Irish contractor Conor O'Neill of Waterville in Co Kerry bought the first new John Deere 5R Series utility tractor from dealer Seamus Weldon of Killarney in 2009, and it made an immediate impact on his fledgling business.
Conor set up Rubber Pitches Ireland in 2008 after several years' research into pitch management systems throughout Europe, and uses his 100hp 5100R tractor to top dress sports pitches with a special material made by Crumb Rubber Ireland in County Louth. Made from recycled tyres, the rubber pellets are used instead of sand to help relieve compaction and improve drainage and root density on natural grass playing surfaces throughout Ireland.
The material has been the subject of a report by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) in the UK, and has been shown to improve problem areas on sports pitches and enhance their overall performance. Treating one pitch uses the equivalent of around 6000 to 8000 tyres; the system is already established in Europe and the US, but is still relatively new to Ireland.
"I wanted to expand the operation of my landscaping company, and this developed from our existing top dressing business," says Conor O'Neill. "It's an effective use of a waste product, with obvious environmental benefits. Rubber has advantages over sand, which will aerate the soil but can be abrasive at the crown of the grass, whereas the rubber material will do the same aeration job, but can also cushion the grass against impact and wear."
In work, the John Deere 5100R tractor carries an Acuspread top dresser and a Wiedenmann Terra Spike XP8 high-performance aerator. "I specified the tractor with a front linkage, which is ideal as I can carry both implements to the work-site at the same time and do both jobs with one machine," says Conor. "The tractor carries about 7 tonnes with ease when the spreader is full, and it's very well put together. There's lots of space in the cab, which is very quiet, all the controls are at your fingertips, and it has great visibility.
"The landscaping business has used John Deere mowers and other machines for many years, so we already had a good relationship with Michael Weldon from the dealership," he adds. "When I wanted to replace my previous make of tractor, I did look at other manufacturers, and some machines were certainly cheaper, but I was sold on John Deere's technology and reliability. The dealer service is just fantastic, parts are available on demand and if anything does go wrong, they're here quickly to sort it out. I'm very happy with the tractor and the back-up I get from Weldons."
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