Sports Turf

case-sports-turfThanks to Roger Ward, Laurence Blacka and Craig Feuerriegel, we’ve put together three little turf case studies – two serious rebuilds and a test plot on a foul site…

Let’s begin with Newcastle’s Arthur Edden Oval, home to both the Northern NSW Soccer Federation and The Lambton Jaffa’s Soccer Club. An enclosed field with a grandstand, it sees a lot of action – training sessions and games – from junior to senior teams. Despite an upgrade to facilities at the field’s edge several years ago – a new amenities block complete with a canteen – until recently the actual playing ground had some serious issues…

When Roger Ward, Newcastle City Council’s Recreation Project Officer says that the field didn’t meet standards, he’s politely understated things. In fact, all the fundamental essentials of a living turfed playing surface were compromised. “It wasn’t a level playing field and that was because it had been both a soccer and a cricket field in the past. When it was dedicated to soccer, the cricket wicket soil was removed but the surface wasn’t regraded so the high point where the pitch had been was still there.”

And that’s not all. “There was very poor turf coverage – I’d estimate fifty percent grass and fifty percent weed – and the soil was seriously compacted.” The implications of a field that didn’t drain well included games played elsewhere and this translated to a loss of income for the club when that fabulous new canteen wasn’t able to carry out its usual fundraising activities during hosted games.

Happily this story has a promising ending. It was obvious that the oval needed major work, and that it couldn’t be undertaken in stages. To make it all possible, the cost of work was shared between Council and the Club. To top things off, the Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW provided funding and support through a trial (titled Improving the Performance and Sustainability of Sporting Fields Using Recycled Organics) which is looking into the effects of introducing soil conditioning and organic matter into playing fields. (“They’re looking at how it affects compaction and therefore water retention.”)

With all this in place, work began in October of 2007, the aim being to have the turf ready for action with the start of the 2008 soccer season.

“We began by removing all the grass which was stockpiled and used later to green up the surrounds. Three hundred millimetres of soil was then removed – and to do it we had to use a dozer to rip and push it back because the soil was so compacted a grader wouldn’t do it.” The Department-supplied recycled organic matter was then rotary hoed in, along with the star ingredient – TerraCottem. “We’ve been using TerraCottem for all our street trees for over ten years. We’d also recently used it on one of our other fields and the result was enough for me to say that we need to use it when we do any major field renovations.”

Following these soil additions, the oval was laser levelled and a Hunter irrigation system installed, hooked up to an almost unbelievable asset – a natural spring which fills two underground tanks located conveniently on the edge of the ground.

“To help speed up establishment and meet our deadline, we laid kikuyu in maxi rolls, 1.2 metres wide and 20 metres long. To establish the turf, the irrigation was scheduled every second day for two weeks, then we reduced it to nothing over the following month, and they were running on the field after only three more weeks. We did miss a couple of games at the beginning because we’d lost some time earlier during construction through heavy rain, but the field has held up very well in its first season, especially since it’s had no water following establishment, only normal rain fall.”

And that’s where the findings of the soil scientist supplied as part of the Department’s trial are interesting. “They’re monitoring the site for twelve months and to date are really pleased with the soil profile. Testing also showed that the root growth was very impressive – between 100 and 120 mm down into the profile – something which was achieved in a very short growth season before winter set in and the grass went into its dormant stage.”

Overall the decision to use TerraCottem’s unique soil conditioning technology has been a success. During winter and during times with no rain for a month it hasn’t yellowed or died back but continued to grow. Since the turf first went in it never looked back, needing a trim in the first fourteen days. And perhaps most importantly, despite rain prior to matches, none have had to be cancelled which means the canteen has been open for business as planned. So how many sausages do you have to sell to pay for a half share of a rebuild like this one? A lot.

To read more about TerraCottem Turf soil conditioning, click here.

