Chris Simm, Head Groundsman for Bolton Wanderers FC, believes the pitch at Macron Stadium has benefited greatly from embarking on an ICL iTurf programme specifically tailored to its requirements.
Chris has been at Bolton Wanderers for the last twenty years where he has spent most of the time overseeing the management of the training ground in Euxton. Last year his hard work was rewarded when he was promoted to the role of Head Groundsman and he is now responsible for both the training ground and Macron Stadium. However, more responsibilities also bring new challenges, as he explains.
“With a heavily shaded stadium all the way round with no air movement, everything is about fertilizer and if you don’t get that right or the correct programme then you have no chance at all,” says Chris.
“I actually attended an open day at the STRI and Henry Bechelet (Technical Sales Manager) and Simon Taylor (Product & Business Development Manager for Grass Seeds) from ICL were there. They were presenting work on the establishment of seed in a sandy root zone, which was perfect for a site like this. They were showing the difference between a conventional release fertilizer and a coated fertilizer. The results highlighted the fact that you do need a coated fertilizer as a first application to get the pitch off the the best possible start. Seeing the trials gave me confidence in the products and so I arranged for Phil Collinson (ICL Technical Area Sales Manager) to come in and see us.
“Firstly we did some soil samples, addressed any deficiencies with products like STEP Hi-Mag because we were low on magnesium. During the renovation programme we were also low on pH, so we applied some lime to bring that back up. Following that, we sat down together to devise an ICL iTurf programme. In this case, because the pitch is so free-draining, products tend to leach faster, than say on a soil based pitch, so by using the technologies within the Sierrablen Plus and ProTurf ranges which have the coated nitrogen – it ensures that we never drop off a cliff and we avoid the peaks and troughs. But we also had to consider that on a really hungry site such as this (ryegrass in a sandy root zone) we still needed to have conventional products in there - especially during that establishment phase where we are on such a tight window of eight weeks.
“The strategy was to have a base feed with coated products and then have conventionals on top just to push them on. This iTurf programme was well thought out and easy to follow. It breaks it down as to how much of a product is going on per application and you can track and map everything such as nutrient inputs to pinpoint perfection. You can also print it off and put it on the wall so the lads who are working on it always have a reference point.”
As part of his programme, Chris uses Sierrablen Plus Active which offers a slow controlled release over a period of five months and following that he tops the pitch up with Spring & Summer and Zero Phospate from the Greenmaster Pro-Lite range. Every two to three months he also applies ProTurf 20-0-7.
For the first time this year, Chris also tried the market leading plant growth regulator Primo Maxx – and he hasn’t looked back since.
“At the stadium, it is all about creating a harder wearing surface and to achieve this I make a tank-mix which contains Primo Maxx, SeaMax, the bio stimulant Viltalnova Blade and Greenmaster Liquid NK. Since applying this mixture I have already noticed a thicker, harder wearing sward.
“At the training ground, Primo Maxx is more of a management tool to lower the frequency of cut. In this summer climate where there has been so much rain, the grass can creep up on you very quickly. I love the product and it can really help you out in terms of labour.”
Outside of his iTurf programme, Chris recently noticed some areas of disease on the pitch, so he got to work straight away with Heritage Maxx fungicide.
“We had a little bit of Leaf Spot recently so we sprayed Heritage Maxx to take that out but it also works as a preventative. It stays in the plant for a good four weeks, so it also acts as a safety blanket. We’ll spray that again in four weeks just to keep us going through the growing season.
“I can’t find any fault with the ICL products. Sure you can go out and buy other products that can be cheaper but they won’t do what you want, won’t last and you’ll end up spending even more money. Alternatively, you can buy the product for slightly more and it will do exactly what it says it will. It’s got the backing, the trials and ICL can actually show you the work behind the scenes to prove that the products do work.”