testing to optimise root zone specification and nutrients
Topdressing to optimise root zone specification
Seeding with appropriate turf grass cultivars
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Verticutting and topdressing for thatch control
Mowing height important for Sports Quality
3.5 cm thick root zone
10 to 12 meters long
Dimensions vary on stadium demands or time frame for first game or sporting event. If you have 4 to 6 weeks you can have the option for normal cut turf 15 to 18 mmdepth, and a longer roll 18 to 20 meters. As time is an issue in STADIO DELLE ALPI the choice was thick cut turf for immediate play. There was only 1 day after installation before the first game, with out any problems of stability, ball roll, ball bounce and shear tolerance.
Dependent on weight approx. 350 m2 / truck
Transport with standard trucks or cooling trucks
A total of 25 trucks including installation equipment
We use a BRL 120, a machine where the turf is transported on the front. There are 7 tyres, 4 on the front and 3 at the back. These tyres are offset to each other so as the machine installs the turf the tyres act as rollers to level the sports turf ready for play. The installation method consists of 7 staff members working for a total 60 hours, inclusive of clean up and any detailed work. 2 Forklifts/ drivers were secured unloading the delivery of big roll turf to the pitch.
Summary of Job:-
The choice of turfgrass species and proper root zone is crucial to the function of a natural sports turf. The major key to a successful pitch is to match the soil from the turf, with the soil from the stadium preparation.
As time is usually very short for this type of project, good logistics are very important. The club also decided to purchase a weather station to monitor the microclimate, an added tool for their turf manager.
The first job was the removal of old turf and partial artificial fibres ( "Sportsgrass" ). This was a first generation idea from the artificial turf companies. It consisted of artificial turf with longer grass strings and a porous mat to allow water percolation. The mat is then top-dressed and seed.
This system that was in place had made it difficult for the turf manager to carry out standard cultural practices.
Next was the preparation of soil substrates and surface levelling. It is important that the ground underneath is prepared properly. What level preparation you see underneath is what you will end up with on the top. If the prepared ground has an uneven surface, it will remain the same when the turf is installed.
If the substrate is a clay loam then it will hold water like a bath, it is likely there will be no turf after only a few games. The answer is to provide a substrate that is more of a sandy loam, then drainage is no problem and the roots are strong; what comes with that is stability of turf.
In other words when the pitch is constantly wet and does not have time to dry out, then the roots remain short as they do not have to search for water because it is sitting in the surface. If the correct substrate is formed, the water is able to drain easily and the roots have to search for water, perhaps and preferably down 8 to 10 cm or more.
Once the decision is made for the turf that best fits the stadium needs and the soil preparation is finished, the harvesting begins. The turf for the job at Juventus is cut at 4cm deep 120cm wide and 10 to 12 meters long. Other jobs require different situations. The decision of thick cut turf was made due to the intense fixture schedule. Each roll of thick cut sports turf weighed about 1.000 kg depending on roll length.
The grass species used for Juventus F.C. is Poa pratensis, this is the foundation of a quality sports turf due to its regeneration via rhizomes. Once this turf is established it can be over seeded with Lolium perenne to aid the Poa pratensis in different microclimates that are problems for stadiums. These mixtures of different cultivars have benefits. Each cultivar has different tolerances, examples are shade, disease, and wear. When one cultivar is not doing well, the other cultivars are there as back up to the others, to help keep a uniform natural turf. Uniform colour is one of the things that the artificial turf businesses are trying to promote, but as you can see you can do the same with natural turf and at the end of the season you can still verticut, aerate and top-dress.
The main reason why Juventus FC decided on thick cut turf was the heavy fixture schedule. There were 7 upcoming home games in a row. So the aggressive playing schedule called for thick cut turf as it is more stable after installation. In most stadium situations there is never enough time, particularly mid-season to use normal thin cut turf, because this requires time for root growth to make the playing surface stable.
What the turf industry can contribute to stadiums is quite simple, a quality natural surface for players. There is a misconception that natural sports turf is all the same, but this simply is not the case. Selection of the correct seed cultivar is the first step. Next is the selection of soil substrate. What many of us turf growers strive for is the perfect combination of turf cultivars and soil substrate. It's very important to educate the Stadium managers that not all turf farms are the same. The majority of turf farms tend to use the soil that is on their land for all there products be it for sports, landscaping, domestic use etc.
These soils are very often a loamy clay or loam soil this is great for holding on to water and harbouring diseases!
You could have the best soil preparation in the stadium according to all the criteria, then the stadium is turfed with a clay loam which has a high water holding capacity. Again the roots are never encouraged to grow into the substrate due to all the moisture in the top. If the roots never grow down, the sod never attaches to the substrate and the whole project fails. Most stadiums do not need 100% water holding capacity, as there is usually an automatic irrigation system.
If you asked the salespeople or owners of these artificial companies what type of turf they have at home in their back yards. I am sure they would say they had natural turf such as Poa pratensis, Lolium perenne, or Festuca. If they had artificial turf outside, the inside of the house could be 20 degrees warmer in the summer and 20 degrees colder in winter and with that comes air conditioning and heating costs.
Plus what about the awful smell of rubber and plastic, and what about if you have a pet. Then you let your kids go and play on the artificial turf. What type of fun is that, waiting for diseases to be transferred? I would not want to be the stadium that has a law suit for a disease that a young player received from an artificial surface.
Natural turf is a natural filter of organic components supplied by humans, and grass also has a cooling affect in summer and an insulation effect in the autumn and early winter.
Natural grass is the surface that we all grew up playing on. It's the preferred choice for professional players.
We hear the synthetic arguments all the time, about the amount of play they can take. They may well host more hours, but costs are at least the same as a natural pitch to maintain, and the costs for replacement are far more expensive than a natural pitch. It's time to listen to what you know inside and stop listening to everyone else. Trends come and go, but Natural turf is forever.