This year is going to be challenging for many turf managers. Unpredictable weather, new legislation, financial worries and the sheer pressure of getting the turf to an acceptable standard when the weather and time are against you - these will be some of the stresses of the job over the next 12 months. But help is at hand.
To be the best, you need an edge, and that can come in many forms - knowledge or updated skills, a new piece of equipment, latest technology or even through changing a practice and trying something different. It is time to head to Harrogate.
Next Tuesday (22 January), the doors of the Harrogate International Centre open at 9am for the British & International Golf Greenkeepers' Association (BIGGA) Turf Management Exhibition (BTME). For BIGGA members, continue-to-learn workshops and seminars (fees payable) begin on Sunday and run through to Wednesday.
But you do not have to be involved in golf course maintenance to benefit from attending the event. On Tuesday and Wednesday there are plenty of free seminar sessions and over the three days up to Thursday the exhibition halls are filled with innovations to inspire anyone working with turf - pitches, courts, lawns and amenity areas. Whether you want better facilities, are desperate to reduce thatch or looking for ways to cope with rain, snow or pests and diseases, Harrogate is the place to be.
Despite this being the year when the big six - now the big four due to buyouts and mergers - stay away, BTME promises to deliver an opportunity to browse, buy, see the latest timeand money-saving ideas, and seek advice from more than 100 top manufacturers and service providers. It is a chance to solve problems and network with people sharing the same challenges.
In these difficult times, we all want to save resources - especially time, water and fertiliser. EnviroMonitors offers measurement tools to help you do just that. Visit stand B5 to discover how you can get the best out of your turf by using science-based handheld meters and weather monitoring.
If you thought little could be done in terms of construction, drainage and improvement works during this wet winter, think again. Speedcut is setting up a display (A25) of the projects it achieved despite the wet weather. "While the weather was a nightmare, we managed to complete a wide variety of sports turf construction and renovation jobs by working between weather fronts and by being vigilant not to create undue damage," says contracts manager Barry Pace. "It was one of the toughest years as far as unpredictable weather is concerned. Patience and bravado were the best way to deal with the weather when time has allowed."
One of the jobs involved the construction of new tees, building of pathways and installation of drainage at the historic Chislehurst Golf Club. Nearby Sundridge Park has benefitted from a new driving range, while at Radley College in Oxford Speedcut took agricultural land and created a large plateau for sports pitches. Racecourses and artificial surfaces have also featured among this autumn's projects.
There is a lot of machinery to view at BTME. Anyone with large areas to mow, perhaps with trees and obstacles in the way, should be sure to view the new out-front on Wiedenmann UK's stand (C52). With up to 2.3m cutting width, its "fold-on-the-fly" side wings enable operators to vary the width of cut through three settings without stopping. This gives the potential for approximately 30 per cent higher productivity in comparison with a 180cm mower, greatly reducing the number of passes required while minimising soil compaction and potential wheel tracks.
Both hydraulic wing decks lift and lower independently. A double-pivoting system means that while the wings are raised, belt tension remains constant, and there is no risk of the belt coming off. The side units can tilt by 10 degs and the wings can be retracted to reduce the cutting width to just 140cm. Transport width of the machine, which is fitted with DuraBlades, is 185cm. An optional Mulch Star kit is also available.
Wiedenmann is also highlighting new equipment for core recycling and maintaining artificial turf. Known for its precision, deep, fast aerators, the portfolio additions grow the company's range by a further 20 per cent. Sales manager Chas Ayres says: "Customers who have experienced the efficiency of Wiedenmann's Terra Spikes want to see the solutions we have for artificial turf, mowing and collecting. Customer demand has led us to half-a-dozen top new performers - each machine sharing in our philosophy for easy-to-operate kit that always delivers on design and robust build quality."
Charterhouse Turf Machinery launched the first high-speed Verti-Drain some 15 years ago but the company will attend BTME (B48) to show off the latest 1517 - a lighter-weight Verti-Drain suitable for use with tractors with as little as 28hp. It has a 1.76m working width and can work down to 150mm but weighs just 520kg.
