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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Key #2: Traffic Management; Three Keys of High Traffic Grass Fields

Traffic Management 

Of the “3 Keys to High Traffic Field Maintenance”, Traffic Management should be considered just as important as the first key: Aggressive Cultivation. (Key 1: Aggressive Cultivation). Creative traffic management alone can give a high traffic field with limited maintenance a chance for survival.

With its importance, traffic management could be considered the most challenging key. Why? Because traffic management involves communication and cooperation from 2 sides: Field managers and field users. However, the communication and cooperation can curb field deterioration more than aggressive cultivation or nutrient management. Managing traffic effectively will allow all fields to meet the needs of the users and require less repair work.

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Traffic management includes two parts:

  • Moving around practice/ training work into low traffic competition areas
  • Re-sizing and shifting competition fields to adjust traffic patterns

Moving around practice/ training work into low traffic competition areas

A full size competition field has areas that get little use during the competition. For example, the corners of a soccer field or the end zones on an American football field. Likewise, it is not often that the full is used in full for practice. With that in mind, a few thoughts:

  • Always have 4 goals on a soccer field w/ small sided fields painted if needed
    • Having 4 goals on a soccer field eliminates the need for the competition goal spots to be used. Having additional boxes/ fields painted helps that even more
    • When the field is not being used for competition, goals should never be in competition place. Avoid the temptation!
    • Avoid installation/ use of permanent goals. New style portable goals look identical to permanent goals. If permanent goals are desired, install extra sleeves or have portable set for different positions.
  • Similar for other sports, provide alternate direction markings
    • Football lines going across a field for practice
      • Additional goal posts on sides of fields possible
    • Lacrosse crease areas on sides or diagonal in corners
      • Multiple lacrosse goals on each field to support movement

Ultimately extra lines on a field for practice/ training would be best avoided. But in the age of multiple sport synthetic fields, a wide array of colors and lines is already accepted. On grass, lighter paint application and timing for paint application for lines to fade or be mowed provides assistance.

Different fields are different colors

Different fields are different colors

 Re-sizing and Shifting Competition Fields

Re-sizing and shifting field layouts moves high traffic areas and provides the embattled turfgrass in those areas a chance to recover. Soccer and lacrosse fields have the most flexibility for re-sizing and shifting because the rules call for minimums and maximums on the competition dimensions.

  • Start with shifting the center of the field.
    • Core of soccer and lacrosse is played up and down the center of the field
    • High traffic areas such as goalmouths, referee lines, and bench areas get moved with the move of the field center.
  • Rotate sides of bench areas
    • Teams for all sports warm up directly in front of their bench
    • 1 day of 7 soccer matches, a minimum of 126 players stretch and kick to get loose in front of the bench
    • Rotating the benches in conjunction with shifting the field allows the field to experience optimum recovery while still in play
  • American football fields are much narrower than soccer or lacrosse fields, so they too can be shifted
    • Especially true for practice fields where goal posts are not required
      • Even a slight shift moves the heavy traffic area

 

Soccer field shifted over

Soccer field shifted over

Lacrosse field shift over

Lacrosse field shift over

The foundation of traffic management is communication and cooperation. Field managers and users should be in constant contact to ensure there are no surprises from other side. Both sides should strive to be respectful and understanding of the needs of the other.

With that, the days of field managers dictating to coaches how the field gets used are gone. The “stay off the grass” mentality creates negativity and resentment while promoting an environment of disrespect. In that environment neither the field nor the team wins. Field managers that are flexible to support and cooperate with user’s needs while communicating in a positive manner create education and empowerment. Coach’s equally should reciprocate and respect the work of the field manager. When the cooperation and communication is mutual, everyone wins with traffic management. Especially the field!

The success of “managing traffic” will be evident in increased quality of a high traffic field. With the extra work that goes into the cooperation and communication and field movement, sod work and field closures for repairs will be reduced and/or eliminated. And as your own traffic management process evolves, the condition of high traffic fields will continue to improve as you discover new ideas and try different approaches that fit your specific situation.

