The Groundsman

November 2013

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the Groundsman November 2013 IOG ADVICE 23 Ask The Expert The IOG's panel of experts answers your questions regarding groundsmanship issues, turf care advice, careers guidance or training matters We are investigating the use of 'carrying capacity' as a central part of our management plans for our football pitches. Can you provide some guidance on what we might need to consider? Thank you for your question, which is very timely considering both the current economic climate and the legal requirements to use pesticides sustainably. However, it also identifies a central issue for any management plan and that is 'what are you hoping to achieve?' A seminal study on the carrying capacity of natural turf football pitches took place in the late 1980s by the STRI and the University of Wales. This research clearly identified the physical carrying capacity (or sustainable level of use) of a football pitch, which was defined as "the maximum usage of a pitch without causing an unacceptable reduction in playing quality". Estimated figures for the sustainable levels of use were provided for a range of different pitch constructions; for example, a slit drained pitch is expected to sustain between 95 and 125 games per season. The standard of maintenance tasks, correct use of materials and proactive management of usage to respond to prevailing weather and ground conditions all have a significant impact on whether a pitch could sustain the annual estimate. Incorrect management would see the pitch quality significantly reduce, especially if play occurred during unsuitable conditions. While technology has enhanced the options available, for example with synthetic polypropylene fibres being included within rootzones ('Fibresand') or surface reinforcement material ('Desso') to provide a hybrid system, the data from the research is still relevant to the majority of pitches today. Even top-end pitches have limits to sustainable use, especially as these are typically managed in stadia where the micro-climate can negatively impact on grass development. Coming back to the main thrust of your question, some of the main issues you therefore need to consider are: • What is the soil type and/or pitch construction? (Possibly traditional parkland pitches) • What is your geographic location? (This affects the length of growing season) • What is the skill and education level of staff maintaining the pitches? • What is the expected usage from your pitches? • Are stakeholders involved in management decisions? • What are the available finances for managing the pitches? The IOG considers carrying capacity as a core issue in managing turfgrass surfaces and has welcomed the opportunity to answer this question for you. Please contact membership@iog.org if you have a personal query or would like to share your views with our readers – we'd love to hear from you

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