Specialist machinery and services
By Laurence Gale MSc
Our sports turf industry has a huge range of services and products. The diversity and scale are astonishing. It is not until you attend one of the two main turf industry shows, BTME (January) and Saltex (September), that you begin to appreciate the full extent of services and products available.
One of the driving forces behind the innovations and new technologies is the desire of Groundsmen and Greenkeepers to produce higher quality playing surfaces all year round.
In the last 10-15 years the development of specialist machinery has been impressive. Manufacturers have realised that there is a large market out there, leading to the production of a vast array of machinery that can help improve the efficiency and manner in which we maintain and construct our facilities.
In my opinion, two developments in particular have revolutionised the way we renovate, construct and maintain sports fields and pitches. I am, of course, referring to the Koro fraise mower and the big roll turf systems. It is now possible to remove a complete pitch surface, replace it with new turf and play on it within 10 days, a scenario that is becoming more and more common at many major football stadiums around the world. More about the Koro later on in the article.
We have also seen the development of new reinforcement products such as fibre sand, desso, Xtra grass resulting in improvements in pitch design and construction techniques. Laser grading machines and drainage trenchers have further speeded up the process of pitch constructions.
There is an impressive selection of trenching devices, earthquake and vertidrain machines which have influenced and improved aeration practices, together with topdressing/spreading machines that can accurately spread sand and rootzones in small or large quantities.
Mowing machines come in many shapes and sizes. The key factors nowadays when choosing a mower are reliability, flexibility and safety. Many mowers boast a range of features such as inter-changeable cassettes offering, cutting, grooming and brushing heads that enable the mower to multitask.
Technology has also produced fully automated mowers. The MAS Mower 01 is a self-propelled, laser-guided, reel-type mower capable of creating a multitude of geometric patterns on turf without an operator being present.
On the aeration front, we have seen the development of Ecosolve's drill and fill system that brings dramatic improvements to drainage and the playability of fine turf. The machine creates drainage ducts that have a lifespan far exceeding the more conventional verti-drain ducts so frequently used.
SISIS have recently developed their AER-AID system that combats compaction by injecting clean, fresh air into the rootzone at a fast working speed, and at close centres. This machine is becoming very popular on golf courses. The air injection tines alternate with conventional solid tines and can penetrate to a maximum depth of 127mm. Air is introduced at a rate of 88 litres per minute. Clean fresh air is pumped into the soil profile at a depth of 125mm, with claims from the manufacturer that any anaerobic gases are forced out during operations, thus improving the oxygen exchange rate in the soil.
Terrain Aeration have also developed a number of specialist machines that can deliver a powerful blast of air into the ground to shatter the soil structure below the surface. These have been used extensively around tree plantations and mature trees to rejuvenate the soil around the tree base. Included in their range is the recently launched Airforce Tracker, mounted on twin rubber tracks and nimble enough to work within established plantings.
Two of the most popular aerators are the vertidrain and, in more recent years, the Wiedenmann terra spike. These machines are used extensively on sports fields and golf fairway to provide deep aeration and compaction relief.
As referred to earlier in the article, the renovation of sports fields has been completely revolutionised by the Koro range of equipment:
Field Topmaker (fraise mower) is ideally suited for the control of unwanted grasses/weeds such as Poa Annua without the use of pesticides. The topmaker can be set at various working depths to suit your needs. It
Recycling Dresser, can aerate and topdress in a single pass, it can aerate to a depth of 150mm and can mix underlying soils vertically and horizontally.
Topdrain, a multi functional machine that trenches, removes spoil, injects sand and re-compacts the surface. This machine can install trenches 50mm wide x 200mm deep @ 500mm centres on a whole pitch in one day.
Cultirol, a machine dedicated to relieve compaction in worn areas, it can mix dressings into the soil top layer and then firms the surface without disturbing the field profile.
When constructing new sports facilities it is important to ensure that competent and qualified contractors are used. With such a wide range of construction and drainage techniques now being used in our industry it is important to use companies who have the appropriate equipment, experience and a proven track record of dealing and handling the scale and complexity of the work specified.
It is often beneficial and sometimes more cost effective to enroll the services of consultants to help with the design and building of new facilities. They are often more qualified and experienced in dealing with specific projects and offer
The success of any sports pitch drainage scheme is down to the design and accurate installation of the system. Nowadays, nearly all pipe laying trenchers are laser guided and designed to lay pipes accurately. There are also many different types of gravel/sand banding machines now available offering different configurations of drainage systems.