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IDEAS! OSTMA Newsletter Case Study : Pro-Active Solutions for Fall Field Overseeding

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Case Study #1: In-season, high traffic football and soccer field on native soil with Kentucky bluegrass and fescue

This field manager has the ultimate challenge in order to get new seed established during the busy season of the year. This field will experience high traffic through the fall even through the time it goes dormant. If you were that manager, what would you do?

Compaction from high traffic is the biggest challenge with this native soil field. Especially through the center and on the sidelines of the American football surface. Overseeding during such heavy play seems nearly impossible. But an open mind and creativity can create possibility!

Cultivation: Aeration should be the #1 cultivation focus for this field. Aeration should take place as often as manpower allows. If multiple games are being played each week, some sort of aeration can take place weekly through the high traffic field center. Yes… weekly! There can be fear of aeration of a grass field under high traffic. However we know the damage that compaction and surface hardness can cause. Especially on native soil.  Avoiding the fear to be aggressive while using good judgment on how and when can counteract those compaction issues and increase use on a grass field.

De-compaction:   Deep tine or soil wave aeration is non-disruptive for de-compaction every other week during the playing season through the high traffic field center and sidelines. The entire field should be de-compacted every other time. Frequent de-compaction will keep the root zone open for deep rooting and will allow rainwater to move vertically through the soil profile to reduce the impact of rain events. De-compaction in combination with fall weather will allow the existing stand of grass to recover from summer stress and withstand heavy use as well.

Surface aeration: Solid tine, rapid tine aeration or slicing is non-disruptive and can take place every other week, alternating de-compaction weeks, during the playing season through the high traffic field center and sidelines. The entire field should be done every other time. Surface aeration will soften the surface and create a seedbed for overseeding. Surface aeration will also open voids for topdressing sand to blend into the surface.

Seeding: Overseeding a field under constant using takes more creativity.

Seed Selection: Using quick germinating seed with good traffic tolerance is important. In the past, perennial ryegrass has been an overseeding grass to avoid because of summer stress issues. But with genetic improvement for disease and traffic tolerance, overseeding with perennial ryegrass in season is possible. Aggressive new Kentucky bluegrass varieties are also available that germinate fast and sustain traffic. Combine perennial ryegrass with Kentucky bluegrass and seed the center of the high traffic field lightly (Up to 2 lb perennial ryegrass, 1 lb Kentucky bluegrass) each week of September prior to play. Seeding into October isn’t recommended unless in south Ohio as frost and cool temperatures limit seedling growth. Springtime seeding should utilize fescue with Kentucky bluegrass and limit the ryegrass use in the spring.

Seed to Soil Contact: Seeding prior to the events of the week with allow the seed to get worked into the soil by cleats through the high traffic area of the field. In addition, the bi-weekly surface aeration will work in the seed. Aeration can be used as a seeding tool by seeding right behind surface aeration. The seed can fall down into the aeration holes allowing the crown of the seedling plant to be protected from traffic so it can re-generate after leaf damage. Light topdressing following the surface aeration and seeding will cover the seed to hold moisture for germination as well.

Summary:

  • De-compaction aeration 2x a month during season (1x center, 1x entire field)
  • Surface aeration 2x a month during season (1x center, 1x entire field)
  • Seed center of field lightly w/ up to 2 lbs perennial ryegrass & 1 lb Kentucky bluegrass each week of September
  • Combine surface aeration with seeding or use cleats/ traffic to work in seed
  • Light topdressing can protect seed as well

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Case Study #2: End-of-season, high traffic in early spring through late summer baseball field on a sand soil with Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass

This field manager may feel relief for the end of the season, but fall overseeding will be the catalyst for the field’s survival through a busy spring and summer. This field will be exposed to high traffic even before the grass breaks dormancy in the spring. If you were that manager, what would you do? 

