The 1st day of exploring the UK was absolutely superb all around. Superb and eye opening observations. Superb and in-depth discussions. Superb weather and travel conditions. Many, many, many thanks to the man I consider the UK/ USA grass field ambassador…. Mr. Simon Gumbrill. Simon single-handedly is bring 2 very different worlds of groundsmanship together. As always, his hospitality, graciousness, and ideas are 1st rate. Thank you to him for taking the time to take me around the country!
One of the exploration and idea collection points of this trip focuses around stability and reinforcement of rootzones for heavy use. The UK climate brings large amounts of rain and cold winters, yet most high level stadiums/ field in the UK never fight divoting and sand stability issues like American fields. Why??
Mr. Anthony Stones of Wembley Stadium, and Mr. Paul Ashcroft of Emirates Stadium (At Wembley)
With that in mind, our 1st stop on Monday was Wembley Stadium. Wembley hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers & Minnesota Vikings Sunday night, just 12 hours prior to our visit. Many, many thanks to Mr. Anthony Stones and his staff for hosting us the morning after such an event. Absolutely 1st class to take the time to see us, talk with us, and to be so open with us.
And the Wembley pitch was fantastic as well. Reinforced w/ Desso, American football had barely nicked the field. But the NFL game is only part of the story. Wembley had perviously hosted Roger Waters “The Wall” concert 2 weeks prior on Sat. Sept. 14. (Yes, the same “The Wall” concert that toured the US last summer, decimating stadium fields across the country and leading to hundreds of thousands of square feet of sod replacement). Yet even with it 2 weeks before an NFL game, Wembley sodded 0 sq ft following the concert.
Even more remarkable is that the field had sustained multiple rugby and soccer matches prior to the NFL and concert following a seeding renovation to repair the field from a month of concerts in June. Absolutely amazing!! More to come on HOW this was possible in upcoming days…..
Mr. Steve Braddock at Arsenal’s Training Ground
Our 2nd stop of Monday was at Arsenal’s Shenley Training Ground to see Mr. Steve Braddock. Mr. Braddock is truly an artist, as the pitches were as strong as ever. Thank you to Steve for taking the time to talk about so many topics and to trade so many different possibilities. With over 10 fields, the training ground is a large facility… but that doesn’t keep Steve and his strong staff from producing amazing results. More to come on observations… in particular from seeing 5 more Desso sewed fields.
Water Across the Perfect Emirates Stadium Pitch Before Training
Lastly on Monday, Mr. Paul Ashcroft allowed us to pay him a visit at Emirates Stadium late in the evening to see his masterpiece known as the Emirates Stadium pitch. With Napoli FC training for their Champions League match against Arsenal, their work during a fast paced training session on the Desso pitch highlighted some of the strong points Mr. Ashcroft was kind enough to share with us. Thank You to him for taking the time to see us, even being busy!
In observing 12 immaculate fields on my 1st day, even following American football/ nearly 2 months into season training/ immediately follow a hard working training session, I quickly was reminded again how different our thinking and quality is in the USA is compared to the top facilities in the UK. With all the fields being high traffic, 7 of the 12 fields reinforced with Desso, and none ever getting sod work….. the number of additional questions for me to get answered grows. Much, much more on the amazing things seen are to come!
Happy Wednesday! This morning GrowingGreenGrass has the privilege to assist a friend of the #revolution, Mr. Chase Straw. Mr. Straw is a graduate student at the University of Georgia. He is collecting some field maintenance information as part of his thesis research via an online survey.
“The purpose of the survey is to gather data to get an idea of cultivation practices implemented at all levels (professional, park and rec., etc.) of athletic field management. Then (the study) will look at each level and determine the frequency of cultivation practices, reasons as to why or why not they cultivate, concerns about managing natural turfgrass fields, etc.”
With the data, Mr. Straw will be able to get a better idea of what the concerns are of managing athletic fields at each level then use this data to brainstorm future research projects and also justify the projects they have currently going on.
Absolutely wonderful stuff! Please take a couple of minutes and fill out the survey if you can, and even pass it along to our peers.
