Old Trafford Football Stadium natural turf sports pitch

Most players prefer the real thing Photo: Anthony Parkes

Natural turf remains the preferred playing surface for most sportsmen – be it a kick about in the local park or Champions League action at Old Trafford.

A paper from the European Seed Association sets out some reasons why…

Studies show that playing on real grass makes people feel happier – it reduces stress and heart rates. It is also a healthier surface to play on.

Living plants and soil contain beneficial bacteria which ‘sanitise’ the ground and absorb bodily fluids such as sweat, spit and blood, unlike artificial surfaces.

Research has also shown a higher incidence of MRSA infection among American football players who play and train on artificial grass, as ‘carpet burn’ injuries create an entry point for bacteria.

Another downside – artificial turf gets much hotter than natural swards. Tests have shown at one venue that the former can reach temperatures of 69⁰C compared to 32⁰C for real grass. Players get tired quicker on hotter surfaces.

Natural repairs

Apart from the health benefits – natural turf renews and repairs itself. Plant breeding has now produced much harder wearing perennial ryegrasses that can better withstand the rigours of hard play.

So a sports field that gave 330 hours of play per year in 1975 – could now stand up to 450 hours of play purely due to the increased wear tolerance of the varieties sown.

Environmentally friendly

And of course natural beats artificial hands down on carbon footprint. The artificial yarns and fibres of that make up manufactured turf are made predominantly from petrochemicals.

Grass however helps reduce the effects of global warming as it removes carbon from the atmosphere. Hectare for hectare turf grass sequesters more carbon into soil each year than the same area of woodland.

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