Rotary mowers remain popular with many groundsmen and contractors but for some jobs only a cylinder will deliver the required standard of presentation. Rotary or cylinder? The choice was simple - until now. Today professionals should also ask whether petrol or battery power is more appropriate.
The pitch at Forest Green Rovers FC in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, is different to all others in the UK. It is not only green, it is organic. No chemicals are used at the football club - not on the pitch, not even in the toilets.
To feed the pitch, the grounds team uses as many organic feeds as they can, making up their own organic cocktails. Water is recycled so that every drop of rain that falls goes onto the pitch, through the drainage system and back onto the pitch through the recycle pan. Solar panels provide electricity. At the front of the club is a wild flora conservation area.
The club's chairman, founder and current chief executive officer of Ecotricity is Dale Vince. He became involved for environmental and social reasons, and as such applies "green" methods to all aspects of the facility, including mowing.
With a remit to create the world's first truly sustainable football club, Matt Rainey took up the job of head groundsman last year. Given concerns over machinery noise and emissions, Rainey sourced a battery powered mower and was impressed with the ATT 30in INFiNiSystem - winner of the 2015 WhatKit? of the Year Pedestrian Mower Award - marketed by The Grass Group.
"I first saw the ATT 30in INFiNiSystem on Twitter," explains Rainey. "I asked The Grass Group to give us a demo. Striping was excellent and the quality of cut fantastic. You can't fault it - it's a precision piece of kit, very quick but very easy to use. They left it with us for a week and a half and we were so impressed we decided to hire it until such time as we could sort buying it."
The mower is compact and its weight of only 138kg, as opposed to other cylinder mowers that can weigh upwards of 330kg, was a major factor in Rainey's decision. The ability to use differing cassettes is also of interest, especially the SMART Sarel roller.
"While the initial cost with the LiPo batteries is more than a comparable engine-powered mower, the running costs are very much less," says Rainey. "With the solar panel on the roof of the grandstand, it doesn't cost us anything to charge up the battery. But even if it did, the cost of electricity would be far less than petrol, so the equipment pays for itself over time."
Increasing interest in battery power is fuelling development. This year Pellenc launched its first professional lawnmower, the Rasion, for all types of work undertaken by landscapers and local authorities. Ideal for running in noise-sensitive areas, it is made from recycled materials and boasts a high-efficiency motor of 93 per cent for reduced energy consumption and a dual blade for a finer, more precise cut. Power comes from Pellenc's ULiB 1100 2,000W battery.
The Raison is a rotary mower, has a 60cm (24in) cutting width and comes with a 70-litre grass box. Two front swivel wheels provide manoeuvrability, while folding handlebars ensure that the mower is quick and easy to store. Weight is less than 20kg. Pellenc products are sold in the UK by Etesia UK.
Introduced at Saltex 2015, the grounds-care industry event held in the NEC in November, the 80V Digipro rotary mower from Greenworks is part of the world's highest-voltage cordless system and is designed for professional users. The 21in rotary mower boasts a digitally controlled, torque-sensing brushless motor that increases power in adverse conditions to maintain constant blade speed irrespective of conditions.
Generating the equivalent of 5hp, the battery gives the mower a runtime of 60 minutes. Vibration levels are recorded at 2m/s2. More models are expected to be launched by Greenworks in the near future.
For 2016, EGO Power+ added three lawnmower models to its range of 56V lithium-ion products.
A steel decked 50cm rotary mower is offered in a choice of push or self-propelled version, while a self-propelled 52cm poly deck rotary offers a wider alternative to the existing 49cm mower. The new mowers fold compactly for vertical storage.
Eastbourne College head groundsman Richard Maryan opted for a petrol machine, a Dennis Razor, after recognising that it had every feature he was looking for in a fine-turf mower. Maryan and his team of four groundsmen carry out all the work in-house and must be equipped with the right machines to look after the college's five sports sites - the Memorial Sports Ground, College Field, Links Field, Summerdown and New Field.