When it comes to scarifying fine turf surfaces such as bowls, golf and cricket, the most popular machines are the pedestrian Graden and SISIS ROTORAKE 600. They are renowned for their effective and efficient eradication of thatch. These two machines are highly regarded by turf professionals for their ability to perform in the most trying conditions.
It is now possible to have permanent lines sown into your pitch. There is no doubt that the system provides bright, durable lines, visible from one end of the pitch to the other. The polypropylene material is guaranteed by the manufacturer against UV damage for up to ten years. A more realistic assessment from the manufacturer of the machine is that there is no reason why the installation should not be good for five to six years, possibly longer. This could provide huge cost savings for clubs and local authorities compared to the time and material costs for traditional line marking.
The weather is probably the main factor determining when maintenance and renovation work is carried out. Every Groundsman and Greenkeeper up and down the country spends a lot of time studying the weather. This task has been helped considerably in recent years with the development of internet service providers who promote services with access to weather data information. Also on the market are portable weather stations that can be set up and linked to a computer to analyse the weather information. This data can be used to determine appropriate working practices.
Advanced development of soil analysis equipment, soil pH meters, tensionometers and theta probes have enabled Groundsmen and Greenkeepers to measure more accurately the condition and current state of their soil profiles. The availability of more accessible soil laboratories has also speeded up the process and cost effectiveness of soil analysis.
Turftrax Ground Management Systems Limited (TGMS) is one of the leading sports soils and surfaces consultants in the country with a close association to Cranfield University. They offer a comprehensive range of services including soil remediation and agronomy.
Some companies can assess soil structure in precise detail using EMI scanning and GPS mapping technologies. The EMI scan, similar to an x-ray, is invisible to the naked eye. This system can very quickly measure soil properties over large areas. The scanner is towed behind a quad bike/gator vehicle delivering an electromagnetic signal through the soil profile down to a depth of 1.2 metres. The scanner is linked to a DGPS (Differential Global Positioning Satellite) and locates the position of each measurement with greta accuracy. The information is gathered at an intensity of up to 20,000 readings for an area the size of a football pitch.
One of the latest soil sensors on the market is the POGO, for the golf and sports turf industries. It is a portable device that enables Greenskeepers to spot-check any area of the green for instant data on soil moisture, salinity and temperature, for better watering and fertilisation management. The POGO sensor sends the information to a detachable PDA or to a laptop using Bluetooth® wireless technology, for easy data storage and analysis.
In recent years we have seen a dramatic change in pesticide legislation which controls the way we manage and use pesticide products for controlling pests, weeds and diseases. Even the good old knapsack sprayer has gone through many changes to make it more comfortable and user friendly. The development of the fully calibrated battery powered Controlled Droplet Applicator (CDA) hand lance has been instrumental in reducing the time and effort spent on the work, and improved the safety for the operator.
Many establishments now hire in companies to undertake weed control spraying. It is often more cost effective to arrange for a specialist to come in and supply all the labour, materials for the job, using the latest and most efficient equipment, thus alleviating the need to train up and keep your own staff certificated for spraying and chemicals use.
There has been a large increase in the building of artificial sports facilities in recent years, especially with the new third generation
There is no such thing as a maintenance free artificial surface, they all need to be kept clean and functional. It is important to keep the infill systems brushed to stand the pile up and redistribute infill materials. Regular brushing is essential and, periodically, the infill materials need cleaning or replacing depending on the condition and age of the carpet.
There are a number of specialist brushes, hoovers and rejuvenation machines available for these tasks. In most cases it is cheaper to hire in these machines for the specific task required. One of the UK's leading companies which specialises in maintaining artificial surfaces is Technical Surfaces who can ensure that your synthetic sports pitch is maintained to the highest standard, resulting in improved performance, extended life and increased revenue.
Recent legislation brought in by the water companies will see a major change in future to how we use and store our water resources. There will be a legal requirement to monitor and record what water we are using. It is entirely possible to imagine a golf course, for example, which has been abstracting water quite happily from their borehole for 12 years being told it can have no more water. Not a happy prospect for a club which has invested perhaps £250,000 in an irrigation system only to find they have no water to put through their shiny new pipes and sprinklers.
To help overcome this problem it will be essential to obtain good advice form specialist consultants and irrigation companies who can offer expertise and products
The above services and products are only a snap shot of what is currently on offer and what has been developed to date. The sheer size of the turfgrass industry market, together with the desire and commitment from industry professionals to improve standards and the quality playing surfaces, will ensure there are always incentives to improve and deliver new services and products.
Pitchcare's role is to keep you informed of any technological advances in these products and services. The following link will lead you to our classified list of suppliers. You should be able to find most of the companies mentioned above in this list. Classified companies.