FIFA is WRONG: 5 reasons synthetic turf is not the future

By Jerad R. Minnick.  Founder of Growing Green Grass

FIFA President Sepp Blatter recently increased the international soccer governing body’s advocacy for synthetic turf. In an August 4th press conference, Mr. Blatter called synthetic turf the “future” for soccer. His statements not only played as a sales pitch for big business synthetic turf, they were complete slander against the natural grass and green industry of plants and sustainability.  President Blatter took his bold statements all the way to suggest that grass soccer fields would become today’s grass tennis courts… that very few soccer matches a year will be played on natural grass.

President Blatter’s statements about synthetic turf as the “future” for soccer are in no way based in fact.  His statements are his opinion. Conversely, it can easily be argued that synthetic turf is not the future. In fact, it is possibly that synthetic turf could become completely obsolete for soccer surfaces sooner than later. Here are 5 reasons to why natural grass is not only staying in soccer, but why they are going to prevail from President Blatter’s un-factual assault.

 

Cost
The continually pushed idea to support synthetic turf is that synthetic turf is cheaper than natural grass. That idea is completely false. Certainly there are ways to make a grass field more expensive. But a basic, high quality natural grass field that can be used in the rain requires less than ½ of the monetary investment required for a synthetic field. In fact, the investment required for a 10-year period on 1 synthetic field equals the amount of money required for 3 natural grass fields. Those figures are based on an 8-year replacement cycle for the synthetic plastic carpet. Major League Soccer has 3 stadiums with synthetic fields that are being replaced on a 3-year rotation, a rate that doubles the price over a 10-year period. Additionally, new infills to reduce extreme heat and shock pads below the synthetic carpet that are needed for safety increase cost even more. In a world hampered with economic crisis, synthetic turf fields are not the answer. See more basic expense figures here: Grass v synthetic, The numbers 

 

Playability
Natural grass fields can be built and maintained to meet a stadium’s needs. Natural grass surfaces can be controlled and changed by Sports Field Managers to fit the type of surface that a coach and team wants to play on. Slow, fast, soft, firm, wet, dry. All of these factors can be controlled completely with a grass field and can even be changed from match to match depending on what a coach wants for their team’s advantage. With these changing factors, still the ball always “rolls” on natural grass, allowing players to predict ball movement during play. Skin burns and abrasions aren’t common with grass as on synthetic. The burn potential and pain make players timid to attack or defend in a way that could lead them to fall and be scarred. Additionally, a natural grass surface temperature is below the outdoor temperature, cooling the area for players instead of super heating it.  With the fight being staged by women’s National team players around the world against synthetic in the 2015 World Cup, grass playability and appeal is obvious.  See more thoughts on playability: Artificial turf makes no sense for soccer 

 

Environmental/ Health impact
Natural grass is just that… natural. The environmental benefits of natural grass are many. There is no debate about potential cancer threats, extra requirements for storm water management, or heat island threats from natural grass. With improved grass genetics, evolving maintenance practices, and technology for pest control, a world of all-natural, natural grass is just a few years away. More positives from natural grass are:

  • Filters pollutants from storm water as it soaks back into the soil
  • Reduces noise pollution by up to 40%
  • Cools the ambient air temperature
  • Produces oxygen (1 field/ yr produces enough to supply up to 128 people)
  • Reduces CO2 (1 field/ yr removes the equivalent emitted by a car driving 6,000 miles)

With acres of park and stadium fields around the world, the good of grass has a huge positive impact on players and society.  See more details: Healthy lawn, healthy environment 

 

Innovation for durability and player safety
The tools used by Sports Field Managers to maintain and improve grass fields evolve daily. Creative thinking and technology are creating a wide range of innovation for natural grass fields.

Grass breeding and genetics: The evolution of turfgrass varieties is dramatic. Improved grasses are available that can grow and recovers at double the rate of older varieties. Better bermudagrass can sustain winters as far north as Philadelphia and will grow in the transition zone and southern regions for nearly 1 month longer than before as well. Seashore Paspalum can be watered using ocean salt water and requires very little sunlight. Cool season grass breeding has created Kentucky bluegrass seed germinates within 7 days of planting in order to establish a field in 5 to 7 weeks. Previously it has taken 3 to 6 months. Additionally, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are able sustain aggressive growth through summer heat and withstand disease stress. All of these better grasses require less water and sustain better growth into drought conditions.

