Eric O'Donnell Answers the Top 10 Most Common Questions About Hybrid Turf

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As leading sports surfaces consultants, we get a lot of questions about turf. We've compiled a list of the most common questions and asked Eric O'Donnell, our Managing Director, to share his answers. Here are the top ten questions about turf.

1. How have the materials that hybrid turf now uses advanced over recent years?
Hybrid Turf has changed a great deal in the last 10 years. We have seen the development of many textile based tufted systems now widely available and the introduction to the market of a competitor to the Grassmaster system with SISGrass by SIS with injected systems we have seen the development of technology which speeds up installation and uses PE fibres in the yarn filaments. It is therefore still an evolving technology.

2. What are the challenges when deploying hybrids turf solutions?
The biggest challenges when deploying hybrid pitches is in educating the groundsmen who may have been successful in their maintenance practices pre hybrid but have to adapt and change to maintaining hybrid pitches. There is a myth that hybrid pitches are easier to maintain than traditional natural pitches, while in actual fact they can be more difficult.

Burying fibres in the soil matrix (which is the common problem we observe when a hybrid pitch fails to meet expectations) basically turns the Hybrid pitch into a natural pitch, as the reinforced fibres do not interact with a player, therefore players are more likely to lose traction. Regular renovations involving mid-season lifting of the fibres is an essential part of the maintenance practices of a reinforced pitch.

3. How do manufacturers choose their grass seeds in order to be compatible with the artificial portion?
The grass selection has no bearing on the Hybrid system, the grass selection is based on the environment the Hybrid pitch is installed into. i.e. Warm season grass species for the warmer regions, cool for the colder regions.

4. How do manufacturers decide on what materials to use? Can you outline fibre materials choice and how they are stitched?
The fibre selection is based on many factors; durability is a major one as Hybrid pitches will see many renovations in service and this can cause wear and tear on the fibres. The selection of the filaments is based on rigorous testing so that length, thickness and the quality of the polymers used are all factored into the equation. Of course the many years of experience that some companies have also feeds into fibre selection. With textile based systems most of the experience is based on the manufacture of artificial turf which is fed into the development of the Hybrid turf system.

5. How does the climate where the stadium is located influence the fibre choice and tolerances?
Same as above the climate does not influence the fibre choice, extensive laboratory research is made prior to the 1st ever production and based on the UV specs, tensile strengths of the fibres and various other assessments the fibres are selected and used for ALL venues across the globe.

6. Are there particular choices or differences in materials and manufacture depending on differing sports? (I.E. does football require different types of stitching or fibres to rugby or baseball?)
Football, Rugby and NFL would all use the same stitching method, aprox 20mm centres stitched across the pitch, the depths of the fibres stitched are up to 200mm, whilst carpets systems (lay and play) would normally have fibres up to 65mm deep. As Hybrids venture into cricket, baseball and other applications there has been the application of different stitch rates. This is equally true for textile base Hybrid turf where manufacturers have looked carefully at pile height, pile density and the type of backings used.

7. What are the challenges of maintaining a hybrid turf pitch?
As mentioned in question 2, the biggest challenges is educating people, buried fibres are very difficult to rectify mid season and can cause players to slip on the organic mater which has buried the fibres. The other challenges are coaches and trainers thinking the pitch is reinforced therefore they can train more on certain areas, reinforced pitches are only 5% fibres, the rest of the pitch is natural grass, therefore these areas can thin out the same a natural pitch if over used! With textile based systems compaction or perceived ‘stiffness’ of the playing surface can be the feedback from the playing community so regular decompaction becomes an important intervention with these systems.

8. What is your view on the injury debate when artificial surfaces are played upon?
The debate rages on and this is fuelled by players, coaches, managers and pundits. However scientific research by FIFA indicates that in major competitions where artificial turf has been used that there is no difference in injury rates? Rugby has a different take on the situation and the PFA have recently fuelled the debate by suggesting a ban on artificial turf in the league primarily due to injuries. In reference to Hybrid turf this is more difficult to mine. One big benefit on Hybrid technology is that the playing surface is firm to play on but forgiving against impacts. However there has been some suggestion via the English Premier League that Hybrid pitches do result in a higher incidence of injuries to elite players. We await further science on this before we can conclude anything significant.

9. What does the future of hybrid turf look like?
The future for Hybrid is a bright one, with more and more elite venues adopting Hybrid technologies. The challenge to the suppliers is maintaining quality and ensuring proper maintenance practices are in place so that Hybrid pitches perform as they should. The advice would be to only deal with reputable companies, do your research on systems and be aware of the care these pitches require. Seek professional advice and speak to Ground staff who are already operating Hybrid pitches. Major tournaments are leaning towards hybrid pitches, as hybrid pitches mitigate some risks. Again before installation, ensure you have the correct machinery to maintain the upkeep of the turf, select your hybrid, Stitched or carpeted based on the stadiums business plans.

10. Do you have a view on how your business can approach the issue of microplastics?
As a business we design, Consult and test all types of sports surfaces. Most have a plastic element to them so we are acutely aware that we must design features into sports facilities that reduce or mitigate the use of materials which add microplastics to the environment. Locally we work with our Clients to find solutions however in Europe we are actively involved with the ESTC in providing best practice advice to our Community and Clients and also with the STC in the USA. We are therefore taking a responsible approach to this issue.