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Maintaining natural grass is not a mission impossible, even when the traffic is intensive, but in order to benefit the field year-round in an extensive manner, a well-designed hybrid grass system will provide multiple advantages over any other solution.

Natural grass sport fields

The resistance of natural grass to intensive play depends on the density of the grass and the development of a rich, deep root system that anchors itself deep in the soil. This can be achieved by constructing a drainage system and a filtering growing medium to prevent surface water stagnation and reduce soil compaction, creating ideal conditions for the growth of natural grass. A modern irrigation system, an efficient maintenance fleet and a qualified attendant complete the resources needed to effectively manage maintenance.

In the 1960s, the United States Golf Association (USGA) studied various soil mixtures for sports use and concluded that the substrate made of silica sand, with a progressive grain size curve, was the most resistant to intensive foot traffic and retained its physical and biochemical characteristics the longest. The sand is mixed with mineral and organic amendments to improve its properties, thus simulating the characteristics of a medium-textured agricultural soil but much more resistant to compaction.

Irrigating a natural field seems like an obvious operation, but in recent summers we have observed that the temperature suddenly rises, so the programming of the system must be adequate. It is therefore necessary to have an automatic irrigation system with remote control of the control box and monitoring of the growing conditions via soil and aerial probes to manage the natural field with ease. Monitoring systems make it possible to optimise the efficiency of irrigation scheduling and the reduction of water consumption also because remember that too much irrigation does more damage than too little, even if the substrate is draining. When the mesopores in the sand become saturated with free water they accumulate heat and it is deleterious to the roots.

The 'key' to maintenance

The key to maintaining a natural grass field is to reduce soil compaction because, all things being equal, a compacted surface becomes too hard and significantly restricts root growth. It is well known that roots have a spreading action in the soil but when they find a mechanical resistance greater than their own, growth stops. For example, when a soil resistance greater than 1,500 kilo Pascal (kPa) is measured with a penetrometer, root growth is progressively reduced and if the resistance is greater than 3,000 kPa, root growth stops. Another problem related to soil compaction concerns the reduction of porosity, where all the biochemical processes take place between the roots and microorganisms, and in particular the mesopores, which store the most available water for cultivation, and especially the macropores where air circulates and on which water drainage depends.

Playing stability depends on grass density and rootsPlaying stability depends on grass density and roots

A well-built and regularly maintained natural grass field can withstand many hours of play during the ideal growth period for natural grass because it grows and recovers from play damage. The ideal growing period for cool season grasses is when the temperature ranges from 15 to 25 °C, which in northern Italy is from April to mid-June and in September and October. The most commonly used essences for sporting use are perennial ryegrasses because they have an extraordinary ability to grow rapidly, form a deep root system, tolerate shade well and form a turf as soft as velvet with the characteristic light and dark green stripes that we are used to seeing on television; there are numerous varieties with characteristics that can differ even by a lot so it is necessary to make a proper selection from entrusted suppliers.

Grass is a living being that changes during the seasons; during the colder months, the natural grass does not grow enough to catch up with the wear and tear on the plants, and the lawn begins to thin out, losing vigour; in winter, greater damage is observed, especially when playing on partially thawed ground and it is even dangerous. On natural grass fields for professional use, where the temperature drops below freezing for more than two weeks, it is recommended to integrate a heating system under the turf to avoid frost problems(*). Keeping the surface at +4°C is sufficient to keep the grass and the players safe during the winter period.

In the south of Italy and in Mediterranean countries, the heat persists for at least five months a year from May to September, and ryegrasses cannot withstand daily average temperatures above 25°C for a long period. When the intensive use of the field is also necessary during the summer, as is the case for professionals, macro-terms are often sown in June, for example Bermuda grass or Paspalum Vaginatum, although some people like to use selected varieties of Festuca Arundinacea and Poa Pratensis because let us not forget that football is played from autumn until the end of spring. The ideal growing period for warm season grasses is when the temperature ranges from 24 to 30°C, but they can withstand temperatures of up to 45°C without suffering serious damage, whereas ryegrasses tend to die when the temperature exceeds 38°C. On the other hand, macro-terms will go into dormancy during the winter when the thermometer drops below 10°C and completely lose their green colour. For this reason, it is usual to sow with ryegrasses towards the second half of October, a few days before Bermuda grass goes into dormancy. When the warm weather returns, the transition from ryegrass to Bermuda grass is made again, assisting the change with the appropriate cultivation techniques. In recent years, a mixture of Bermuda grass and Poa Pratensis, the so-called Blumuda, has been much studied in amateur fields in order to avoid the onerous re-seeding with ryegrasses every year.

POWERgrass will provide 3 times more game, mitigate biotic and abiotic stresses, without the risk of losing a game

The practice of a good groundsman is to keep the soil soft for root growth and to preserve the performance and playing safety that only natural grass can offer. However, when weather conditions put your field to the test or when you need to use it more intensively outside the growing season, natural grass alone cannot cope, so you need to install a well-designed hybrid system. That is, a system that:

  1. provides a field that is playable for at least 20 hours of play per week with good natural grass ground cover, because the system has a support that mitigates biotic and abiotic stresses on the roots that find a certain anchorage point at a depth of 4 cm, and through the fibres protects the plants from the wear and tear of play, allowing them to recover quickly after each use,
  2. has a sufficient number of resilient synthetic fibres to ensure continuity of play, even in the absence of natural grass at the points of greatest wear and tear, and allows greater flexibility for renewal from scratch or for switching between micro- and macro-terms, reducing maintenance time and costs.

You can count on the innovative POWERgrass system because it offers the lowest cost per hour of use on the planet today and guarantees a field that is always playable. This is one of the main reasons why POWERgrass is the best invention ever developed in the sports turf industry. Our partners in the UK and US had no doubts. Together we founded POWERgrass UK in 2017 and POWERgrass North America in 2021.

In our opinion there are two options depending on the number of playing hours

Granted, with constant maintenance a natural grass field built on USGA sand is playable up to 350 hours/year, but if high temperatures in summer or low temperatures in winter cause excessive stress on the turf the Groundsman's job becomes arduous. Without a doubt, you have to rely on professionals, so ask your local specialist for a natural grass maintenance service for your field at two levels of intensity depending on the number of hours of use(**):

  • USGA natural pitch playable up to 8 hours per week for TOP performance, for about 44 weeks per year for professionals, with some limitations and some risk of suspending games in winter and late summer.
  • Hybrid POWERgrass pitch for playing and training, up to 25 hours per week for TOP performance, for about 44 weeks per year for professionals, or for playing up to 35 hours per week for good performance, for about 40 weeks per year for amateurs, with no limitations and no risk of suspending games in winter and summer.

(*) In the event of frost, it is best to avoid playing around! You risk causing damage to the lawn during the thawing of the first few centimetres if water stagnates on the surface and does not drain off because it is still frozen underneath. The surface becomes slippery for the players and it is very easy to remove the turf.

(**) The number of hours the pitch is used depends on the playing surface and the presence of an efficient synthetic turf. Playing on a compacted surface in the presence of standing water can quickly compromise the health of the grass. It is important to restore water infiltration to quickly solve the problem.

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