Technology for plant feeding and health: Environmentally friendly fertilizers have been and continue to be developed for even, sustained turfgrass growth. These products are created in cooperation with state and local laws to protect the environment while producing thick, strong grass stands on fields. Natural plant hormones and bio-stimulants are available to feed turfgrass plants holistically. These products stimulate natural growth and provide energy for plant health and recovery. Much like a healthy human on a balanced diet and exercise routine, grass plants on a prescribed maintenance program can be healthy and strong too. Think Gatorade, Red Bull, and Vitamin water for grass.

Development of safety and durability tools: Currently a wide range of safety and durability tools are available to be used on natural grass fields. Some examples are:

  • Fiber Sand: Small polypropylene fibers mixed into sand to create stability and give grass roots material to wrap around and not pull out/ divot out
  • Fiber Elastic: Polypropylene fibers for stability mixed with elastane pieces to absorb energy. The energy absorption reduces field compaction and cuts down on the injury potential of the players using the field.
  • AirFibr: Polypropylene for stability mixed with specially developed cork particles to absorb energy. AirFibr has documented injury reduction data from biomechanics labs working to improve grass surfaces
  • XtraGrass: Natural grass growing through a 3” biodegradable mat of synthetic fibers to create surface stability, traction and player safety.
  • Desso GrassMaster: Stability fibers sewed into sand to provide stability, traction, and player safety.

These are just a few examples of many innovative products available for natural grass fields to sustain heavy traffic and advance player safety. New grass genetics and plant health technology in combination with the safety and durability products create the foundation for strong natural grass fields.

 

Human Element
The human element is the final reason that President Blatter and FIFA are wrong about synthetic turf being the future for soccer. Natural grass is cheaper, more player friendly, better for the environment, and continues to improve and evolve with innovation for durability and player safety. But ultimately the biggest advantage natural grass has over synthetic turf is the care natural grass receives from dedicated Sports Field Manager. A Sports Field Manager that is provided with just a few tools can provide a low-cost, environmentally friendly surface that players desire and need for long careers.  In an age of needed worldwide job creation, FIFA supporting natural grass fields instead of attacking it could create numerous environmentally friendly, green jobs in the sports field and landscape industry. But instead President Blatter and FIFA are advocating for synthetic turf, an industry funded by petroleum, carpet manufacturing, and tire recyclers looking for ways to discard waste.

Synthetic turf is not the future for soccer.  These 5 reasons illustrate that President Blatter’s statements in support of synthetic turf are not based in fact. The statements are just his opinion. Synthetic turf is not the future of soccer, no matter how much he advocates for it.

#ThinkDifferent: 3 Keys to High Traffic Fields

Grass Fields CAN Take More! Positive thinking and “thinking different” have established that.  The possibilities of grass fields are endless.

BUT HOW??? When it comes to current maintenance and real practicality, what changes to move forward and have your grass fields take more? 

Think Different.   Yes.  We are back to that! 

Each field’s current condition is created and maintained with an established approach.  How much has that approach changed from last year to this year? What about in the last 3 years?  5 years? 

Remember:  “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got”

Meeting the demands of increased traffic is stressful.  It can even be overwhelming to know where to start on changing a maintenance plan.  What a challenging task!  Walt Disney might have been right when he said “It is kind of do the impossible”.  But he left out the part about it being such hard work right?!  

In order to meet the demands of high traffic with grass fields and to evolve the maintenance approach, lets take a step back and simplify the challenge.  By breaking a maintenance approach into 3 keys to focus and “think different” about separately, the challenge becomes more manageable 

1)  Aggressive Cultivation

2) Nutrient Management

3) Traffic Management 

Jerad Minnick and Sarah Hardy wrote an article for SportsTurf magazine in October of 2012 that lays the foundation for these 3 keys.  Have a read of that article:  THREE KEYS to managing high traffic, high quality athletic fields

Did the concepts in the article create any new ideas for you?  Yes… it is still overwhelming to think about all of those things isn’t it?  Each key has so many actionable parts to think differently about.  With the challenge still looming and the ideas of that article being nearly 2 years old, let’s break down the 3 keys again.

Over the next week, together let’s break down each topic and share ideas, possibilities, and examples of implementation where it has been proven:  Grass fields CAN take more! 

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#ThinkDifferent. Grass Fields CAN Take More!