Fall recovery and spring preparation are the goals for this high traffic field. Early season play likely aids the Poa Annua population in the field, so Poa control in the fall is important as well.

Cultivation: Aggressive cultivation is important to promote recovery for the existing grass and create a good seedbed to encourage seed growth and establishment.

Verticutting or Universe fraze mowing: Immediately following the season in preparation for overseeding, verticutting or Universe fraze mowing should take place. Verticutting is the standard practice for thatch and organic build up, removing 11%-15% of material. Universe fraze mowing can remove up to 100% of the thatch and organic build up, along with removing the Poa Annua plants and the Poa Annua seed. Re-generation from both practices makes the field more durable, with Universe fraze mowing producing a dramatic improvement in density and durability. Use either practice followed with the remaining cultivation practices.

De-Compaction: De-compaction aeration should take place 1x immediately after verticutting or Universe fraze mowing in conjunction with overseeding. De-compaction will allow the existing grass to recover and open the sand profile to keep water moving through from regular irrigation for seed growth.   De-compaction aeration can also take place as the grass goes dormant in late October to encourage natural aeration from freezing and thawing.

Surface aeration: Surface aeration should take place following de-compaction in the fall overseeding process. Surface aeration with surface removal is important to encourage existing grass recovery. Core aeration or recycle dressing will open the surface and allow sand to be blended in. Seed immediately after surface aeration and use the open surface as a seedbed to establish seed. Topdress following seeding to cover and protect seed if possible.

Seeding: Establishing seed during the fall with no traffic is a grass manager’s dream. But don’t be overly relaxed because establishment is essential for spring.

Seed selection: Kentucky bluegrass can be the primary seed of choice in fall seeding with limited traffic. New varieties of Kentucky bluegrass are quick to germinate and establish. Depending on how early in the spring that play begins, keep in mind that perennial ryegrass is early to green up and grow in the spring. Fields with play in February and March can blend in perennial ryegrass with Kentucky bluegrass to provide an early season surface. 3-4 lbs of Kentucky bluegrass is an excellent overseeding rate. Do not use too much, as Kentucky bluegrass should be pushed to spread and fill-in. Add 2 lbs of perennial ryegrass to the early season fields as well. That rate of ryegrass will likely be taken over by the more aggressive Kentucky bluegrass in the summer.

Seed to Soil Contact: Verticutting or Universe fraze mowing followed with core aeration or recycle dressing will create a seedbed for overseeding. A light topdressing can be combined to cover seed if desired.

Summary:

  • Verticut or Universe fraze mow to remove organic material
  • De-compact following to soften sand then de-compact again as field goes dormant
  • Surface aerate with core aeration or recycle dressing to open surface for recovery
  • Overseed with 3-4 lbs Kentucky bluegrass, 2 lbs of perennial ryegrass for early spring play
  • Light topdressing to cover seed

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Did you approach these the same way?  Share your experiences, both positive and negative, with your colleagues in the industry!  THANK YOU for the feedback and participation.  GREAT, GREAT feedback!


 

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OSTMA Fall Newsletter Article

Pro-Active Solutions for Fall Field Overseeding
Creative techniques for seeding in the fall to insure a durable field all year round.

The fall season is the most ideal time for cool season field cultivation and overseeding. Consistent rainfall and cool night temperatures help existing cool season grasses recover quickly, while higher soil temperatures created from the summer heat make an ideal time to get quick germination and growth on seed.

However, fall is also one of the most high traffic times of the year on many cool season fields. To avoid having to close fields completely, grass field managers are challenged to be creative and pro-active on fall field maintenance practices to meet the demands. Let’s re-examine some cultivation and overseeding approaches.

