ARC Ground Care

Sports Pitch Irrigation is one of the specialist services we offer at ARC Ground Care and one that is, in our present heatwave, very pertinent.

If you own a sports pitch of any kind, then you can likely benefit from regular pitch irrigation – in particular, large sports areas are almost impossible to maintain without an irrigation system of some kind. Sports pitch irrigation can be is ideal for many types of pitch, including:

Benefits of Sports Pitch Irrigation

Sports pitch irrigation is a key part of maintaining soil/water balance, and includes many benefits, such as:

  • Plant growth and survival
  • Soil formation and strength
  • Chemical transport
  • Managing playability
  • Maintaining presentation

Watering is extremely important and if the water content in the tissue should drop below 60% the turf is seriously weakened and can die or go dormant. By scheduling water rotation among different facilities,  you can minimise turf stress while maximising growth, as well as save water, time and cost through having to carry out fewer irrigations overall. This will also lower fertiliser costs by holding surface runoff and keeping deep percolation to a minimum. In addition, this will minimise water-logging problems by reducing drainage requirements, and will help you manage root zone salinity issues via controlled leaching. Just 2-3 hours of watering can provide a pitch with around a week’s worth of water.

Types of Irrigation System

There are several types of irrigations systems:

  • Hand moved sprinkler sets
  • Travelling sprinklers – they will water half of the pitch at a time and consist of water powered wheeled tractor unit to move the sprinkler along. It starts at one end of a pitch and a wire is attached to something sturdy at the other end. Mounted on top of the tractor cart is a variable diameter sprinkler. The unit travels slowly down the length of the pitch, the sprinkler rotates and waters half of the football pitch width.
  • Automated sports pitch irrigation systems – consisting of a water storage tank and pump; control systems; pipework to the pitch and travelling sprinklers or reel irrigators.
  • Temporary watering systems – risers are moved along the football pitch to water a section at a time – cheaper alternative.
  • Multi-pitch travelling sprinkler systems
  • Moveable sprinklers – runs off a standpipe if it has a good water supply – run for 2-3 hours spraying a week’s worth of rain
  • Permanent irrigation systems – can be installed with underground pipes bringing water to pop-up sports sprinklers
  • Hose pipe and sprinklers (oscillating/impact)
  • Boom sprayers, static line and travelling
  • Rain guns
  • Self travelling sprinklers
  • Automated pop up systems
  • Portable systems – many schools and community sports fields do not have in-ground irrigation systems and rely on rainfall or above ground portable systems to provide needed water. Above ground portable systems will take time and labour to set up, move and monitor to ensure adequate and uniform coverage

Every field is different, so it’s important to consider how the soil texture, local weather and the actual usage of the field will affect the chosen irrigation system. Bowling Greens are often watered using four large radius pop up sprinklers – located halfway down each side of the green. A ring of pipe surrounds the green and is connected back to the pump – designed to operate early in the morning when evaporation is minimal – you can add environmental controls such as rain sensor or mini weather sensor. You can also supply the water storage tank with rainwater which is far less costly.

Portable systems are cheaper to install than automatic ones. However, because of their many disadvantages, portable systems are viable alternatives only where budget limitations prohibit the installation of automatic irrigation.

Irrigation Problems

Over-watering is a very common cause of irrigation problems. It can cause issues such as:

  • Wet soil surface that is easily compacted by play or by mowing equipment
  • Weed problems such as nutsedge crabgrass and knotweed
  • Increased leaching of nutrients, as over-saturated soil will allow nitrogen to be lost into the air through denitrification
  • Reducing the number of underground rhizomes produced by Bermudagrass, causing it to be more susceptible to winter-kill

Tips for Optimal Sports Pitch Irrigation

  • Irrigation should be supplied to replenish the amount of moisture lost. The condition of the turf should be monitored regularly and watered only when needed.
  • It should be done once or twice a week (deep and infrequent watering)
  • When watering you should never apply more water than the soil can absorb. There is an environmental risk to water quality when surface water runoff carries soil particles that contain absorbed nutrients. When water receives excess nutrients plant growth is greatly stimulated. When dead plant material decomposes the dissolved oxygen in the water is reduced and this can cause other aquatic organisms to die. Therefore, proper water management and nutrient management are critical for protecting both soil and water resources and aquatic life.
  • It is best to water in the early morning when the wind is calm. This allows for adequate time for the turf blades to dry off before field use. Turf that is watered in the late afternoon / early evening remains wet longer, allowing disease organisms time to penetrate turf tissue.
  • Watering should be finished at least 24 and preferably 48 hours before a game. Some managers water the field after the last practise or game if needed to help the turf recover from the stress
  •  You should avoid watering in windy conditions because you will not get uniform coverage.
  • It is also a good idea to water early in the morning as opposed to the evening because equipment is likely to be stolen in the evening
  • For most soils around 2/3 inches of water is required to properly wet the surface 4 inches of soil (where the majority of the roots are located).

If you would like more information about sports pitch irrigation services please get in touch.