Jerad Minnick has never calculated the point of diminishing returns as it relates to the cost of seed at the Maryland SoccerPlex, but he knows he hasn’t come close to reaching it yet.
Minnick, head groundskeeper at the 22-field complex in Boyds, Md., since 2009, renovated the facility’s main stadium field last year, with Barenbrug’s Turf Blue Kentucky bluegrass that is enhanced with HGT technology. At $4 per pound, the seed, he says, is worth every penny.
The selection of HGT, which stands for Healthy Grass Technology, along with Jump Start Kentucky bluegrass and a regimen of agronomic practices that he learned overseas, have helped Minnick, 34, produce mid-season playing conditions that he didn’t realize were possible on cool-season turf.
“Grass can take a lot more traffic than we give it credit for,” Minnick said.
“We’ve played 120 events on the stadium field, and you can’t tell it’s been played on.”
Barenbrug’s HGT (Healthy Grass Technology), which entered the market in 2011, was developed from naturally stress-tolerant plants. Its traits include improved heat and wear tolerance, rapid establishment and quick recovery.
The stadium field at the Maryland SoccerPlex was ready for play 35 days after seeding. Thanks to a program of aggressive agronomic practices, he’s been able to keep it in like-new condition.
Within 60 days of seeding, the complex had hosted several tournaments, including the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s championship that was decided on the stadium field 75 days after seeding. Minnick now uses HGT on the other cool-season fields at the complex as well.
Hundreds of games each year are played at the 160-acre complex that includes 10 cool-season turfgrass fields, nine Bermudagrass fields and three that are carpeted with synthetic turf. The complex near Washington, D.C., is open every day except New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and keeping the fields ready for play at all times is critical.
“If it snows in December, January or February, we have to clear it immediately and get it open,” said Minnick, who has managed the fields at the Maryland SoccerPlex since 2009.
Producing championship conditions is as much about agronomic practices as it is turf selection.
“Aggressive cultivation is the key,” Minnick said. “Each field has something done to it every two weeks. We have an aerifier and a verticutter running all the time. That is how we keep grass on our fields.”
Minnick earned a bachelor’s degree in turfgrass science at the University Missouri and was in his last semester of graduate school in 2002 when he accepted a job with the Kansas City Royals. He spent 2007-09 across town prepping with Sporting KC, Kansas City’s Major League Soccer franchise.
Since heading the soccer complex, Minnick has visited dozens of European soccer facilities. While overseas, he met people like Simon Gumbrill from Campey Turfcare and Barclays Premier League groundskeepers Paul Burgess of Real Madrid and Steve Braddock of Arsenal. Each taught him various things about the European way to manage turf, which includes regular agronomic practices throughout the playing season.
For example, Braddock said he runs a deep tine aerifier over Arsenal’s practice fields on a monthly basis, alternating between depths of 6 inches to 10 to 12 inches throughout the playing season. When the season is over, he scrapes the field clean of its cover using the Imants Koro Field Topmaker in a process called Fraze mowing and establishes a new field for the next season.
This process removes all organic matter from the surface and each year results in improved drainage at the surface, Braddock said. It’s a philosophy that is not taught at U.S. turf schools, but it is something that is widely used by turf managers in other parts of the world.
“All my practices have been self taught using what I believe is common sense over the years.” Braddock said.
“My belief is that practical experience is more beneficial as the person can see what tasks they are carrying out will have a positive impact on the surface and learning about how important timing can be when conducting tasks.”
Minnick wasn’t a believer at first, but he is now. His program in Maryland includes aggressive agronomic practices throughout the playing season, including almost constant aerification except during the most extreme summer conditions. He renovates the stadium field each year and uses the Fraze mowing method on actively growing Bermudagrass. The process removes thatch, ryegrass, Poa annua and leaves Bermudagrass stolons exposed. Scarifying in two directions promotes better lateral growth of the Bermudagrass. Minnick rotates through the other cool-season and warm-season fields, renovating several each year. He doesn’t yet renovate all every year, but, as he says, “we are moving in that direction.”