Cultivation
Fall is a wonderful time for cool season turfgrass to recover from summer stress and grow roots for fall and winter play. But black layer from consistent watering, thatch from clipping and stressed or dying turfgrass, and compacted soils from limited cultivation during summer stress limit what existing grass and new seed can do. Before overseeding and fertilization are considered in a fall maintenance program, cultivation should be Step #1.

De-compaction aeration: Soften the soil deep

Examples of Solutions:

Deep tine aerator
Soil wave aerator (ex. Imants Shockwave, Redexium VertiQuake)
Soil air refresher (ex. Koro Recycling Dresser)
De-compaction aeration is softening the soil down below a 6” depth. De-compaction allows for deeper rooting of existing turfgrass, allows better irrigation and rainfall infiltration, and softens the entire field surface for safety and playability.

Timing: De-compaction aeration should take place a minimum of 3x during the fall season (or as much as budget allows). A deep tine or soil wave machine can be run the same day as a field event, so even if the field is under high traffic de-compaction aeration can take place. Soil air refreshing deep for de-compaction requires a 7- 10 day break and also can take place at the end of the fall season.

Surface aeration: Open up the surface

Examples of Solutions

Rapid tine aeration (Coring tines/ solid tines/ needle tines/ knife tines)
Linear slicing (blades or solid slicing rollers)
Soil refreshing aeration (KORO Recycling dresser)
Surface aeration has multiple positives in the fall. Surface aeration is any type of aeration that vents the surface (top 3-4”) for air, water infiltration, and to soften the field for player safety. Using hollow tines to core aerate removes organic matter build up and/or sod layer and creates channels for air and topdressing (if it fits into the budget). Core aeration is labor intensive with the clean up of plugs, but the benefit outweighs challenge. Core aeration and solid tine aeration equally create holes for seed to fall into for seed to soil contact when overseeding. Slicing can open more surface area than most tine aeration methods to open the surface of the field as well and promote healthy plant growth

Timing: The type of surface aeration used is to be dictated by the schedule of use. Core aeration could require a break of up to 7-10 days. On native soil, solid tine aeration and/or slicing can take place with play on the field immediately after. Sand could need a 3-5 day break in order for the surface to become stable again before play. Soil air refreshing down to a 4” depth requires a 5-7 break to grow in the slices.

Verticutting

Examples of Solutions:

Wide range of sizes and types of verticutting machines available
Verticutting is extremely effective in the fall, especially in conjunction with overseeding. Verticutting removes some thatch build up, opens up the black layer that can build during summer with heavy watering, and will promoted Kentucky bluegrass density and durability. Like core aeration, the clean up from verticutting can labor intensive. But just as core aeration, the benefit outweighs the challenge.

Timing: Verticutting can take place w/ a 3-5 day break and in no effects stability or playability of a field. For practice, a field could be verticut the same day as play.

Universe fraze mowing

Examples of Solutions:

Universe Fraze Mowing (KORO Field Topmaker w/ Universe® rotor
The new cultivation technique of Universe fraze mowing has now proven to be a valuable practice. This is especially in the fall on Kentucky bluegrass in combination with overseeding. Similar to verticutting, Universe fraze mowing promotes Kentucky bluegrass density and durability while removing thatch and organic buildups. But instead of removing 11-15% of material like verticutting, Universe fraze mowing removes up to 100% of the material to the desired depth. That depth is set above the growing point of the Kentucky bluegrass to allow re-generation. Universe fraze mowing also removes poa annua plants that are short rooted from summer stress, the poa annua seed bank on top of the field, and other weed seed that has accumulated. Universe fraze mowing also helps smooth the field surface.

Timing: The depth or aggressiveness of Universe fraze mowing varies depending on the window of time the field as off. A light Universe fraze mow cleans the very top of a field and can take place in a window of 10-14 days. Going more aggressive to remove more organic and poa annua can require up to 21-35 days, depending on the age of the field and the amount of prior maintenance.

