Many sports fields have been redeveloped as supermarkets, business parks or housing estates. In the past decade more have been lost to the financial pressures of tough economic times and simply become green open spaces. The losses mean even greater demand is placed on surviving facilities, making end-of-season renovation and timely pitch maintenance more critical.
At Vipers RFC in Whetstone near Leicester, the Koro by Imants Field Top Maker has played a major role in renovating the training ground. Contractor Matchfit Sportsturf was called in to carry out the work.
"High usage, compounded by decades of extended play on the training pitch had badly worn the surface," recalls Matchfit Sportsturf owner Ian Reid. "Despite receiving regular maintenance, renovation and decompaction - but without the benefit of installed piped drainage - matches were being cancelled."
Surface levels restored
Reid set to work with a Koro Field Top Maker supplied by Campey Turf Care Systems. Fitted with a Universe rotor, it not only removed the organic matter, which adds to the problem of poor drainage, but also restored the surface levels by "Koroing" off the entire surface in one pass. Set correctly with micro adjustments, the rotor can remove all undesirable weak grass such as Poa annua from the playing surface, while retaining all the good desirable grass plants.
"The beauty of the Koro FTM with the Universe rotor is in its versatility and effectiveness over its full working width, allowing a single-pass operation," Reid explains. "It may appear a radical approach, but a few weeks later, when the grass has regrown, it's amazing."
The Vipers project was completed by spreading 120 tonnes of washed silica sand to the pitch surface, followed by solid tine aeration, brushing in of sand and over-seeding with a top-quality ryegrass mixture. A bespoke fertiliser programme was established along with twice weekly mowing, maintaining the sward at a height of 30mm and increasing cutting height to 50mm for the start of the playing season.
End-of-season renovation work at independent Shrewsbury School involved the use of a Sisis Rotorake TM1000. The tractor-mounted scarifier/linear aerator, complete with a range of interchangeable reels and including the fraise mowing reel, was purchased by grounds manager Andy Richards and has been used on football, rugby and lacrosse pitches.
"We purchased the TM1000 because of its versatility and its ability to do different tasks," says Richards. "One of the big plus points with the unit is the interchangeable reels. Its user friendliness benefits any surface, whether it's a light scarification, verticutting or fraise mowing."
Ongoing aeration throughout the season will benefit pitches. At AFC Bournemouth, grounds manager James Lathwell believes that the aeration provided by a pedestrian Toro ProCore 648 has contributed to the newly renovated pitch being nominated by the Sports Turf Research Institute as one of the top three in the Championship.
It was prior to the renovation, which took place last summer, that the ProCore impressed Lathwell.
"At the time we trialled the Toro ProCore, from Lely UK, we were having issues with the old pitch," he recalls. "Last season's heavy rainfall meant we were battling with the elements, but the ProCore kept the football ground playable throughout wet periods and saved fixtures."
The aerator is now used to relieve compaction and, while the results are excellent, Lathwell is also pleased with the speed of the machine. "We used to allow a day to aerate the pitch. Now we only need three or four hours. We've also found it quick to change the tines - 15 minutes."
The Verti-Core from Charterhouse Turf Machinery is the choice of Championship Sports Surfaces owner Steve Tingley. "At the Lensbury Club in Teddington we do finishing work on the rugby pitch and at London Irish rugby club we perform maintenance on the training facilities," he says.
"We can complete a pitch in two-and-a-half hours, which makes for a massive saving in labour and makes us more competitive. Afterwards the surface looks untouched - a little perforated perhaps, but you can play on it straight away."
At Brentwood Rugby Club in Essex, a tractor-mounted Sisis Multitiner drum-type aerator is used to provide fast and effective improvements to drainage and to encourage better root development. It incorporates quick-release solid tines and works to a depth of 100mm.
Four jobs simultaneously
A 1.8m-wide Sisis Quadraplay also makes a significant contribution to the maintenance and representation of the pitch. "The Quadraplay is the main tool we use for the pitches and it saves me considerable time because it's able to do four jobs at the same time," says the club's part-time groundsman Steve Gildersleeve. "It's simple to use - a versatile system to which we can also add new implements as and when we need."