Another new machine suited to 28hp tractors upwards is the 1.5m Trilo S3 vacuum sweeper from The Grass Group (A35). With a large, high-tip 3cu m container, this unit boasts low ground bearing pressure and has a full-floating brush head to gather clippings, leaves and litter. It comes with a 200m-diameter, 5m-long wander hose for cleaning confined areas and emptying refuse bins.
If you have not already seen one, take a look at the ATT INFiNiCut on The Grass Group's stand. It is the world's only complete battery hybrid pedestrian cassette mower system and features nine SMART cassettes for mowing, scarifying, grooming and vibration levelling.
Mowing, scarification and aeration are also covered by Dennis and Sisis (A4/A5). On display is the Dennis mower range, including the Razor Ultra 56cm model, the popular tractor-mounted Rotorake TM1000 scarifier and the Sisis Autoslit pedestrian slitter for outfield and fine-turf work.
Making its first UK appearance, Gambetti's GF boom can be seen fitted to the PRO Dedicated sprayer (A61). The strong but lightweight booms are designed to follow ground contours for more accurate application and can be bought separately or fitted to any make of sprayer. The company is also promoting its new web shop, where you can buy parts for sprayers including John Deere and Toro models as well as Gambetti units.
Syngenta is launching its XC range of turf sprayer nozzles (B52). Designed to improve accuracy and results from every application, it is an engineered solution that overcomes the key issues of slopes and undulations. The nozzle incorporates an orifice design with a wide spray angle to improve droplet distribution and deliver even coverage at low nozzle heights. The XC design utilises new air-induction technology to reduce the risk of spray drift. Three sizes are available - 025, 04 and 08.
If you want to know whether your equipment wash facility meets the latest regulations, the lunchtime seminar on Tuesday should help. Or visit stand C13, where Highspeed Group is showing the ClearWater Washpad Water Recycling System. It is officially approved as water-saving technology and qualifies for 100 per cent first-year capital allowances under the ECA scheme.
On stand A45, groundsmen are being offered the chance to create "Your A20" - your own version of BSH's mixtures for winter sports pitches. The mixes are being upgraded to include the new, highly-rated cultivar Eugenius. There is also an opportunity to win 40kg of bent grass by entering a penalty shoot-out competition on a Subbuteo-size pitch made of real grass. Highest score wins.
DLF Trifolium (A20) is introducing a new bent cultivar. Arrowtown delivers a tight, dense surface that is demanded of a high-speed modern green, with the added benefit of high disease tolerance. It also has a natural vigour that enables it to recover quickly from renovation, with improved drought stress and colour retention in a dry summer.
"Arrowtown is bred from exceptionally fine and dense plants," says DLF amenity sales manager Derek Smith. "During a punishing test programme it proved ideally suited to greens mown to a tight 4mm and offered the durability demanded for tees and trafficked areas of fairways."
While visiting DLF's stand, do not forget to pick up the new Masterline and Johnson Sport Seed catalogues. The user-friendly booklets include Mix Selector tables split into golf and sports area recommendations for Johnsons mixes and lawn, landscape, reclamation and sports categories under the Masterline brand.
Turf nutrition, health and management products are featured by Headland Amenity (C30). Using the latest technology to offer turf managers practical solutions to turf care issues, the company is introducing Xtend 10-10-10+2MgO - a pre-seeding fertiliser suited to use on tees, fairways and surrounds as well as on winter sports pitches, cricket outfields and racecourse turf (see p18).
Suitable for application after any renovation work and after cutting, Xtend 10-10-10 uses Crystal Green - a new source of slow-release phosphorus, nitrogen and magnesium recovered from UK waste water. With additional slow-release nitrogen providing release for up to three months, a composted organic base, seaweed meal and humic acid, the product is able to aid germination and gentle establishment of new grasses.
In addition, if you are troubled by black layer or other conditions caused by anaerobic soil, ask Headland about Multiverdo 13-0-46. It has no sulphur content and contains nearly 50 per cent oxygen as part of its chemical analysis, creating an oxidising environment in the root zone and helping to counteract anaerobic soils.
When: Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 January (opens at 9am on all three days, closes at 5pm Tuesday and Wednesday and 4pm Thursday) - education programme runs Sunday 20 to Thursday 24 January
Where: Harrogate International Centre, King's Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 5LA
Admission: Exhibition entry free - charges apply to workshop and some seminars