Natural Grass versus Synthetic Turf for Sporting Grounds
In Australia, it is now common for many sporting facilities to use synthetic turf for sports such as hockey, lawn bowls and tennis. Other sports, such as rugby league and cricket are still traditionally played on grass – but what’s best?
When it comes to the best type of turf for your sports ground, it will depend on what type of sports are being played there and how often. Weather conditions and available irrigation will also play a part in the decision making so that the turf can be maintained properly. We take a look at some of the reasons for and against natural and synthetic turf.
Synthetic turf has been around since the 1970s and was invented in the United States. It was originally devised as a way to get around the problem of turf needed for indoor stadiums. Synthetic turf has vastly improved since then, and its use has become more widespread both here in Australia and overseas.
For Australian states that consistently undergo drought conditions, synthetic turf offers an alternative surface that doesn’t require as much irrigation or maintenance (though regular brushing of the turf and loosening of the infill is needed), and enables use of the grounds all year round. It is promoted as a ‘green’ alternative for the fact that it doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides, fossil fuels for mowing and often uses recycled materials such as car tyres for the shock pad.
The type of synthetic turf used is different from sport to sport with pile height, material, shock absorber pads and construction, all varying factors. This can be a disadvantage if the grounds are used by multiple sports teams requiring different types of turf. Comments about synthetic turf from players are mixed, with some saying they don’t like the heat reflection and glare, the odour of the rubber infill or the unnatural feel of it. While others like the fact that it is durable and low maintenance, visually appealing all year round and saves water.
Natural grass surfaces have traditionally been the norm since sport was invented. Sports fields were a typical part of town planning for recreational purposes and sporting events. Games with a long sporting history such as rugby and cricket are reluctant to change from how it’s always been done, in case the game loses some of its prestige.
There’s no denying that natural turf takes a lot more time and effort to grow and maintain, especially if it is grown from seed. The budding grass needs constant watering and fertilisation to enable quality growth. Unlike synthetic turf, however, grass allows for the natural runoff of water through the soil and has the ability to remove carbon dioxide from the air. It doesn’t compromise soil structure and doesn’t potentially leach synthetic materials into the earth.
Although synthetic turf is seen as ‘green’, if it becomes worn it costs a lot to remove it, and it ends up in landfill where doesn’t break down easily. With grass, there are none of these issues to consider. If it is not performing well, the soil can be aerated, and the grass re-seeded to enhance the appearance of the grounds at less cost than it would take to replace synthetic turf. Players say that natural grass is cooler in summer and softer, reducing the likelihood of injuries. They also comment that it is calming, smells pleasant and reduces noise levels.
If it’s synthetic or natural turf you’re after, we supply the machinery for keeping both in great condition whether it’s mowing or brushing. Give us a call to find out more.