Reducing the need to Water
Predictions that climate change will result in droughts and hosepipe bans this summer, particularly in the south of England, are forcing many local authorities to make serious decisions about how they will manage their horticultural requirements for 2006. For those responsible for turf maintenance, the problems of water shortage are likely to present an equally big headache.
In recent years, the mulching mower has proved a winner for a wide number of groundsmen and who are now experiencing the benefit of turf moisture retention which this system offers. Unlike a traditional cut and drop mower, the mulcher retains the clippings beneath the cutting deck, where they are chopped over and over again into fine particles before being returned to the turf where they decompose naturally. No unsightly clippings are left on the ground; nor are there grass collectors to empty with the associated high landfill disposal costs. An added bonus is that all the nutrients in the finely cut grass leaves are returned to the turf to feed future growth.
One manufacturer who is having great success with this system is Etesia. Their UK General Manager, Les Malin, says, "A large number of football clubs are now using our mulching mowers on their pitches. We don't claim that it's the total solution as an alternative to watering, but the fact that grass contains a high percentage of water means that the fine mulch acts as a coolant for the turf and reduces evaporation from the soil in hot weather."
Other sports venues which have opted for a mowing regime with Etesia's mulchers are hockey and cricket grounds plus racecourses and golf courses - when regularly cutting down to a couple of inches, they are reporting a clean finish and no unsightly "clumping". Without a grass collector to empty, topping off on these larger sites is a speedy operation when using Etesia's Hydro 144 ride-on mulching mower - it has a high-output 144cm cutting deck and top working speed of 16km/h. The secret of this machine lies in its patented Biocut mulching deck which reduces clippings almost to a fine mist - this ensures thatch build-up is kept to a bare minimum. Hydro 144 is powered by a 25hp, 3cylinder, water-cooled Lombardini diesel engine. Its 19-litre fuel tank will give up to 7 hours of work, so operator comfort is of paramount importance. Etesia have addressed this with a number of features such as comfortable suspension seat; easy-to-use smooth hydrostatic drive; power steering; diff lock and even weight distribution.
For those who cannot justify the need, or storage space, for a mower purely dedicated to mulching, Etesia have a cost effective solution in the form of an optional 144cm mulching deck for their Hydro 124DN ride-on rotary. This provides the best of all worlds - in spring, Etesia's ride-on rotary with its unique anti-clog cutting and collecting system, speedily reduces lush growth to a tidy, manageable height in preparation for regular cut-and-drop mowing with the mulcher. The mulching deck is easily fitted without the use of tools and is quickly removed, allowing Hydro 124DN's collection system to be utilized for other jobs, such as clearing divots and debris from the pitch after matches; tidying litter around the club house, or even mowing areas of grass where bagging is required!
Powered by a 25hp water-cooled 3-cylinder Lombardini diesel engine, the 124cm Hydro 124DN ride-on rotary has hydrostatic forward and reverse drive. The 600 litre collector is hydraulically emptied from the driving position and holds more than 100kg of grass.
For smaller sites, Etesia offers the ME53B pedestrian mulching mower. Powered by 6hp Briggs & Stratton Intek engine, this 53cm machine has been specially built to deal with the type of thick vegetation found in the UK.
Spending budgets wisely is the basis of good housekeeping, but for a wide number of clubs, purchasing the larger items of equipment is totally beyond their means. This problem is not unfamiliar to Etesia as Les Malin well knows, "We understand the restraints faced by many sports facilities that simply do not have the funds for capital purchases. To help overcome this, a number of dealers in our UK network offer hire, and Etesia has also just launched a new finance package which offers some attractive terms which can be tailor made to meet individual requirements." he says.