Natural Turf Evaluation
Agrostis has invested heavily in both field and laboratory testing equipment in order to evaluate as comprehensively as possible natural turf sports surfaces. The Sport England guidelines on surface evaluation, covered in Appendix IV of ‘Natural Turf for Sport’ (2.5Mb) we cover as part of our standard evaluation procedure and this includes:
All of these measurements require specialist equipment and knowledge to evaluate properly in relation to each site and to each sport. It has long been our view, however, that additional information needs to be obtained in order to make recommendations that address most precisely the needs of the site.
For example, ‘slope’ may vary considerably from place to place over a single football pitch. The ‘average’ slope of the whole pitch we derive using GPS and laser levelling equipment. In addition, we usually provide an indication of the degree of ‘undulation’ that occurs within a pitch; how ‘wavy’ the surface is within its own boundaries. This is at a larger scale to ‘evenness’ but undulation can often be the most significant drawback that a particular pitch is faced with. Settlement of pitches over time, where they have been established on former landfill sites for example, often renders them un-usable although the actual slope of the pitch may not alter at all. It is therefore important that the degree of undulation is appropriately quantified.
The accurate method of measuring water infiltration rate requires the use of substantial pieces of equipment known as infiltrometers, in addition to a thermometer for the accurate measurement of water temperature. These form part of the Agrostis standard evaluation equipment but it is vital that the results are interpreted correctly. Infiltration rate is greatly influenced by the time of year at which the measurement is taken, especially on heavy, clay-rich soils. In summer, when such soils are full of large cracks, infiltration rates can be very rapid indeed. However, in winter the rates on the same soil can be near zero. An appreciation of this is of course vital if the sport, like football and rugby, is played predominantly during the winter.
Hardness also varies considerably in relation to the soil type and to its moisture content at any one time. Here we are of the view that the tolerance limits indicated by Sport England are far too wide and allow surfaces to ‘pass’ that would be unacceptably soft or unacceptably hard for most sports. For this reason we have refined the tolerance limits and apply our own criteria to the hardness data we collect. We then make recommendations accordingly.
You’ll appreciate that we take sports surface evaluation very seriously. Only by doing so can decisions be arrived at objectively that indicate how a particular playing surface should best be improved. We are entirely confident that the procedures we follow lead to the precise identification of improvement methods which we then go on to incorporate into our specifications. Thus the most cost effective means of achieving the best possible playing surfaces is arrived at.
Agrostis and Endophyte Technology in Grass Seed
Tim recently visited New Zealand, courtesy of PGG Wrightson Turf. Having undergone the 'Avanex® - Unique Endophyte Technology' training course, he is now an accredited consultant for this very special grass and Agrostis are ready to operate Europe-wide with regard to it.
Endophytes are naturally occurring fungi that live in association with plants. Avanex® is a pairing of one such fungus with a particular grass seed. So far, the grasses concerned are cultivars of tall fescue or perennial ryegrass. The sward that results from the successful germination of this seed/endophyte combination is distasteful to herbivorous birds (e.g. Canada geese) and insects.
This is of particular value at airports where it is essential to minimise bird visits. Herbivorous birds try the grass once and don't want to do so again so they don't tend to come back, while birds looking for insects find only reduced populations and so go elsewhere. Many New Zealand airports have been sown with this grass and it has been reducing bird strikes with aeroplanes successfully for some years now. In view of this, we feel the grass should be more widely employed at European airports.
These grass/endophyte combinations are effectively resistant to the damaging attentions of insect pests such as chafer grubs or leatherjackets. As such, we feel there is tremendous potential for the development and establishment of this technology for the sports turf industry in Europe and elsewhere. The ability to avoid insect pest damage without the need for costly and environmentally damaging insecticides can only be a good thing.
Agrostis are working with PGG Wrightson to establish trials in East Anglia to corroborate the findings in New Zealand and Australia with regard to the ability of these grass/endophyte combinations to resist chafer and/or leatherjacket infestation. We're eagerly awaiting the results of those trials.
For a thought-provoking review of this technology, click here (27Kb).
Studies in Artificial Sports Surfaces
Because we provide a comprehensive consultancy service covering all forms of outdoor sports facility, we have made a particular study of the technical aspects of artificial sports surfaces to complement our extensive knowledge of natural turf systems.
We have been analysing carpets currently available for artificial sports installations and studying in particular the technical data associated with individual products. We’ve also undertaken direct measurement and microscopic examination of carpet samples. We have concluded that most sports carpets can be defined fully in a relatively small number of universal terms and so we are able to achieve much clearer definition of the appropriate carpets in our design specifications.
Furthermore, we are identifying the tolerance ranges for each term associated with particular sports. As the technology improves and standards rise, it is essential that our tolerance ranges change as well. So we are continually refining our conclusions based on new data and samples that carpet manufacturers kindly provide us with. Our aim is to make available to our clients exactly the right carpet for the job and to ensure that carpets of similar quality are being offered in clear and fair competition with one another.