Scratching around on a foul site

Sometimes desperation creates an opportunity to try something new. Laurence Blacka of Redland City Council did just that in November last year when he decided to include TerraCottem as a soil conditioner in a *turf trial at the Raby Esplanade…

“After hearing about the product I decided to incorporate it in a trial I was already undertaking on soil remediation. The trial area’s behind a canal revetment wall where the soil is made up of marine muds and clays that were pumped in during the construction of the canals – it’s very anaerobic, low organic, acidic, salt laden, compacted, with some areas of poor drainage.

“Growing on top was a mixture of all types of turf species – predominantly green couch, sporobilis and patches of kikuyu and bahia grass – not that we were too concerned as we aren’t trying to establish a monoculture here but rather taking the approach, if it can grow here, let it.”

The process was fairly straightforward: the area was rotary hoed to 150mm then the necessary amendments (lime, magnesium and organics) added as prescribed by the soil analysis. Then the TerraCottem was added and the whole mix hoed in. After leveling, the main trial area was turfed with sea isle turf, and a smaller area nearby left prepared and treated but not turfed to see what would grow back from the original grasses that were hoed in. The area was then watered in and regularly irrigated for 10 days after which everything was left to fend for itself.

And what did the trial show? “The area seemed to consume a large volume of water on the initial watering and then required little water to maintain sufficient water for turf establishment. The turf did establish quickly and well and the area not turfed showed earlier than estimated regrowth of the green couch which had been hoed in. In the longer term both areas completely established a good coverage and continue to do well. Compared to the control area where no TerraCottem was used, the new areas seem to hold colour a little longer through prolonged dry periods and appear to bounce back a little quicker after a rain event.”

Laurence’s honest feeling about TerraCottem? “I have no doubts about the positive effects of using it for turf establishment but it’s not cost effective on large areas where budgets are very limited. We’ve also used TerraCottem in some tree planting projects with very good results and believe we’ll continue to use it.”

To read more about TerraCottem Turf soil conditioning, click here.

When wear and tear is your main problem

Sometimes all that’s wrong with a playing field is its popularity – take the A J Kelly Park at Redcliffe in South East Queensland as a classic example. Home to the Peninsula Power Football Club, this field is the Club’s main competition oval. Inspected prior to each season by the Football Association, the playing surface has to meet standards. And given the amount of use the ground gets – men’s and women’s premier teams as well as other division’s and the junior league’s finals – meeting those standards was getting tougher each year. Club President Craig Feuerriegel explains why.

“It’s our flagship park and it gets a lot of use – recovery time was becoming an issue – but we also had some issues with drainage and levels. It was clear that we should to start from scratch, so we applied successfully for funding from both local and state governments, showing that both maintenance and water use would be reduced.”

Australian Irrigation Services began work once the season finished, with a representative from Council keeping in close contact and helping to keep things on track. The process was straightforward: nuking the existing mish-mash of species then hoeing them to produce a soil bed; trenching the field and installing a new, fully-automated, pop-up irrigation system complete with tanks off the club house roof; broadcasting the TerraCottem and rotary hoeing it all in; laser leveling the field; then rolling out the Tif Sport turf chosen “…  because it has a reputation for being hard-wearing, versatile with a good recovery rate.” Establishment irrigation wasn’t too much of an issue as there had been plenty of natural rainfall (too much in fact) over the life of the project.

Looking at the field after its first season of play, Craig can’t say the establishment was anything to remark about one way or the other. “But the recovery is a lot better than we’d seen in previous years.” Which is good news given the TerraCottem wasn’t a small item on the budget. “Our contractor, Dean Smith, sold me on the idea for the longer term, saying we’d have better growth, better recovery time, and better water retention – which was also important because we didn’t want to be putting as much water on the ground as we had in the past. Yes, it was a significant part of the budget (which we could have made use of elsewhere) but we were doing the job properly with long-term benefits in mind. This was the way to go, so we kept the TerraCottem in the schedule of works.”

To read more about TerraCottem Turf soil conditioning, click here.