Growing Green Grass is dedicated to the possibilities of natural grass fields.  Grass fields CAN take more use!  The foundation for these possibilities of positive thinking.  Positive thinking encourages creativity and fuels the mind to Think Different about what is possible….

As children, we are encouraged to set goals for our lives and to “dream big”.  Walt Disney fills our lives with positive influence and encouraging quotes….

“If you can dream it, you can do it”

“All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”

And the ultimate…  “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”

Impossible.  As children, we are taught that nothing is impossible.  Then as we grew into teens, somewhere that spirit was lost.  The push of encouragement and confidence was replaced with “life lessons” and a “dose of reality”.  We can’t be little kid dreamers forever right?  And reality says so many things really are impossible.

Have you ever asked yourself when that change in life happened?  Who is it that got to decide what IS and is NOT possible?  

Why?  How?

Christopher Columbus didn’t get the impossible memo.  Nether did Alexander Graham Bell.  Or NASA.  Or Steve Jobs.  Impossible only fueled their work!

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself the same question about natural grass fields?  Why was it decide that it is impossible for natural grass fields to take high traffic?  Why are there limits on the use natural grass fields can take?  Where in time was it decide for us what IS and is NOT possible.

WHY?  HOW?  

In the childhood of grass field maintenance, the fore fathers of grass field management weren’t putting limits on how much a grass field could take.  They simply were trying to create a safe smooth surface for the players.  No large equipment. No advanced technology in fertilizer and plant genetics. No professional organizations to support them.  Now, the industry is greatly advanced in professionalism and technology.  It really is amazing!

Stop and ask yourself…  why is it IMPOSSIBLE for natural grass fields to meet the demands of high use?   What if instead of focusing on WHY its impossible for grass fields to take high traffic, you asked HOW can grass fields take high traffic?  Shed the boundaries created by someone else.  Use technologies and your own creativity to use and evolve new maintenance methods to meet the demands.  Can you bring back that positive thinking Disney spirit of “If you can dream it, you can do it“? Can you THINK DIFFERENT!?

YES YOU CAN!  Exciting isn’t it!?!?

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming President of South Africa in 1994.  Mr. Mandela certainly knew that word IMPOSSIBLE.  Yet one of his famous quotes is “It always seems impossible until its done”.  Wow!  SO TRUE!  Our phones are computers in our pocket and men have walked on the moon.  Creating natural grass fields that can take high traffic IS achievable.  Grass fields CAN TAKE MORE!

Dynamic speaker and writer Harvey Mackay gives us the perfect closing story in this posting on impossible  

“A college student arrived a few minutes late for his final exam in mathematics. The room was quiet, with everyone working hard, and the professor silently handed him the test. It consisted of five math problems on the first page and two on the second. The student sat down and began to work. He solved the first five problems in half the time, but the two on the second page were tougher. Everyone else finished the exam and left, so the student was alone by the end of the time period. He finished the final problem at the last second.
The next day he got a phone call in his dorm room from the professor. “I don’t believe it! You solved the final two problems?”
“Uh, yeah,” the student said. “What’s the big deal?”
“Those were brain teasers,” the prof explained. “I announced before the exam that they wouldn’t count toward your final grade, but you missed that because you were late. But hardly anyone solves those problems in so short a time! You must be a genius!””

The student was able to answer them simply because he had not be told they were impossible.  He himself decided what is or is not impossible.

“Genius” is sometimes just not realizing that something is impossible.

Are you ready to be a GENIUS of natural grass fields?  Walt Disney was right… it is “FUN to do the impossible

THINK DIFFERENT.  GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE! 

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Welcome Back to the Possibilities of Natural Grass!

Late summer greetings to you!  Welcome back to Growing Green Grass.  We have organized our thoughts and are prepared for an exciting future of sharing the possibilities of natural grass fields.

Those possibilities expand every single day.  Grass fields really can TAKE MORE!

To achieve the possibilities for grass fields, outside the box thinking is required.  Acceptance of new things is essential.  And pressing on through the fear of change is paramount.  Because….

“If You Always Do What You Have Always Done, You Will Always Get What You Always Got”

Thankfully the excitement of the possibilities overcomes the challenge of change.   There are examples around the world of how grass fields CAN TAKE MORE!  Progressive technology, innovative maintenance practices, and growing professionalism and creativity from Grass Field Managers are opening these new possibilities.