For a review of the technicalities of sports carpet manufacture, click here (815Kb).
Using these data, we are able to draw up specifications with the appropriate ranges and other We’re also furthering our understanding of the structural requirements and construction methods associated with artificial surfaces, in particular in relation to the drainage, attenuation and flood prevention aspects of these systems. For a discussion of these very important aspects of both artificial and natural turf installations click here (108Kb).
Rubber Crumb and Lawn Wizard
Agrostis have undertaken extensive research, funded privately, by ourselves and drawing on research commissioned by WRAP, to investigate the use of rubber chip and crumb (from used tyres) in turf and sports surfacing. In particular, we are interested in the thermal, physical and soil structural properties the material can impart to sports pitches.
Our latest findings on the use rubber chip and other forms of football pitch construction may be examined here (631Kb).
Another outcome of our investigations is a unique combination of rubber crumb, grass seed and other components that provides a product for the repair of bare patches on lawns or for the rapid establishment of extensive areas of natural turf where this may be required. This work has been in association with ReBound PPP and a patent on the product is pending. We are looking for associates that would be interested in manufacturing and distributing this product under license, initially to the domestic market but to the commercial market also.
Measuring the Trueness of Golf Greens
At present the only device capable of the objective measurement of golf green playing quality that is widely understood and accepted is the Stimpmeter used for measuring green speed. In order to make a more comprehensive statement on golf green playing quality other features need to be quantified. One such feature is trueness. Trueness relates to the manner in which a golf ball travels over the surface of the green during putting and it is the subject of this invention, the Lodgemeter. The patent for this was filed on 22 October 2005 and was granted to the inventor, Tim Lodge, founder of Agrostis, on 9 June 2010 (Patent No. GB2442787).
The true roll of a golf ball is one that follows exactly the line intended by the golfer after he or she has appraised the slopes and borrows and made the putt. However, small-scale discontinuities in the surface, not apparent to the golfer, can knock the ball off this line. The Lodgemeter measures the extent of these discontinuities and allows a statement of just how true a particular green is on the day of the measurement.
In other words, the Lodgemeter will answer the question, what is the chance of this particular putt missing the hole due to problems with the surface of the green that the golfer cannot be aware of? You will appreciate the degree of interest there is in the answer to this question.
The Lodgemeter Venture
The Lodgemeter represents a completely new idea in the field of golf playing quality assessment and there is a great deal of interest in this within the golfing community. The device is currently in prototype form and we continue to refine and optimise the design. We are looking to associate with a developer/manufacturer who would take the device into production for sale in the UK and abroad under license. Contact Agrostis if you are interested in this venture.
Agrostis founder, Dr Tim Lodge has the only fine turf maintenance and construction oriented PhD in the UK. This was acquired in 1994 from the University of Leeds with a thesis entitled ‘The Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of UK Golf Greens'. This is available in the Edward Boyle Library at the University of Leeds. The funding for this research was provided by The R&A.
Other work with which Tim was involved included the ‘Golf Standards Project’ – a nationwide survey of scientific aspects of golf green form and structure (1994 to 1995), also funded by
Lodge T A & Pilbeam D J (1994) A method of classifying the quality of golf green turf. Science and Golf II. Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. (Ed. A.J. Cochran & M.R. Farrally), E. & F.N. Spon, London 419-424.
Thirteen papers in J. Sports Turf Res. Inst. between 1990 and 1996. These papers may be obtained from appropriate academic libraries and are available online through the Turfgrass Information File at Michigan State University. Their titles include :
Sand Golf Greens - Cover and botanical composition. (1990)
Sand Golf Greens - Rootzone chemical composition. (1990)
Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of Golf Greens - Botanical and reflectance measurements after establishment and during the first year of differential irrigation and nutrition treatments. (1991).
Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of Golf Greens - Playing quality assessments after establishment and during the first year of differential irrigation and nutrition treatments. (1991).
Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of Golf Greens - Golf ball behaviour. (1992).
Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of Golf Greens - Soil moisture content and evapotranspiration rates. (1992).
Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of Golf Greens - Porosity, moisture release characteristics and infiltration rates. (1993).
Construction, Irrigation and Fertiliser Nutrition of Golf Greens - Botanical and soil chemical measurements over 3 years. (1993).
Technical Note: - An apparatus for measuring green ‘speed'. (1992).
A survey of golf greens in Great Britain - Soil properties. (1995).
A survey of golf greens in Great Britain - Sward characteristics. (1995).
A survey of golf greens in Great Britain - Questionnaire data on the performance and maintenance of greens. (1995).
A survey of golf greens in Great Britain - Playing quality. (1996).
Also, from a Previous Life:
Davies, W.J., Metcalfe, J., Lodge, T.A. & da Costa, A.R. (1986). Plant growth substances and the regulation of growth under drought. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 13, 105 - 125.