Overseeding

Once fall cultivation is addressed/ planned, overseeding should be addressed. Overseeding in conjunction with the cultivation can added effectiveness to both practices. When preparing to overseed, consider a few different things:

Seed selection

New genetics in fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and ryegrass are changing what is possible for fields and overseeding. Fast germination, increased aggressiveness for spreading and filling in, and stronger roots for establishment and quicker playability all exist. Also lowering demands for dark green color is being replaced with an appreciation for aggressiveness and durability unlike ever before. All lead to a new world for seeding. For an example, consult SportsTurf.com online and read the July article by Ms. Julie Adamski about a Kentucky bluegrass field that went from seed to play in 35 days. From Seeding to Play in 35 Days. That feat has provided an example and confidence for grass field managers exploring using new seed varieties.

Additionally, the genetic improvements now make fescue and ryegrass capable of existing on high traffic fields together, in with Kentucky bluegrass, or even on their own. No longer do grass field managers have to hold their breath during disease stress times with these varieties. Do your homework on what is available from the seed companies you have existing relationships with, but consider possibly branching outside those relationships as well to find what is working for others. Keep in mind with seed; the old proverb “you get what you pay for” is 100% true.

Seed to Soil Contact

When seeding, no matter the variety you select, seed to soil contact is important. Soil contact ensures the seed is not sitting in the thatch layer or laying on top of the ground where is could dry out quickly or struggle to push roots down into the soil. There are a few different options for overseeding to will help promote seed to soil contact.

Seeding in conjunction with cultivation: Seeding following core aeration, solid tine aeration, verticutting, or Universe fraze mowing can promote seed to soil contact. Aeration holes give the seed cavities to fall down into the soil. This is effective especially for fields still in play during seeding as the crown of the plant grows below the surface where it is protected from cleats. Do not aerate too deep though if doing so to promote seed. Verticutting cleans some thatch out and creates linear channels for seed. Universe fraze mowing cleans the thatch completely from the top, but it still needs an additional cultivation to work the seed into the soil. Keep in mind that when seeding in conjunction with cultivation, the more surface area that is opened up, the better success seeding will have.
Using a penetrating seeder: Several different seed application machines are available on the market. With a seeder, just as when cultivating for seed, the more surface area that is penetrated the better off the seed application will be.
Seeding before heavy traffic: Our forefathers in grass field management have handed down this method through years of use. Applying seed to the high traffic areas of a field 1-2 days before a heavy use will allow play to create the seed to soil contact. An example would be seeding the center of a football field prior to play. Keep in mind that if using any clean up techniques following the heavy traffic, it could also pick up the seed. Follow the high traffic event with a deep irrigation cycle to settle in the seed to ensure success with this technique.
Topdressing to cover seed: Topdressing with sand, compost, or even lightly with the field’s native soil will create seed to soil contact. Keep in mind that too much topdressing burying the seed can be a bad thing .
Be Creative!

These are just a few ideas to help solve the complex challenge of fall cultivation and overseeding. Yes, there are many, many other ideas for meeting the challenge. Make sure to ask questions of your fellow grass field managers to create more possibilities to meet the challenge. Follow colleagues, STMA Chapters, and sports field managers around the world on social media to witness the creativity that others are using. Share your experiences equally for others to learn from your lessons to help build creativity and idea generation.

HGT Kentucky bluegrass under aggressive cultivation following 167 events in less than 6 months.

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!

 

Welcome to the Future?!

As part of “ThinkDifferent”, I have repeatedly made the statement that “within 5 years, there WILL be a natural grass alternative to synthetic turf.”  That is a statement that the natural grass industry is closer to than any of us realize.  Through combining the best technologies and techniques with creative thinking… we are close!  No one has any idea what the future holds!

