Into the air age

New machines are making turf aeration faster, more versatile and better value than ever.

We are constantly asking natural turf to cope with more — more play as the eight-pitch facility becomes a five-pitch facility plus car park; and more events such as car boot sales being run to raise  revenue. So it is no surprise that compaction is a growing problem — and climate change isn’t helping.
Waterlogged in winter and parched in summer — that is what we are told to expect. If that is the case, more attention to drainage and irrigation will be needed and decompaction and aeration treatments must be a priority if facilities are to continue being played.
Aeration is an important part of any turf maintenance programme, though it seems to be little-understood or valued outside private sports clubs.

Air and water circulation
Using the correct machine, aeration can break up compaction to increase water infiltration rates and improve air movement and gaseous exchange for a healthy rootzone. It can also help to raise soil temperature and encourage deeper rooting of the grass to give a more stable, durable surface. If coring tines are used, followed by top-dressing applications, it can be part of a planned improvement through soil exchange. Aeration is great. We’d be fools not to do it.
Depending on the site, grass cutting could cost in excess of £2,500 per hectare a year. How can the intensive, slow operation of aeration be justified when budgets are stretched?
For a start, aeration operations need not be slow. There is equipment that works faster than ever. The latest vertical-action machinery from Charterhouse and Wiedenmann can easily aerate all 18 holes on a golf course in a day, while Sisis of Macclesfield quotes a pitch-rate of about two hours for its Javelin 1500.
Where aeration is a regular operation in the programme, slitters can be used.  Some tractor-mounted slitters can complete a pitch in 20 minutes.
Aeration equipment is now more effective than ever. Some of the latest developments can literally add value to the aeration operation. For example, Terrain Aeration Services of Stowmarket has, for many years, offered a contract service to tackle compaction by blasting air, under very high pressure, into the ground to create fissures and bring about compaction relief. More recently, the firm has been pumping a range of products, including mychorrizae, into the soil at the same time.
Terrain Aeration Services (TAS) has equipment suitable for aerating greens, pitches and around trees. The latest kit developed by the firm includes the Airforce Tracker and Airforce Scamper. At 400kg and just 69cm wide, the Tracker is designed to tackle problems in awkward spaces. It has a ground pressure of just 5psi but delivers all the power of the company’s ride-on machines.
“Tracker has the same hydraulic hammer and probe as the standard Airforce machines, but is mounted on a Honda HP500 powered barrow,” says TAS managing director and engineer David Green. “The diesel-powered compressor stays on the trailer and a 50m long, high-pressure hose connects the two pieces of kit. This means we can inject compressed air up to 20 bar, yet have the manoeuvrability needed to work in small spaces.”
Scamper is a self-contained unit powered by a 13hp engine and driven by twin hydraulic motors. It works to a depth of 1m, treats 4sq m in one shot and is suitable for use on a range of surfaces, from bowling greens to contaminated brownfield sites.
Not working as deep, but bringing continual mobility to an air-injection operation, the Sisis Aer-Aid system uses  new technology first seen about 18 months ago. The combination of the vertical-action Javelin 1500 tractor-mounted aerator plus special tines and a compressor means air can be forced into the ground at a rate of 88 litres a minute and to a maximum depth of 127mm while on the move.
The company says it is very pleased with the first year’s sales. Systems are being used in Sweden, South Africa and Hong Kong, as well as the UK.
In the past, we have seen one system of water-injection offered as a means of compaction relief. The Hydroject, from Toro Commercial Products in Cambridgeshire, is the only machine of its kind and, although it has been available for a number of years, is now offered in its newest format — the 3010.
A pedestrian operated unit, the 3010 features a patented system that injects 10-millisecond pulses of highly-pressurised water into turf at a speed of 600mph. Penetrating to a depth of 200mm in a single blast or 500mm by repeat-firing, the water injections alleviate compaction without surface disturbance and can aerate from 600sq m to 2,400sq m per hour. Targeted mostly at golf courses, the Hydroject has four space settings from 38mm to 152mm by 76mm for the aeration of fine turf.

New to the arena
This year, another company is entering the injection market. In January, Charterhouse Turf Machinery announced a new initiative that enables Verti-Drain users to achieve longer-lasting benefits from their deep-aeration machines.
The Surrey-based company has teamed up with consultancy Integrated Growing Solutions & Technology (IGST) of Doncaster to offer grounds professionals a holistic approach to turf management using “green” methods.
“Our Verti-Drains are renowned for their ability to aerate deeply — down as far as 400cm. The machine’s ‘heave’ action breaks up compacted ground and lets air into the rootzone. This helps the aerobic bacteria to flourish, rejuvenating the soil,” says Charterhouse managing director Philip Threadgold.
“In tandem with IGST, we can now go even further, prolonging those benefits. By combining aeration treatment with the simultaneous application of nutrients, trace elements and other substances vital to healthy growth, turf professionals can maximise the life expectancy of renovation.”
The system works by making use of the Bios Injector developed by Charterhouse in conjunction with IGST.
The injector is mounted directly on the Verti-Drain and applies the exact quantity of bio-stimulant solution required, regardless of the forward speed of the Verti-Drain.
A new machine from Nottinghamshire-based John Deere combines aerating and verticutting. Launched in January, the new JD verticut attachment is designed to fit on to the latest Aercore 800 pedestrian aerator. The 800 is equipped with a 25hp petrol engine and standard drive wheel core deflectors.
Once the verticutter is fitted, operators may choose to aerate only, verticut only or simultaneously aerate and verticut. During the combined operation, the cores are pulled first. That reduces the surface tension and allows the verticutter to slice to a maximum depth of 44.5mm in all four operating gears, depending on soil conditions.
The latest developments mean we can aerate faster and better, and even do two jobs in one pass. Aeration is looking better value than ever.

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