The Groundsman

April 2015

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TECHNICAL UPDATE 31 the Groundsman April 2015 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions to enable tractor-mounted solid tining. Laurence Edwards, ECB pitch adviser for the east, has been a fan of the Deep Drill since he saw it at Colchester CC. "It's one of the most important things to have happened in cricket square maintenance," he says. "It does such a good job in terms of aerating, encouraging a good depth of rooting and relieving compaction. I often advise it to 'bolt' the layers together, allowing the root to go through to the bottom." He adds that the optimum time in the season to make the best use of the process can vary and is generally governed by soil moisture levels and the maturity of the sward following renovations. "It's usually the end of October into November, but drier parts of the country can get away with it later," he says. he Deep Drill differs from conventional aeration equipment in that it drills out holes, unlike punch action spikers that force tines into the ground to create ducts. The drills break through horizontal soil pans/breaks, marl layers and areas of weak cohesion between different loams or soils, extracting and aerating in one process without surface damage. Water movement can then be accelerated away from the square's surface faster but the primary effect is that the grass develops much deeper rooting. A choice of aeration methods An Institute of Groundsmanship/England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) report on cricket square aeration looked at all forms of machinery that might be deployed. The-four year study (at Cranfield University) identified T The benefits of deep drilling Deep drill aeration is proving to be a successful process for alleviating compaction on cricket squares while improving drainage, encouraging healthy deep-rooted grass growth and providing players with optimum playing conditions By: Penny Comerford situations where each trialled machine was most appropriate and the circumstances in which they would be used. Punch action spikers, the report said, had been used for many years but mainly at a shallow depth of around only 2-3 inches. While deeper penetration may have been desired, it was commonly unachievable due to the risk of surface lifting or surface 'chipping' upon extraction of the tine, when weakly and poorly bound upper soil separates from the loam or soil beneath it. In more recent years, solid tine aerators have been used with success to greater depths, said the report. However, that had only really been possible where deep drilling aeration had been done in preceding years, providing the root extension and sufficient soil/loam binding Drill 'n fill, too Northamptonshire County Cricket Club's Paul Taylor is also a fan of deep drilling. Eight years ago his wickets were bare and lifeless, with hard pans. "The ball was turning and deviating and there was no pace to the wicket," he said. "Every game took its toll on the grass and the wickets always looked brown and dusty." He reasoned that water was flowing straight off the square and didn't get into the soil profile. Nothing had helped, so Paul used Ecosol Turfcare's drill machines to puncture the impervious pans and allow water to percolate deeper into the soil profile. This also improved the balance of oxygen and microorganisms in the profile to encourage healthy root extension, hardier plants and grass with greater vigour. Northamptonshire first used drilling techniques when the club started a regular programme of Drill 4 Fill to stabilise the square's profile, which involved using custom-built, ECB- approved 25mm diameter drills running to a depth of 200mm. This is a different operation compared to deep drilling; Drill 4 Fill involves duct creation followed by hand filling with the same loam used for topdressing. The operation is specifically Steve Birks used Drill 4 Fill at Trent Bridge designed to create peg-like columns of loam that bind surface platelets of soil to a deeper and stable soil; the ECB/IOG study refers to it as 'nailing the square'. "Drill 4 Fill was performed in August 2013 on a wicket that was part of the rolling programme and a couple of weeks later, Northamptonshire played Glamorgan in a four-day match on it," says Paul. "We washed down straight away and a week later, you could hardly see that a match had taken place. The wickets were all green with 85 per cent of the grass already back." It was once this stabilisation had been achieved that he followed up with the Deep Drill in the November. "In my opinion, this has been the overriding contributor to achieving the higher pitch mark scores we have received in the last seven years," he says. t

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