XtraGrass at Lakewood Memorial

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XTRAGRASS

In search of new ideas for natural grass surfaces, Growing Green Grass visited JeffCo Schools Lakewood Memorial Stadium last week in Denver, CO. The Lakewood Memorial field features a new version of synthetic reinforcement for natural grass called XtraGrass. The field is a RPR/ HGT seeded field, and has had 60 soccer matches played in 60 days.  The condition of the field was fantastic. Great work by Sports Field Manager Chris Gray and team at JeffCo Schools!  Thanks Chris for having us!

What is XtraGrass:
XtraGrass is essentially synthetic turf that is infilled with sand and grass instead of rubber, sand, cork, etc. Once XtraGrass is installed, the carpet “backing” begins to biodegrade and the natural grass roots through into the soil below.

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 How Does It Work?
The synthetic fibers coming up through the sand protect the crown of the grass plants. When a player stops, plants, turns, or pushes off, the synthetic fibers assist in footing and provide reinforcement to reduce shear and divots. Many of the 60 matches at Lakewood Memorial have been played in the rain, and absolutely no divots or tears were evident. Especially telling as the field was seeded only in late June and opened in late August. When the field begins to wear, the synthetic fibers provide continued stability and supply a green cast to the field. XtraGrass on its own without sand and grass infill achieves a FIFA 1-star rating.

Graff Turf on XtraGrass Installation 

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

Roots pushing through a piece we ripped up

How Is It Different?
The initial question that comes to mind is “how is XtraGrass different”? Different than SportGrass in the 90’s, different than the product distributed by Motz currently, different than even Desso’s GrassMaster. Those are all questions that have to be answered by the producers of each of those products. But certainly it seems that XtraGrass could be just as its advertised.. Different. The biodegradable backing on the field at Lakewood is showing signs of break down, and roots are starting to push through into the native soil below. And as mentioned, absolutely no divoting was present on the surface of the field

 Graff Turf on Grow-In 

Maintenance
Maintenance of an XtraGrass field is relatively similar to any other high traffic grass field. Lakewood Memorial is not a big budget field; rather Mr. Gray is on a small budget with challenges that most all field managers can relate to.

In regards to specific XtraGrass maintenance, regular aeration with solid tines/ deep tines to keep the field de-compacted is important. Core aeration is not possible because the backing will not go through the tines, but the top layer is sand and the grass is grown in from seed so there is no organic layer need to be opened up w/ core aeration. Dry-Ject, Air2G2, and such seem possible. As is slicing or spiking to promote rooting through the backing.

The main maintenance key in the long term will be thatch management. Thatch/ organic build up will have to be limited to keep the synthetic fibers in play. If the build up gets above the fibers, they will be useless. Regular, light verticutting and yearly to bi-yearly Universe® fraze mowing will be required. The Universe® rotor for the KORO Field Topmaker was originally invented to clean organic from Desso Grassmaster to avoid this very thing, so it is ideal for XtraGrass. Ultimately though, XtraGrass requires little special treatment than any other grass field

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Synthetic fibers: smooth; RPR ryegrass: veins

Conclusion
At initial introduction, XtraGrass seems to be exactly what it is advertised to be. A natural grass/ synthetic hybrid system is scary to many because of the failures of products in the past. But because those failures in the past are understood, it is possible for such a product to work in the present and future. The Lakewood Memorial field is a high traffic, low maintenance example of how XtraGrass could help high traffic fields, especially in cool season climates where stability is an issue. Sports field managers and users are in need of a bridge product between full synthetic and standard natural grass… XtraGrass very much could be that bridge.

We will continue to observe and update you… more to come!

See the XtraGrass website: http://www.xtragrass.com/en/

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Air Into the Soil: Air2G2 Demo at Toyota Stadium

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On Monday of last week, Mr. Glenn Black, inventor of Air2G2, and Jeff Kadlec (GLK Turf Solutions) performed a demonstration of the Air2G2 on Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas (MLS) is one of the most high traffic professional grass fields in the USA. The field plays host to 3 Frisco High School football games each week, 3 concerts a year, the NCAA Division 2 National Championships, and several other high profile events. Mr. Allen Reed, CSFM, is the Sports Field Manager for the stadium. Allen wrote a guest piece for Growing Green Grass in 2013. “How Our Grass Field Takes More”

Air2G2 has gained exciting attention over the last year. The concept of pushing high-pressure air into the soil to fracture it to allow plant roots to breath certainly makes sense.

