So, what is agronomy?

Agronomy defined is the science of soil management and crop production. Agronomy can be applied in a diverse range of fields – including agriculture, horticulture and sports science. It draws on a combination of biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, earth science and genetics to ensure that optimum productivity and quality – be it of a food crop or a fine turf sports surface – is achieved and maintained.

Sound agronomic management can also lead to ecological benefits. In food production this may be ensuring maximum yield with the use of minimum resources, whereas in sports ground management it is more often than not involved with soil conversation and minimising the impact of a facility on the surrounding environment.

Sports turf: the science bit

As a specialist sports turf agronomic engineers, TTS focuses on the design and construction of sports surfaces that will perform to the Performance Quality Standards set by governing bodies for sport, whilst accounting for the geology of the site. From selecting soil and grass plant types to balancing soil pH, designing drainage systems for sites liable to lying water and compiling sports pitch maintenance schedules in minute detail – all this and more comes under the TTS agronomic management remit.

Over the years, TTS has worked on behalf of a diverse range of clients – including leading independent schools; first class and grass roots cricket, football and hockey clubs; local authorities and international sports grounds, to name just a few. Whether designing a pitch drainage system, troubleshooting fine turf issues, planning reconstruction and remedial works for flood-hit sports grounds or designing first class fine turf and synthetic pitches for International level sport, TTS uses sports turf agronomy as the foundation of its proposals.

A ‘turn-key’ sports agronomy service

As a specialist sports turf agronomic engineer, TTS works with clients to provide a complete start-to-finish solution to their brief. Whether it’s the design, specification and construction of a completely new fine turf or artificial turf pitch, a sports surface restoration project or helping a club overcome any number of sports pitch issues from disease to flooding or poor drainage, TTS will manage the entire process on the client’s behalf; working to a set series of project phases.

This include:

Phase 1: Agronomic Investigation
The purpose of this phase is to investigate and understand all the issues through the application of agronomic principles. Communication between client and consultant is vital along with a thorough inspection of the site or surface, including laboratory tests to determine key agronomic factors such as soil type and pH as well as identifying any issues such as site pollution or disease that are invisible to the naked eye.

Once the agronomic facts are established, TTS prepares a feasibility study to present its findings; identifying the problem, proposing the solution and outlining industrial costs. Depending on the type of problem faced this sum could be anything from several hundred to tens of thousands of pounds; but with robust agronomic research underlying the findings this document can prove invaluable when it comes to seeking funds to carry out the works – be it through grants from bodies like Sports England or other governing bodies for sport, through insurance claims or business loans for capital investment projects.

Phase 2: The Solution
This phase involves the production of a detailed design specification to meet the needs of the client and fulfil Performance Quality Standards set by the governing bodies of sport and funding agencies. It takes into account the findings of the agronomic survey to propose a solution that is specific to the site in question. From ground preparation works through to the type of soil and grass plant – even any landscaping to help the finished sports facility fit aesthetically within its environment – everything will be laid out here in black and white. As part of this document, a detailed specification & bill of quantities are also prepared as a basis for the procurement of a suitably qualified sports surface contractor to carry out the physical works on site.

Phase 3: Implementation
Phase 3 is the practical execution of the project. At this stage, TTS will prepare and send out a tender to find and appoint a sports surface contractor with the necessary experience to fulfil the project. Once a contractor is appointed and work has commenced on site, TTS will closely supervise the project; monitoring works to ensure the full potential of the design is realised. This includes careful quality control of materials, managing the sequence of operations, overseeing design interpretation, and project sign-off. By remaining in close contact with those carrying out work on site, TTS can ensure that the project is completed in line with recommendations based on the finding of the original agronomic survey work. Following completion, TTS will arrange for the new or refurbished sports surface to be thoroughly tested by independent specialists to ensure it meets any required Performance Quality Standards set by the relevant governing bodies for sport.

Phase 4: Ongoing Agronomic Management
When making a significant capital investment, the sustainability and longevity of a project is always key. In the case of sports surfaces the ongoing agronomic management and preparation of the pitch is essential. Phase 4 supports provides all the necessary information for a client to optimise its sports surfaces. The report includes a detailed schedule of pitch care and agronomic operations, working practices, material specifications and equipment recommendations; all based on the findings of the initial agronomic report and its recommendations. Through this tried and tested method TTS has worked alongside clients from grass roots sports clubs to International level sports ground; offering agronomic expertise in projects for sports as diverse as hockey, football, cricket, rugby, tennis and netball. In short, whatever the sport and whatever the brief, when it comes to planning and carrying out sports surface projects the appliance of agronomy is a key underlying factor to success.

For more information on TTS’s sports surface agronomic consultancy services and to discover how agronomy was used as the basis for a host of projects, visit the case studies page.

Sport England Framework Provider - 'Consultancy services for Natural Grass Pitches'