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Best management practices for sustainable and safe playing surface of Australian Football League sports fields

Henderson, Craig (2007) Best management practices for sustainable and safe playing surface of Australian Football League sports fields. Project Report. TU02007. Horticulture Australia, Sydney, Australia.

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Publisher URL: http://www.horticulture.com.au/reports/search_final_reports_result.asp
Organisation URL: http://www.deedi.qld.gov.au/
Organisation URL: http://www.lions.com.au/
Organisation URL: http://www.aflq.com.au/

Abstract

In 2002, AFL Queensland and the Brisbane Lions Football Club approached the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (Queensland) for advice on improving their Premier League sports fields. They were concerned about player safety and dissatisfaction with playing surfaces, particularly uneven turf cover and variable under-foot conditions. They wanted to get the best from new investments in ground maintenance equipment and irrigation infrastructure.

Their sports fields were representative of community-standard, multi-use venues throughout Australia; generally ‘natural’ soil fields, with low maintenance budgets, managed by volunteers. Improvements such as reconstruction, drainage, or regular re-turfing are generally not affordable. Our project aimed to: (a) Review current world practice and performance benchmarks; (b) Demonstrate best-practice management for community-standard fields; (c) Adapt relevant methods for surface performance testing; (d) Assess current soils, and investigate useful amendments; (e) Improve irrigation system performance; and (e) Build industry capacity and encourage patterns for ongoing learning.

Most global sports field research focuses on elite, sand-based fields. We adjusted elite standards for surface performance (hardness, traction, soil moisture, evenness, sward cover/height) and maintenance programs, to suit community-standard fields with lesser input resources. In regularly auditing ground conditions across 12 AFLQ fields in SE QLD, we discovered surface hardness (measured by Clegg Hammer) was the No. 1 factor affecting player safety and surface performance. Other important indices were turf coverage and surface compaction (measured by penetrometer). AFLQ now runs regularly audits affiliated fields, and closes grounds with hardness readings greater than 190 Gmax. Aerating every two months was the primary mechanical practice improving surface condition and reducing hardness levels to < 110 Gmax on the renovated project fields. With irrigation installation, these fields now record surface conditions comparable to elite fields. These improvements encouraged many other sporting organisations to seek advice / assistance from the project team. AFLQ have since substantially invested in an expanded ground improvement program, to cater for this substantially increased demand. In auditing irrigation systems across project fields, we identified low maintenance (with < 65% of sprinklers operating optimally) as a major problem. Retrofitting better nozzles and adjusting sprinklers improved irrigation distribution uniformity to 75-80%. Research showed that reducing irrigation frequency to weekly, and preparedness to withhold irrigation longer after rain, reduced irrigation requirement by 30-50%, compared to industry benchmarks of 5-6 ML/ha/annum. Project team consultation with regulatory authorities enhanced irrigation efficiency under imposed regional water restrictions. Laboratory studies showed incorporated biosolids / composts, or topdressed crumb rubber, improved compaction resistance of soils. Field evaluations confirmed compost incorporation significantly reduced surface hardness of high wear areas in dry conditions, whilst crumb rubber assisted turf persistence into early winter. Neither amendment was a panacea for poor agronomic practices.

Under the auspices of the project Trade Mark Sureplay®, we published > 80 articles, and held > 100 extension activities involving > 2,000 participants. Sureplay® has developed a multi-level curator training structure and resource materials, subject to commercial implementation. The partnerships with industry bodies (particularly AFLQ), frequent extension activities, and engagement with government/regulatory sectors have been very successful, and are encouraged for any future work. Specific aspects of sports field management for further research include: (a) Understanding of factors affecting turf wear resistance and recovery, to improve turf persistence under wear; (b) Simple tests for pinpointing areas of fields with high hardness risk; and (c) Evaluation of new irrigation infrastructure, ‘water-saving’ devices, and irrigation protocols, in improving water use and turf cover outcomes.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Funders:Horticulture Australia Limited, Brisbane Lions Football Club, AFL Queensland.
Corporate Creators:QPIF, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Agri-Science, Horticulture and Forestry Science
Projects:HAL Project TU02007: Best management practices for sustainable and safe playing surface of Australian Football League sports fields.
Business groups:Agri-Science, Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© Horticulture Australia Limited. Funded by voluntary contribution with matched funding from the Australian Government.
Keywords:Sports field; irrigation systems; irrigation; soil profile; turf amendments; industry capacity building; best practices; best management practices; low maintenance; football; football fields; reconstruction; drainage; re-turfing; Australian Football League; turf; turfgrass.
Subjects:Plant culture > Lawns and turfgrasses > Sportsturf and greens
Plant culture > Lawns and turfgrasses > Performance and management
Deposited On:29 Aug 2011 03:17
Last Modified:13 Oct 2011 06:22

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