Mr. Reed is currently aerating the high traffic areas on the field 1-3x/ week. (Yes.. you read that correctly. 1-3x/ week). Now that’s aggressive aeration! The results are evident too, nearly through high school football season the field is still magnificent.  With such aggressive aeration being administered to the field, the expectation could have been that the Air2G2 machine would not make a significant impact.  But not so!  Even on sidelines that had been knife tined on 2″x 2″ spacing only 30 minutes before the Air2G2, the high-pressure air forced up through the sand still made a visible impact.

More about the machine:
Mr. Black shared the background on the idea for the machine very passionately. If you get a chance to talk with him, do so. He is a positive, solutions based man that made the Air2G2 his life’s work. Here is a video that Turf Republic produced on the machine following the Tennessee Turfgrass Field Day last month:

Depth:
The Air2G2 has 2 options on probe depth: 5” and 9” probes. There are 3 probes that can cover an area up to 5’ wide. The machine inserts the probes into the soil until they meet their first level of resistance.  At that resistance, usually around 4”, the first blast of air is released. The probes, having softened the ground with the initial blast, then push down to the full depth where a 2nd blast of high pressure air is made.

Operation:
The Air2G2 machine is built with easy of operation in mind. Pressure is simply set for the pneumatic cylinders to push the probes into the soil. Pressure can be set equally as simple for the amount of air pressure to be pushed into the soil. An air tank on the base of the machine stores air to reduce the workload on the air compressor and the quiet 19-hp Koehler engine. The machine is very simple and comfortable to operate.

Results:
Using a pentrometer, we were able to register a percentage of additional de-compaction on the field from the machine. There is scientific quantitative data becoming available from University of Tennessee on the compaction and surface hardness reduction. The results were somewhat obviously though from being able to witness the visible rising of the entire sand profile when the air was released 9” down. Amazing!

Conclusion:
The Air2G2 is a well-built machine using a fascinating concept of using high pressure air to de-compact or “air-ate” soil. This machine is sometimes being compared to the old Toro Hydroject, but overall it is nothing like that. The Hydroject was forcing high-pressure water into the profile, but only at the top. The Air2G2 de-compacts from the bottom up. Air2G2 is simple to operate and to maintain, with probes lasting for up to 15 acres. Yes, using the machine is a slow process, taking 6-8 hours to do a field. But really any good aeration takes time. The benefit far outweighs the time. If you get a chance to see a machine, take that opportunity!

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Share With Us. Natural Grass IS the Answer!

NBC News ran a story last Wednesday evening and Thursday morning that exposed fears on artificial turf to the general public. Here is the original story:    NBC Investigation

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland's In The Background

NBC News Artificial Turf Investigation w/ Gorgeous Grass Field at U of Portland In Background

With this story and many of the follow up stories, the call is for better research on rubber crumb and organic infills for artificial turf fields.

But instead of waiting for more research for artificial, instead we can all lead the call for better quality NATURAL GRASS fields!!

Artificial turf came into being because of a problem: Grass fields weren’t being maintained or were not taking the heavy use. The general public now thinks that is just always the case: Grass fields just can’t take it heavy play or can’t be used in the rain.

Well now we know that is just not true!! This is the era of better maintenance tools and techniques.  Innovation and creativity is expanding.  YES, NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE USE!! Always!! 

This weekend Turf Republic published a piece by Growing Green Grass founder Jerad Minnick wrote with that theme:  A recommitment to natural grass can meet the field needs!  Grass IS The Answer!  (Also find it below)

Growing Green Grass encourages YOU to take this opportunity to help re-establish positive public thinking towards natural grass fields. Right now around you there are parents, coaches, administrators and lawmakers talking about the concerns of artificial with no idea that natural grass IS the answer. Can you help let those people know the possibilities of grass?

How you ask? Just simply share the positive possibilities of natural grass with people not in the turfgrass/ sports field industry!  NATURAL GRASS FIELDS CAN TAKE MORE!

