Having an open mind is important when it comes to evolution of a turfgrass maintenance program. The European market is full of technologies that stem from open minds that are always improve the quality of the pitches. The following ideas are things that I viewed:
Desso Grassmaster: A reinforcement system with synthetic fibers sewed into the sand profile of a natural grass field. A few fields in the US use the technology, but it has not caught on because the fibers make it impossible to sod into, so seeding is required for renovations.
Fiber sand: A reinforcement system with synthetic fibers mixed into the sand profile to reduce compaction potential and provide stability in sand. Our stadium pitch at SoccerPlex has fiber sand and we have fantastic results. Again, this is not a system that is common in the US. But the potential for it is big. The success stories are endless with using the product and managing it correctly.
Crumb rubber on sand for cushion: Many facilities use crumb rubber topdressing to attempt to soften the goal mouths and goal keeping practice areas. I have considered crumb rubber for the same, but also to help to reduce compaction and to add heat to bermudagrass fields more quickly in the spring. Mixed results are being found with crumb rubber… so the jury is still out.
Fescue into ryegrass: Turf type tall fescue genetics have created a superior plant that is able to be used in a ryegrass and/or bluegrass stand. Some of the fescues that I observed are absolutely fantastic, especially blended with ryes for more wear tolerance. With that, we used fescue to overseed our bermudagrass last fall/ this spring, and it is by far the most durable overseeding we have ever had
Performance testing: During several visits, testing officials from the Sports Turf Research Institute were on site doing performance testing of the turfgrass stand. Infiltration rates, compaction/ hardness testing, ball speed, tinsel strength, root depths, etc, etc. I know of a few tests that we have done/ can be done in the US, but I know of no one testing religiously to give an established baseline of conditions during the season. It is a perfect way, in conjunction with tissue and soil testing, to know how well changes in a maintenance program work!
These, and many other open minded ideas, were common place in discussions and maintenance programs around Europe. Other technologies like SubAir, glycol heating, and most importantly- grow lights- make growing turfgrass in challenging conditions more successful. Combine those ideas with the aggressive nature of the complete renovation each year- It would see that here in the US we are lagging behind on creating new create, open minded ideas. With that, do we have things to learn from our European counterparts? I say YES. All the possibilities make the sky the limit!