During a recent visit to France, I got a peek into what the future does hold for natural grass fields and us as Grass Field Managers.  For possibly the first time ever, two grass field agronomists (Mr. Chris Hague from Denmark and myself) spent several hours in a NeuroMusculoskeletal Biomechanics lab with some of France’s top research and medical specialists.  Country and western singer Brad Paisley’s 2009 hit “Welcome to the Future” played in my mind as we were exposed to research on the interaction between players and the field surface from a scientific, biomechanics perspective. Or maybe the more proper song would have been the introduction to the “Twilight Zone“, as we truly were introduced to an entirely new dimension in which grass fields soon will be moving.  Either song is fitting.  And the opportunity Chris and I had to be introduced to some exciting new ideas technology for natural grass fields was game changing.  Let’s take a quick look:

The group Natural Grass is responsible for the game changing ideas and research taking place in France.  Their concept revolves around the use of granulated cork in a sand root zone for a natural grass sports field.  The cork mixed in sand absorbs energy displaced into the sand from each step a player running takes.  The energy is being absorbed, lowering the injury potential.   The cork in the field gives, not the player’s ligaments or tendons.   What a great idea yeah?!?  Wow.

Granulated Cork Pieces

Granulated Cork Pieces

The agronomic benefit is similar.  With the energy absorption, the compaction potential in the sand root zone is lowered/ eliminated.  The result is an air-filled root zone in which strong, healthy grass roots can always exist.  Strong, healthy roots allow the grass can always continue to grow and recover.  And a grass sward that is always growing and recovering can take an increased amount of traffic without an increased amount of maintenance.

THE FUTURE!?!?

4" Width x 8" Profile Sample

4″ Width x 8″ Profile Sample

The research behind the cork concept is being done at the George Charpak Institute for NeuroMusculoskeletal Biomechanics.  The institute has 3 teams for research:

1) Musculoskeletal Modelling and Clinical Innovation: Oriented towards patient-specific biomechanical modelling of the musculoskeletal system, this research aims to improve the understanding of pathologies resulting from degenerative processes, traumatism or handicap, as well as develop computer aided diagnosis and therapeutic tools, or design implants and technical aids
2) Biomechanics and Nervous System: Motion Analysis and Restoration: This research is based in clinical site (CHU Henri Mondor Creteil). The aim is to better understand relationships existing between motion muscular actuators and their neurocontrol command.  Analyzing and modelling motion disorders that happen subsequently to a neurological handicap, leads to design and objective evaluation of rehabilitation protocols.  
3) Biomechanics: Sport, Health and Safety: This research, carried out in clinical site (CHU Avicenne-University Paris 13), copes with three issues: inter-relationships between sportive practice and musculoskeletal remodeling in order to optimize performance while reducing induced pathology; mechanisms of injury after impacts (road crashes, sports) to improve protection devices; tissues and structures characterization at various loading speeds

(*Information from the Institute information sheet provided us)

The Institute has completed 4 years of testing on different concepts for sports field and how they react to energy absorption and the human body.  The work is amazing.  And the results are eye-opening.  There truly is a relationship between the shock from players legs and the field surface.  Not only does the data expose the need for absorption in the soil, but also for we as grass field managers to embark on an aggressive surface testing program.

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Again….  THE FUTURE!?!?

Will it become common for grass field managers to be communicating with fitness experts and biomechanical experts?  I think YES!  Outside experts becoming involved in research and innovation for natural grass create entirely new possibilities for the limits of natural grass fields.  EXCITING!

Chris and I also had the opportunity to visit Aube Stadium in Troyes, France.  Aude is the first stadium to install the “AirFibr” system on their field (summer of 2013).  Thank you to Aube Head Grounds Manager Eric Robin for hosting us!

R to L: Chris Hague, Eric Robin, Jerad Minnick

R to L: Chris Hague, Eric Robin, Jerad Minnick

(As you look through the Natural Grass website, yes there are a few more components/ parts to the first Natural Grass product, “AirFibr”. The additional of synthetic microfibers helps with stability of a weakened root zone for winter time play, and silica sand helps with superior drainage in the French market.  And yes, some of the information Natural Grass has is commercial, as they believe in their product and want to sell it.  