“I didn’t think it was possible either seven or eight years ago,” he said. “The fields we do the most to always look the best.
“To me, the biggest mistakes people make are too much water, too much nitrogen and not enough aerification. Granted, I’m not going to do it if it is 105 degrees outside. We were still solid tining to open the organic layer when we broke a record for most consecutive hours above 80 degrees.”
It has come as no surprise to Erik Ervin, Ph.D., who was a professor at Missouri when Minnick was a student there, that his former pupil has adopted such revolutionary tactics.
“Jerad was not your usual undergrad,” said Ervin, who is now a professor at Virginia Tech. “He was a polite young man who introduced himself right away and asked insightful questions. He was a leader in our turf club, and I was not surprised to follow his success as we both moved from Missouri to the East Coast for promotions. Jerad is willing to try new things, but reads, discusses and experiments before going all in with his unique turf care practices.”
Minnick maintains the stadium field at nine-sixteenths of an inch and the other cool-season surfaces at heights of 1 to 1.75 inches.
“I like to manipulate the turf,” he said. “If you add a quarter inch, that’s 25 percent more photosynthetic surface.
“I try not to mow as much, but I don’t shy away from cultural practices.”
The Bermuda fields at the complex, which include Patriot, are overseeded with a mix of Barenbrug’s SOS and RPR ryegrasses, are maintained at a height of about one-half inch during the summer when they subjected to 40 hours of play per week.
“We load them up in the summer,” Minnick said. “Summer camps are big for us. Kids are on those fields from 9 to 5, and the Bermuda is perfect. It doesn’t wear out.”
Adopting new methods of doing things is nothing new for Minnick. He currently is evaluating HGT Kentucky bluegrass as an overseed option, and also is evaluating performance characteristics of several vareities of Bermudagrass, including Patriot, Latitude 36, NorthBridge and Riveria. He believes looking for better ways to produce healthy, stress-tolerant playing surfaces quickly should be the norm, not the exception.
“Why are we still talking about all of these old ideas? We need to get rid of them. If we continue to learn new things, thinking like this will be the norm in five years.
“Some people say it is far-fetched, but others in other parts of the world have been doing it this way for a long time. In Europe, it’s been mostly on ryegrass. In Australia it’s been on Bermuda. When we take it to bluegrass, yes, we’re setting new trends. I like to think of the day when people will look back and think of when they thought grass couldn’t take a lot of traffic.”
The impact of fraze mowing bermudagrass is beginning to show. Fields that were “cleaned off” at Maryland SoccerPlex and at FC Dallas Park are all setting themselves apart.
Maryland SoccerPlex fields that were “cleaned off” are illustrating improved wear tolerance, even just 6 weeks after fraze mowing. During a lacrosse tournament last weekend, SoccerPlex Patriot bermudagrass fields hosted 34 lacrosse matches per bermudagrass field in rainy, humid conditions. The durability from the fraze mowed fields was far superior. The treatments have been the same; no fertilizer and 1 pass w/ 3/8″ hollow coring tines on 1″ centers; accept that the non-fraze mowed fields were scarified to promote recovery. The results follow….
Fields Not Fraze Mowed:
Day 1: Bermudagrass Field That was Not Fraze Mowed
Day 7 of Recovery on Fields Not Fraze Mowed
Non Fraze Mowed: Day 14 of Recovery From 34 Lacrosse Matches
Because bermudagrass is so quick to recover, it is accepted before such a lacrosse event that the bermudagrass will nearly be completely worn away. The bermuda is able to recover completely within 2-3 weeks even at this pace.
Then that is compared to the fields that were fraze mowed 6 week prior to hosting 34 lacrosse matches in 4 days. Results:
Day 1: Field That Was Fraze Mowed
Day 7 of Recovery on Fraze Mowed Field
Day 14 of Recovery: Fraze Mowed Field from 34 Lacrosse Matches (W/ Soccer Camps/ Clinics All 14 Days)
The results speak for themselves. Yes, in both pictures the field is extremely worn initially on Day 1. However, look closer and compare the amount of green tissue remaining on the ground in the fraze mowed picture compared to the field not fraze mowed. The field not fraze mowed is nearly all dirt where new bermuda will need to push back up through the soil or have sprigs added to the area. The fraze mowed field still has nearly 75% cover, so the plants can quickly grow back in the worn area.