Maryan had already invested in two Dennis FT610s, using the interchangeable cassettes to help maintain the cricket squares and mowing with a 10-bladed cylinder cassette in summer and swapping to a five-bladed cylinder in winter.
"At the time, our cricket squares were in need of some urgent attention and the FT610s helped massively in thinning the sward out and getting rid of all the rubbish," he points out. "The brush and verticutter cassettes have been invaluable to getting the squares to where they are now and the machines play a vital role in our ongoing maintenance programme."
Looking around for another machine to help with busy mowing schedules, Maryan tried several but settled on the Razor from Dennis. "When we put the Razor up against everything else, there wasn't anything we didn't like about it," he recalls. "It had everything we wanted and, because of our experiences of using the FT610s, we knew we couldn't go wrong with another Dennis mower."
Designed for golf greens and tees, cricket pitches and other fine-turf surfaces, the Razor has a 22in, 11-bladed cylinder. An ultra-short wheelbase provides manoeuvrability and performance on undulating areas. The mower also encompasses the simple "no tools" click height adjusters for quick and easy operation - a feature that really impressed Maryan.
"The Razor's easy height adjustment was a major selling point," he confirms. "It's just so easy to use. We also liked the fact that it had a four-stroke Honda engine because most of our existing machines have them."
The cutting height is adjustable from 25mm right down to just 2mm. Other features include quick-release transport wheels with no external stub shafts, low noise levels and low vibration. The mower, which weighs 120kg, is easy to pull back for precise alignment for the next run.
Launched at Saltex 2015, the new Dedicated G-Series range of mowers from Dennis has been designed and built following the concept of the popular G860 machine. The new series offers three sizes - G34D with 34in cutting width, G30D with 30in cutting width and the 26in G26D. All incorporate a large-diameter, eight-bladed cutting cylinder for performance in short and longer-length grass, catering for a wide range of users needing a precision cut on sports turf, green spaces and public gardens.
In the rotary department, Etesia has two new professional models for 2016. Built on the brand's DUOCUT concept of combining 100 per cent collection and 100 per cent mulching decks together, the new PRO 46 mowers are said to deliver performance without compromising the results of either function. Switching between collecting and mulching requires the placement of an insert to complete the shape of the deck, ensuring that clippings are retained longer while they are reduced down.
Both the PRO 46 models have 46cm cutting widths, seven-stage height adjustment from 85mm down to 28mm and come with 56-litre grass boxes. Fitted with a 5hp Honda engine, the PHCT is a single-speed model. The PHCS model is a push version.
Etesia has also introduced a rear roller kit to enable its rotary mowers to stripe lawns where a high standard of presentation is required. Comprising a free-floating roller, the accessory is simply fitted onto two locating pins behind the grass box - no tools required. The first models available with the kit are the 41cm DUOCUT mowers. Kits for the company's popular 46cm machines will be available soon.
Husqvarna concentrated on operator ergonomics, product performance and productivity when it designed its 2016 range of commercial walk-behind rotary mowers. The line-up includes the LC451S 51cm rotary with 161cc Briggs & Stratton easy-start engine. Aimed at the landscaping market, this machine is self-drive for effortless mowing of large lawns.
Model LC551SP is also a 51cm rotary. This mower features a 179cc Kawasaki engine to power a robust self-drive transmission and a BioClip kit is also available.
More rotaries are introduced for 2016 by FGM Claymore. The Masport 150ST and 150ST SP are, respectively, 16in (42cm) push and self-propelled rotary mowers. They are powered by Briggs & Stratton 300E Series 125cc engines and feature steel deck and fabric clippings collector. Also with Masport branding, the Contractor 625AL is a 19in (48.5cm) rotary and has a 163cc OHV Briggs & Stratton engine, aluminium deck, fabric catcher and QuickCut blade system.