But let us focusing on the concept of the cork and the energy absorption.  Let us see the creativity and importance of the Natural Grass relationship with some of France’s best researchers in the biomechanics field of study)

Here is another snap shot of the particular “Air Fibr” product: 

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Background on Organic Sand Amendments… and How Global Communication is Improving the Industry 
During a tour of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) last fall (October 2013) with Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care, STRI’s Dr. Christian Spring lead us past an abandoned trial on sports field root zone mixtures involving coconuts husks.  Seeing visible squares of live and dead grass, Simon’s inquisitive mind asked the question of what was happening.  The plots containing coconut had survived the uncommon summer heat of 2013 better than the plots without, even with the trial abandoned.  

That experience left me curious about the possibilities of organic soil amendments for sand to increase durability and decrease compaction potential without introducing something like peat.   Peat is great for golf.  Why do we always have to follow golf?  For sports peat is expensive and can lead to compaction potential.  

With those thoughts on my mind, later that week I was meeting with Premier Pitches Mr. Carl Pass and Mr. Russell Latham and discussing the topic of sand reinforcement and sustainability for high traffic fields. Carl and Russell had recently visited Paris, France to see a new reinforcement  product with cork called “Air Fibr”.  There and then the connection to France and the USA via England was made.  Now our United States marketplace has another idea for innovation and natural grass durability for the future.  Communication and sharing is changing our world…  Thank you to everyone involved in sharing, communicating, and idea exchange.  Together we are re-defining our FUTURE! 

 

KORO Renovation Methods Reach California

The world-class Stub Hub Center in Los Angeles has become the latest addition to the list of facilities to put fraze mowing into practice .  In a demonstration/ field day this week, the training field for the MLS club Chivas USA was fraze mowed and renovated with pieces of the KORO renovation process.  Stub Hub Center, formerly known as Home Depot Center, is home to Chivas USA, the back-to-back defending MLS Champion LA Galaxy, US Soccer, and several of the United State’s highest profile events;

The renovation was organized by STS Services (Jock Eddington) of Phoenix, AZ and Campey Turf Care (Simon Gumbrill) of Manchester, UK.  The rest of the renovation/ demonstration team was made up of Mr. Paul Burgess (Real Madrid),  Jerad Minnick (Maryland SoccerPlex), Julie Adamski (Maryland SoccerPlex),  Kevin White (Seattle University),  Brian Wood (Commercial Turf & Tractor) and Mr. Jose Maria Aldrete (Chivas Guadalajara).  The Stub Hub Center staff, lead by Mr. Shaun Ilten, played an absolutely vital role as well.  Kudos to them for all the support and the open mind to proceed!

The Chivas training pitch is a tight mix of bermudagrass and ryegrass.  But as every grass field experiences,  an organic layer was beginning to accumulate and poa annua was starting to populate.  Mr. Ilten, Stub Hub Center’s Head Grounds Manager, recognized that fraze mowing and the KORO renovation process could be something that could not only help with keeping those challenges from increasing… but also create an even stronger and traffic tolerant surface for Stub Hub Center year round.

Renovation Goals: 

1) Eliminate/ reduce poa annua population

2) Increase durability of the field by cleaning out/ breaking up organic layering and de-compacting sub-base

3) Create a strengthened bermudagrass base to act as stability for the inner-seeded ryegrass

4)  Keep the entire surface smooth to increase playability by the high level teams

Fraze Mowing

To start the renovation, the field was fraze mowed.   With frazing, the challenges of the field: thatch, organic build up,  ryegrass, poa annua plants and poa seed: were removed off the surface while leaving the base of bermudagrass below.   As fraze mowing multiple fields in 2013 has demonstrated (Fraze Mowing Results), the Universe® rotor on the Field Topmaker cleaned the material off the surface and left the bermudagrass rhizomes to re-generate.

