The Groundsman

May 2013

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the Groundsman May 2013 TECHNICAL UPDATE 25 Proof that grass really is greener… Independent research into the environmental impact of grass sports fields reveals that well-maintained grass is a more sustainable, environmentally- and carbon-friendly product than artificial alternatives. Funded by Plantum, the study also shows how that environmental burden is increased by the relatively short usable life of synthetic pitches and the often underestimated maintenance they require Edited by: Colin Hoskins he research, carried out in the Netherlands, revealed that with a playing intensity of an average of 450 hours per year, plus the use of improved grass varieties and improved maintenance practices, grass is by far the best solution for the vast majority of sports fields, in terms of costs. In addition, the report states that natural grass achieves something that artificial grass simply cannot: 'fixing' greenhouse gases from the air in the soil T and providing oxygen in return. Add to this the emotional value of grass - its feel, smell, the way it responds, its cooling effects in hot weather and the considerably reduced risk of injury – and the benefits are clear, according to plant reproduction material sector group, Plantum, which funded the research. In particular, says Plantum, the required fossil resources involved in the manufacture of artificial grass and the removal (including transportation) of an Life cycle analysis The research was based on the life cycle analysis (LCA) of a grass 8,000sq m football field. The life cycle begins with the production and processing of grass seed (within the Netherlands SV7 mix comprising Perennial ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass) and continues with the construction, annual maintenance, renovation and eventual removal of the sward. LCA is a method for determining the total environmental impact of a product throughout its usable life. Emissions/ output (greenhouse gases, land use, fossil energy use, nitrate leaching, acidification, phosphate use, pesticides, etc) were mapped out for every stage of the life cycle production and processing of grass seed – from seed harvesting through pitch construction, maintenance and eventual replacement. It is clear that grass sports fields that are used intensively have a greater environmental impact than those used less frequently – not just due to the increased use of diesel for maintenance work but also the increased use of mineral fertilisers. A sports field that has 400 playing hours/annum has a carbon footprint that is more than a third greater than that of a field with 250 playing hours, with approximately 8,000 kg CO2 equivalents per annum. t artificial grass field that is no longer usable also places a heavy burden on the environment. While the heavy environmental impact decreases with a higher playing intensity as a result of it being spread over more hours of use, the research also shows that, essentially, artificial grass always represents more of a burden on the environment than natural grass. Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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