Benefits of grass over a 3G surface for the plant and soil and planet?
I will always prefer grass pitches over artificial although I can see the benefits of artificial surfaces when it comes to the amount of play on a small area,although for the planet and even the health of the users the benefits of grass way surpass that. You find that tons of old carpets are just being pilled up and dumped and also the rubber crumb comes from old tyres and who knows where .If that was to goe into peoples bodies who know what health problems that can cause, also if someone bleeds on the carpet unlike grass which will soak it up in the soil and be cut out when cutting the grass plant.This could be a problem as it just stays on the fibres and crumb and could then go into another player on that surface with an open cut?
The other aspect of having grass over plastic is that a full size grass pitch 100% coverage will create enough oxygen for around One hundred and thirty people a year and with the amount of trees disappearing this can only be a good thing.
Please explain the term vegan pitch?
My pitch is vegan , so I use only natural products that contain no animal by products so is all plant and mineral sourced. We also look to buy products that don’t travel to far so mostly UK based and sustainably sourced.
I see you use a robot to cut the pitch, does this mean you have no grass cutting to do on the pitch yourselves?
No unfortunately not, the Etesia ETMOW is an aid to assist me , as I am the only employed groundsman at the club and as you will know the hours are long and you have many plates spinning. I cut the pitch for matches and the clear up after but if I have a gap between games and especially when we are growing in a new seeded pitch the ETMOW will continuously cut the pitch. The robot takes three days to cut every blade of grass on the whole pitch, it cuts for two hours charges for two hours and continues. It is fully powered by our solar panel and is self-reliant so I never need to interfere with it and if it does have a problem I will receive a text message, unfortunately that can be at any time of the day or night!
In what ways do you run your grounds department in a sustainable way?
We always monitor everything from water usage to the amount that has drained through the pitch. All our plastic is recycled and we have notes to say where and how it has been recycled and does not end up in the sea or landfill. All the products that we use I need to know that they are sustainably sourced and that it hasn’t been sent from the other side of the world, we also have to calculate the carbon we produce from deliveries of items to offset that omission. We compost up our grass clippings with carboard and other compostable items we don’t send hardly anything to land fill over 96% is recycled. Everything we do is audited so we need records of everything and this is then checked my environmental companies and we get certification from EMAS and soon ISO14001.
In what ways can small grassroot clubs do to be more sustainable and kinder to the planet on a limited budget?
Try and harvest rain water, make sure that your cutting equipment is sharp and you are getting a clean cut so less stress is present on the plant, look at your cutting height lower is not always best as you have a long season and keeping it a few mm’s higher will hopefully keep your pitch with more grass over the season.The aim is less disease and no need for chemicals to fight pests, disease and save you a few quid.
How do you culturally manage pests and diseases and feed the plant organically?
At present I find lowering the pH of the soil using some citric acid products does help me against disease in the plant and also I have found a reduction in the amount of worm cast. I also record daily whether temperatures, outside humidity and rain, this enables me to get a picture of when the pitch is at its most vulnerable to get hit with disease. You find that when the plant is wet, shaded and cold and the humidity is high an outbreak is just around the corner so I try to keep the plant as dry as possible by removing any dews by dragging a 2 meter brush by hand,We try and keep the surface open by aerating when I can and at different depth, keeping the plant fed and healthy by drip feeding it and not getting to much top growth by throwing loads of Nitrogen at it. Also try and keep off it in the winter months as much as you can as trying to mow in the wet will stress the plant and compact the soil, less is more.
Also another simple but effective point is looking after your kit, make sure your cutting equipment has sharp blades and does not rip the leaf to shreds and it is set at the correct height.
What the key things to focus on for anyone looking to manage a pitch more sustainable environmentally speaking?
Look at the products you are using, what is inside them and are they sustainably sourced.
Can you possibly harvest rain water to use on the pitch.
Try to reduce the need for a fungicide by carrying out your cultural practices, keeping the leaf dry, soil open and the plant fed but not whacking loads of Nitrogen into it 24/7.
In winter times if you don’t need to go over the pitch leave it, less is more and you only stress out the plant and compact the soil.
What would you like to see from the governing bodies in terms of promoting and assisting clubs to become greener?
Definitely although we have had visits from the FA and at Wembley they are doing great stuff behind the scenes as are the Premiership teams.I would like to see and hear more about that in the industry magazines and social media so these clubs can get the recognition that they deserve and the people driving it.
Please tell us more about running machines on vegetable fat?
Ben Connell ground manager at Ipswich Town has been getting great results for the eco fuel they use and also are finding it very cost effective, we tend to use more electric mowing equipment.
Do you have any links to sites or suppliers who embrace what you do?
I think you find that a lot of companies are embracing the environment and do sell good sustainably sourced products. I get a lot of help and assistance from company representatives and they will always be on the end of a phone to give you help and advice, you just need to ask but also don’t forget they want to sell you stuff too.
Will you ever use lighting rig for pitches ,considering how much energy these use?
Yes,we have for many years used our home made ones and to a degree they did the job, although this year I have a small set of TLS 9 of which we have on demo and you can really see the improvement to the shaded goal mouth. With the energy we use at the club it is all supplied by Ecotricity,and it comes from solar and wind, so fully green energy but we also see a rise in the energy costs.They do not need to be on 24/7 as the plant will only photosynthesises for twelve hours and will yellow the area if left in one place for too long.