Fraze Mowing Off Thatch and Organic Matter w/ the KORO Universe® Rotor

Fraze Mowing Off Thatch and Organic Matter w/ the KORO Universe® Rotor

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Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe®

Fraze Mowing w/ KORO Universe®

The bermudagrass rhizomes exposed to the sunlight began to re-generate and run across the ground immediately.  That network creates a base of natural stability in the sub-soil.

De-Compaction

Following cleaning, the sub-surface profile was de-compacted using the Imants Shockwave w/ 8″ blades.  Shockwave, a soil wave de-compaction machine, is ideal for a heavy soil sub-surface that needs softened.

Imants Shockwave De-Compacting Sub Soil

Imants Shockwave De-Compacting Sub Soil

Imants Shockwave De-Compacting 8" Deep

Imants Shockwave De-Compacting 8″ Deep

Incorporation of Sand Into Soil Surface:

With the thatch, organic matter, poa annua, poa annua seed bank and ryegrass removed, followed with the sub-soil de-compacted…  1/2″ of sand was added to the surface.  Using an Imants RotoKnife to slice up the top, sand was worked down into the soil profile to promote infiltration, reduce compaction potential, and to provide air space for stronger plants.

Imants RotoKnife Slicing Profile to Incorporate Sand

Imants RotoKnife Slicing Profile to Incorporate Sand

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Seeding Ryegrass Into Bermudagrass Base:

Ryegrass was seeded into the bermudagrass base of the field following cleaning off, de-compaction, and sand incorporation.  With bermudagrass rhizomes beginning to re-generate across and through the soil surface, they will prove natural stability for the ryegrass that is seeded down into the soil.  The resilience of ryegrass will sustain heavy amounts of traffic without divoting or wearing away at the crown of the plant because of the bermudagrass reinforcement.

3 Days Following Fraze Mowing, Bermudagrass Beginning to Gergenerate

3 Days Following Fraze Mowing, Bermudagrass Beginning to Regenerate

Sun Setting As Seeding of Ryegrass Progresses

Sun Setting Following Seeding of Ryegrass Progresses

Conclusion:

With the beautiful Southern California sunshine beaming down on it, the ryegrass seed will now germinate and fill in quickly.  The low sun angle and mild temperatures will inhibit complete bermudagrass regeneration, but that is ok since the bermuda is there for reinforcement and playability, not turfgrass cover.    Within 4 weeks time, the training field will be available to be back on-line for the busy winter season at Stub Hub Center… and absolutely bullet proof by the time Chivas USA returns for the start of the MLS season in January.

THANK YOU to all the participants of the field day and the demonstration of the renovation practices!!  THANK YOU to Mr. Shaun Ilten and his staff and Stub Hub Center for the support and for the open mind to try the new renovation techniques.  And THANK YOU to Assistant GM of Stub Hub Center, Mr. Kyle Waters, for his time and for hosting the group for the LA Galaxy v. Real Salt Lake Playoff match at Stub Hub Center Stadium.  Stub Hub Center is one of the world’s finest…  Mr. Ilten and Mr. Waters are absolutely majors reasons why!!

More updates to come on the re-establishment.  Keep the questions coming!

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TurfNet Sports: Aggressive Tactics Key to Managing Soccer Complex

From TurfNet Sports, Sept. 7, 2013

http://www.turfnetsports.com/page/news.html/_/aggressive-tactics-key-to-managing-soccer-complex-r152

Aggressive Tactics Key to Managing Soccer Complex

Sep 07 2013 08:00 AM | John Reitman
Jerad Minnick discusses turf management during a demo day at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Jerad Minnick discusses turf management during a demo day at Maryland SoccerPlex.

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.”
Fraze mowing Bermudagrass at Maryland SoccerPlex.
Fraze mowing Bermudagrass at Maryland SoccerPlex.

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.”