The Quadraplay connects to the tractor's three-point linkage and comprises a frame with implements that can be arranged in any order and can be lifted out when not required. A single pass allows up to four operations to be carried out, including surface aeration, sward cleansing, rolling and brushing.
Versatility is likely to be more important as groundsmen seek ways to beat the pressure of tight budgets yet provide a playing surface that can take the volumes of play required and meet the expectations of players - crucial if sport is to continue to be played on natural grass pitches.
Irrigation upgraded at Hampden Park
Scotland's Hampden Park stadium has reported an increase in flexibility in terms of pitch maintenance and water usage following the installation of a Toro irrigation system.
Kicking-off 2015 with the construction of a new pitch and undersoil heating, the national stadium complemented the upgrades with Toro's advanced remotely controlled irrigation.
Head groundsman Stephen Bache says: "I wanted more flexibility so specified the latest Lynx controller. Integrated with TurfGuard sensors that monitor temperature, moisture content and salinity in the playing surface, I have the tools to master the management and maintenance of the playing surface."
New products: mowers, spreaders, markers and more
Alongside the Universe rotor for the Koro by Imants Field Top Maker is the new Terraplane, which uses carbide-tipped blades on the rotor to remove organic build-up. This leaves the top surface not only more hygienic than ever but crucially more durable. Supplied by Campey Turf Care Systems.
Having taken on the distribution of the GKB Combinator, The Grass Group has announced the a redesign of the fraise mowing rotor. Three different blade types can now be fitted to the 2m and 2.4m models. Smaller 1.2m and 1.6m units are also available.
The BLEC/First Products Aeravator now has an interchangeable rotor system for decompacting, aerating and slicing as well as an optional seeding system for initial and overseeding operations.
Wiedenmann's Terra Rake has been re-engineered to double both output and width. A new folding frame means the verticut harrow can now be offered in 3.2m and 4.4m versions in addition to the original 1.6m and 2.1m widths. All mount to the three-point linkage.
Introduced by Sisis, the 4m-wide Flexi400 is an interchangeable unit designed for fast and effective coverage on large areas. It can be fitted with roller or brushes to stripe, lift grasses prior to mowing or incorporate topdressing material. Seven fully floating heads allow it to follow contours. Attachment is via a 50mm ball hitch or clevis pin.
The Raycam Fertiliser Spreader, introduced this year by Campey Turf Care Systems, is described as an easy-to-operate system to apply fertiliser and seed in 1-14m swathes. Mounting to the three-point-linkage and driven by the tractor power take-off, the spreader comes in 500- or 600-litre capacities. Tractor requirement is 30-50hp.
The Jacobsen Truckster XD heavy-duty utility vehicle is expected in the UK later this year from Ransomes Jacobsen. A replacement for the Cushman Turf-Truckster, the XD boasts a class-leading 1,610kg standard payload capacity and features a thick steel as well as 20 per cent more volume. Engine options are 24.8hp diesel and 32.5hp petrol.
Developed for use with award-winning Impact paint, the Armaline from Rigby Taylor attaches to turf utility vehicles for a speedy solution to marking multi-pitch sites. The system is connected to a compact battery/pump in the flatbed and uses ready-to-use Impact paint from a 10-litre drum.
Designed for quality results on regularly mown turf, the Wessex ProLine CRX has a fast tip speed to provide a first-class finish. Available in 1.5m, 1.8m and 2.4m widths, it can be frontor rear-mounted to compact tractors and can be supplied on four wheels and fully floating linkage points to ensure the mower follows ground contours.
Launched last year, the 2.2m Redexim Double Disc Overseeder was followed by a 1.8m version and this year is joined by a 1.4m unit. The concept of the Double Disc range, supplied by Charterhouse Turf Machinery, is to deliver seed into the soil via two rows of discs in slits 30mm apart and to a depth as low as 20mm.
BLEC has introduced the Multispray to apply liquid soil amendments such as gypsum, calcium and wetting agents into the soil rather than just spraying on the surface. An optional brush and spring rake combination with sarel spike roller mean the kit can additionally be used as a light aeration and grooming tool.