The Groundsman

September 2016

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Visit for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 19 the Groundsman September 2016 Not least is the fact that nowadays every groundsman will always help another. "We all recognise that we all face similar problems, and I think it is fantastic that I can pick up the 'phone and talk to my peers – and, likewise, they can do the same – as well as readily consult with experts from the supply side. There's great camaraderie in this industry, and in many ways you could argue that as an industry network we have our own personal search engine if ever we get a problem." That willingness to find answers to problems came to the fore a few years ago when BT Murrayfield's Fibresand-based pitch came under fire after nematodes inflicted horrendous damage. The pitch had hitherto always held up well to the pressure of games, primarily professional and International rugby matches and training sessions, as well as Edinburgh Rugby's PRO 12 games (BT Murrayfield is the club's home ground) and Heineken Cup matches. With additional events such as music concerts, pitch usage can reach more than 200 hours use each year. But unforgettable damage was caused by the nematodes, as Jim explains: "At one stage we were repairing/divoting the pitch immediately after each scrum – the TV cameras seemed more concerned with a groundsman going onto the pitch during play than keeping up with the action further down the field! We were fire- fighting all the time." The answer was to install a Desso surface – the largest single investment at the national stadium since it was reconstructed in 1994. Today, as Scottish Rugby embarks on its third season with the Grassmaster, Jim (and Scottish Rugby) is very happy with the result. "We carry out the usual maintenance regimes – using equipment supplied by Fairways - including Procoring, vertidraining and overseeding (with Johnsons' Premier Pitch 100 per cent rye seed; Rigby Taylor R14, also a 100 per cent rye grass, is used on the three training pitches adjacent to the stadium on the 30-acre site) to a schedule based on usage rates and, of course, the weather." Scotland is usually always at least 12 degrees colder than anywhere in the south making it arguably the most challenging rugby climate in the northern hemisphere. Undersoil heating and the use of lighting rigs, however, do help keep the surface in tip-top condition. That said, Jim is convinced that "when the weather is bad, the best thing to do to any pitch is nothing, actually". With match and event schedules being issued at the beginning of each session, including kick-off times and locations, Jim and team (soon to be joined by another groundsman) will then plan their maintenance schedules and commitments. This does not only embrace the BT Murrayfield stadium pitch and the training pitches, which include a 3G surface, but also Glasgow Warriors' Scotstoun Stadium and training ground (also with 3G pitch) and supporting events at other venues. This necessitates close communication and teamwork with other grounds team and third party contractors. "I think the industry has changed so much during my career. The machinery has got a lot better; so too has the grass and the fertilisers. We're a long way from just relying on NpK readings. Indeed, our apprentice, Callum, is being taught differently to the 'old' days – he immediately knows what to do if a soil test indicates low iron or high magnesium levels – and that can only be a good thing if we are to consistently produce world-class playing surfaces." t The BT Murrayfield pitch usually accommodates more than 200 hours of use each year

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