Fifty groundsmen from independent schools throughout southern England and the Midlands were presented with a wealth of useful advice and information at the latest ICL seminar, which was held at Edgbaston Stadium – home to Warwickshire CCC and the Birmingham Bears.
Aimed specifically at turf professionals working in the independent schools sector, the popular ICL Independent School Seminar is now in its fifth year.
Emma Kilby, ICL Area Sales Manager for the Midlands and West, who organised and ran the event welcomed delegates to the event with an outline of what they could expect from the day before handing over to Edgbaston Stadium Head Groundsman Gary Barwell to give an overview of the facilities which includes a total of 24 pitches – 17 of them being first class before giving delegates an insight into pitch preparation and their trials of an SIS hybrid pitch.
Henry Bechelet, ICL’s Technical Sales Manager was next, giving an informative and entertaining presentation on ‘Root Development Technologies’. Areas discussed included what affects turf rooting, the relationship between rooting and nitrogen and what products can help turf managers improve rooting before also speaking about the company's commissioning of independent STRI trials where he revealed that the results conclusively showed that the use of Sierraform GT consistently increases root development.
Daniel Lightfoot, Syngenta’s Business Manager, was next to the stage to give an illustrated talk and demonstration of the company’s Greencast turf app and a fungicide update including the new regulations.
This was followed by Robert Jack from Dennis and SISIS who gave a presentation on the range of British manufactured turf maintenance machinery the company has to offer. Robert also discussed the recent STRI trials of the SISIS Javelin Aer-Aid, where it proved to be a very effective tool in helping to manage the soil profile, creating better rooting, allowing water and air movement through the profile, keeping disease at bay and helping to reduce compaction.
Concluding the session, Daniel Lightfoot returned to give delegates a greater insight into Instrata Elite fungicide. Daniel explained that when Instrata Elite is applied, it quickly spreads and locks onto the wax layer of the plant surface which provides a protective barrier to the leaf and destroys any disease spores which are present at the time of application.
After the presentations, delegates were given a tour of the stadium by Gary Barwell. As well as getting a close look at the cricket wicket which would be played on later that evening, they were also shown some of the turf maintenance machinery which Gary and his team use on a daily basis.
Emma Kilby, who organised the event, believes that the day's varied content had been what delegates were looking for and was delighted that the event had been so well supported.
"Today has been a fantastic event and it was good to get so many groundsmen attending," she said. "These are professional groundsmen that produce surfaces for so many different sports. They come along to the event to learn and to network. It’s not just for the head groundsmen – it’s for all their staff who got an insight into the integrated turf management and agronomic support available.”
Mike Kemmett, Grounds Manager at Harrow School, said the seminar had proved extremely worthwhile and a great opportunity to network with other groundsmen from schools: “I’ve been for the last three events, and actually hosted last year’s event when I was at Haberdashers. It’s a great event to network and meet other people. I particularly found Daniel Lightfoot’s presentation on fungicides interesting as I now have a golf course to manage.”
James Pope, Grounds Manager at St Paul’s School in London commented: “I brought my assistant groundsman Tom Martin with me today. Today’s event was great to speak to other colleagues that I wouldn’t normally get the chance to speak to throughout the year and compare notes with. It was good to find out how Gary (Barwell) prepares his wicket. There are definitely a few notes that we’ve made and will take back with us and try to implement. It was particularly impressive how he logs all of his data.”
Summing up the general enthusiasm from the day, Cheltenham College Head of Grounds Christian Brain said: "This is the first ICL seminar that I’ve attended. I brought another member of staff with me and its’ been good to attend a first-class venue to see what Gary and his team do on a daily basis, which we’ve learnt a lot from to take back with us. It’s nice to hear about what is going on in the industry, the different products which are coming out and the different techniques to apply those products.”