Keep in mind that fraze mowing took place only 6 weeks prior on 3 fields:
Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe Field Topmaker
Field Comparisons In 6 Weeks Before 34 Lacrosse Games
Because of the increase in durability of the fraze mowed bermudagrass, it is recovering in only 1 week. Not only does this allow the field to recover faster, but it can allow for the fields to sustain even more play. Win. Win.
So WHY is the difference so vast already?
1) Re-growth is more durable: Just 6 weeks after the field was cleaned off completely, the re-growth back up through the soil is much stronger. The number of growing points has multiplied and the cleats go into the soil instead of thatch to reduce shearing/ tearing/ increasing traction.
2) Organic removal reduces moisture and compaction potential: During the 4 day lacrosse tournament, wet and rainy conditions prevailed. The drying speed of the fraze mowed fields was much faster than the non-fraze mowed fields, and the 3 fields that were “cleaned off” historically hold water the longest. WHY? The organic layer was removed, so water was not held in the organic layer as long and allowed to soak into the native soil faster. The organic removal also reduced the compaction potential at the soil surface.
The FC Dallas Training Field is also experiencing similar superior wear tolerance:
FC Dallas 1st Team Training Field:
Organic/ Thatch Build Up in 2012
Thatch/ Organic Build Up AFTER Fraze Mowing in 2013
The pictures also illustrate the difference in the quality of the bermudagrass re-growth. Without having to grow up through thatch and having more growing points, the picture illustrates how much stronger the bermudagrass is after fraze mowing. Additionally, the poa is removed as well.
The FC Dallas Training field has been in use daily for nearly 3 months and is illustrating superior wear tolerance, especially through the high traffic areas:
On Tuesday of last week, KORO Universe® fraze mowing was introduced to bermudagrass in northeast eastern North Carolina. The results of the process continue to be amazing:
Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaning w/ KORO Universe at Shallowest Depth
Celebration Bermudagrass Cleaned Out Deeper w/ KORO Universe
Mat of Thatch & Organic on 419 Removed to Expose Stolons & Rhizomes
Mr. Sam Green, Director of Business Development at Aqua Aid, set up the demonstration in North Carolina. Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care (Manchester, UK) and Mr. Hans DeKort of Imants (Reusel, Netherlands) were both in attendance, along with Mr. Andrew Green from McDonald Design Group to evaluate the potential of the process. The potential for the golf market is very big, for de-thatching/ durability/ and for cleaning up to prepare for overseeding.
More updates to come on the re-establishment of the bermudagrass!
THANK YOU to everyone that took part in the demonstration at Maryland SoccerPlex on Monday, June 3rd. Heavy rains Sunday night limited to the amount of work that was able to take place, but that did not limit the discussions and information sharing between the nice sized group that gathered.
Special thanks to Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care (Manchester, UK) and Mr. Hans DeKort of Imants (Reusel, Netherlands) for taking the time to be with us. And special thanks to them for building and providing the turfgrass market with such well build and precision machines. The relationship between Campey and Imants is absolutely “Perfecting Play”.
Also, thank you to Mr. Niels Dokkuma from SGL Concept (Netherlands) for joining us. The age of growing grass year round w/ lights for even non-shaded fields is coming… and SGL is leading us there. Exciting things ahead!!
And additionally, a thank you for Mr. Yousef Bagdady for joining us from Garden & Farm (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia). Garden & Farm is one of the finest turfgrass equipment distributors in the world, and Mr. Bagdady being with us illustrates why. The idea sharing was beneficial for us all!
More to come w/ the re-growth of the fields. We are absolutely on track to re-open by 1 week from today… June 15th. A sneak peak at the results so far:
Patriot Bermuda Greening 5 Days After Cleaning Off
Thinnest Area Prior to Patriot Bermuda Being Cleaned Off 6 Days Before