Growing Green Grass is back and dedicated to bringing you those technologies, practices, and fostering professionalism and creativity.  We look forward to sharing and encourage your interaction!  Because think about this…

Right now, you might have a question that you are seeking the answer too.  A colleague reading this could have the answer to that very question. Great!    But more so…  a colleague also might have an answer to a question that you have not yet even thought to ask!!!

Share. Communicate.  Engage.  Encourage.  Through this collection of thoughts, through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Even texting pictures to colleagues of successes and challenges . Innovation and improvement are improved with collaborative thinking.

Welcome back.  The future for natural grass fields is BRIGHT! The natural grass revolution is STRONG!  Grass fields CAN take more!

#grasscantakemore  #thinkdifferent

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Natural Grass Facts for Earth Day

Earth Day 2014 is here!  1st recognized in 1970,  April 22 is the day the world unites to celebrate and support environmental protection.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a unique fun program to engage kids and adults alike in their environmental commitment.  Check it out!

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As we celebrate Earth Day in the grass field management industry, we have a lot to be proud of.  The positive impact of natural grass to the environment is extensive.

2 of the most impactful facts:

1) A 2 acre soccer field in 1 year sequesters enough carbon from the air to equal driving a car from DC to LA and then back

2) A dense stand of grass reduces pollution and run off (2013 EPA Report)

With those keys, here are some more fun facts are provided us by the Lawn Institute:

- The front lawns of eight average houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons (68 metric tons) of air conditioning, while the average home-size central air has only a 3 to 4 ton capacity (2.7 to 3.9 metric tons).

- In a well maintained, thick 10,000 square foot (929 square meter) lawn there will be 6 turf plants per square inch (25.4 millimeters), 850 turf plants per square foot (30.45 square meters) for a total of 8.5 million turf plants.

- A lawn, 50 by 50 feet releases enough oxygen for a family of four, while absorbing carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride, and peroxyacetyl nitrate.

- A dense, healthy lawn prevents run-off, absorbing rainfall six times more effectively than a wheat field and four times better than a hay field.

- Grass plants are 75 to 80% water, by weight.

- Up to 90% of the weight of a grass plant is in its roots.

- Grass clippings are approximately 90% water, by weight.

- Clippings contain nutrients useable to the grass, when left on the lawn.

- Turfgrass helps control pollution, trapping much of an estimated 12 million tons (10.9 million metric tons) of dust and dirt released annually into the US atmosphere.

- As part of a well-designed and maintained landscape, turfgrass increases a home’s property value by 15 to 20 %.

Additionally, here is a fantastic fact sheet on the benefits of natural grass from Kansas State University

 

ENJOY EARTH DAY! And enjoy your natural grass!

 

Response to Notre Dame Decision to Install Artificial Turf

The headline on ESPN.com today reads: “Notre Dam Stadium to Feature Artificial Turf”  .

We at Growing Green Grass respect Notre Dame’s decision to do as they please, but the reason for the change must be challenged.

Graduation in May is being blamed for a poor field in the fall.  A field damaged by graduation May can be re-sodded or even re-seeded and be in perfect condition within weeks.  Notre Dame being unable to achieve perfect condition is not the grass field’s fault.  It is a simple management issue.  Improved management approaches arise daily. Technology is surging in the natural grass industry: stability/ reinforcement, improved genetics, lights to grow grass in total darkness and cold, etc, etc.  Any of these tools could have served as tools to help the field management staff as cheaper alternatives to artificial turf.

Again… it is Notre Dame’s decision to do as they please with their field.  But blaming graduation in May for a poor quality field in the fall is just an excuse.

This response comes from Growing Green Grass because that excuse is damaging to the every grass field in the world.  That excuse makes it seem that no grass field can survive extra use.  The excuse makes managing grass fields at the grass roots level seem impossible!  How can soccer clubs, little leagues, parks and recreation, etc with small budgets even have a good grass field when Notre Dame can not.

The fact is that grass fields around the world sustain 10x the use and wear that Notre Dame Stadium sustains in 1 year.   And hard working sports field managers produce high quality grass, even in the north, with that use and wear.  This story from the Las Vegas Review Journal highlights the success of one of those hard working Sports Field Managers.  Kudos to Kevin Moses for his hard work!!!  (and thank you to Darian Daily for sharing the link on Facebook as well!)

We wish Notre Dame all the best in their endeavors.  But again, it’s not the existing grass field’s fault that you want to make a change to artificial.

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/10772179/notre-dame-stadium-install-artificial-turf-prior-2014-season

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