The Groundsman

June 2015

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Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 14 the Groundsman June 2015 tewart Ward's pursuit of football pitch management using green and organic methods is proving relentless – and rewarding. During his five years as head groundsman at Forest Green Rovers' New Lawn ground in Nailsworth he has deployed S Stewart Ward spreads the eco message The continual success of double IOG environmental award winner Stewart Ward is increasingly helping to spread the 'green' message beyond the groundscare industry – including to local schoolchildren By: Colin Hoskins a host of eco-friendly products and routines to achieve what he and club chairman Dale Vince (a champion for sustainability and the founder of green energy company Ecotricity) aspire to: a totally organic pitch at the world's first truly sustainable football club. The list of environmentally-friendly 'products' that Stewart has introduced includes compost tea – to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, fungi and nematode levels - coconut wetting agent, seaweed, bio-stimulants and carbohydrates (with help from Andrew Turnbull) as well as an enriched biochar soil improver (from Carbon Gold). Now he's even considering the use of organic manure from his family's pony. "The key," says Stewart, "is to give the soil and grass what they need – vitamins, magnesium, calcium, plant sugars and carbohydrates as well as amino, fulvic and humic acids. Pitches with varying top substrate mixtures of sand, silt and clay, will need the soil/grass to be treated and looked after differently, but at the end of the day, if you look after the soil then it will look after the grass." As for the rewards, Stewart's efforts have seen Forest Green being the first football club in the world and the only one in the UK to achieve EMAS accreditation – the gold standard of environmental management systems, which it has held for three successive years – and win two IOG Industry Awards for Environmental Project of the Year; the 2012 award sponsored by Ransomes and the 2014 award sponsored by British Sugar TOPSOIL. In addition, says Stewart, what is equally rewarding is the fact that his groundsmanship peers often comment on the quality of the New Lawn pitch, saying it is of a standard commensurate with playing surfaces above those found in the Conference League. Importantly, too, his organic pitch care philosophies are now also being broadcast beyond the groundscare industry. The club's green credentials have featured on Newent Community School students are taking lessons learned from Stewart at New Lawn back to their school football pitch field

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