Some things to consider to get the word out to people:

– Share the NBC news story on your social media platforms and through email w/ neighbors, family, friends, school board members and AD’s. These people are not in the turfgrass industry and do not get regular information like you.  However, we recommend not to give commentary.   Just share the story.  Remember that there are people suffering. And there are good people on the other side of this that sell, distribute and market artificial.  Additionally, many of your are currently maintaining some artificial turf.  Let NBC tell the story, not you.

– Follow up the story from NBC to all of the same people and share the POSITIVE MESSAGE about the possibilities of grass!!!  NATURAL GRASS CAN TAKE MORE!

– In your sharing, pass your personal passion and support for the possibilities of grass!! Your passion makes it real for others.  They can connect with you and will appreciate your unique skills and experience as part of the natural grass industry.

So SPREAD THE WORD!  Remember…  STAY POSITIVE

Always feel free to use anything coming from Growing Green Grass (www.growinggreengrass.net) to support your passion.  Employ the hashtag #GrassCanTakeMore via social media. TPI and the Lawn Institute have excellent resources on the good of grass as well  Lawn Institute Website

THANK YOU for using this opportunity to share the possibilities of grass and shape the bright future of the natural grass sports field industry.

And THANK YOU for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The Team at Growing Green Grass


Grass IS the Answer!

by Jerad Minnick • 3 days ago
A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields.

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TURF REPUBLIC:  http://www.turfrepublic.com/2014/10/11/grass-answer/

The unknowns of synthetic turf safety have burst into the limelight this week. The call is for additional research on synthetic turf rubber crumb infills or a change to organic infills for new fields being installed.

But instead of waiting years for research, the answer already exists! A commitment to the existing grass fields around us can meet the immediate needs for safe, quality playing fields. Here is how that can work:

Less Cost:
With an existing field, as little as 1/10th of the amount of money needed for 1- synthetic field is needed to improve and maintain that grass field over 10 years. In a world of tight budgets, spending to improve and maintain 10 existing grass fields correctly instead of building 1 synthetic will make a significant difference.

Additionally, to build and maintain a quality grass field that is rainout proof, 1/3 to 1/2 of the monetary investment of a synthetic field is required over 10 years. See more basic expense figures here: Grass v synthetic, The numbers

Playability:
Natural grass fields can be built and maintained to meet playability needs based on level, demand, and budget. Grass can be maintained to fit the level of surface that is needed. Slow, fast, soft, firm, wet, dry. All factors can be controlled.

On maintained grass the ball always “rolls”, allowing players to predict ball movement. Skin burns and abrasions aren’t common with grass. That fact allows players to attack aggressively and naturally without fear of injury. And that same grass surface has a temperature below the outdoor temperature, naturally cooling the area for players. 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 grass are many. And all-natural, natural grass that needs no EPA approved pesticides is near because of improved grass genetics, evolving maintenance practices, and new technology for pest control.

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 for grass fields improve daily. Creative thinking and technology offer a wide range of innovation for grass fields.

Grass breeding and genetics: Grasses, both warm & cool season, are now available that grow twice as fast and are double as durability as standard, accepted grasses.

Technology for plant feeding and health: Environmentally friendly fertilizers have been developed for healthy grass growth. These products are created in cooperation with government regulations to protect the environment. The friendly fertilizers help produce thick, strong grass that the EPA has endorsed as important for ground-water filtration.

Development of safety and durability tools: A wide range of safety and durability tools are available to be used on grass fields. Systems to absorb energy and reduce surface hardness and injury potential are available. Products that provide surface stability to eliminate slipping and divoting have been developed. No longer is it just grass and dirt. Innovation is advancing possibilities of grass fields.

Human Element:
Natural grass is economical, player friendly, good for the environment, and continues to improve with innovation. But ultimately the biggest advantage grass fields have is the human care they receive from dedicated turfgrass managers. Existing turfgrass managers, provided with a few tools, can produce a low-cost, environmentally friendly field. In an age of needed job creation, committing money to maintain grass fields instead of building synthetic will create numerous new environmentally friendly jobs in the sports & park industry.

There is an immediate need for safe, quality playing fields. The fields needed ALREADY EXIST! But “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten”. It’s no longer acceptable to spend little to no money to maintain an existing grass field but then turn to a million dollar synthetic field. Yes, a simple commitment to improvement and maintenance of natural grass fields can provide the answer!