Road to the Derby: Interview with Desso GrassMasters

In July 2012 San Siro, after years of constant repitching during the season and horrible turf, has been provided with a new system called reinforced natural grass by Desso GrassMasters. Unfortunately, there is a common misperception on the new grass system, as many think it is mostly or half artificial grass. We have been in contact with them and decided to have a little interview to understand hot it’s working after a couple of months of usage.

During these first two months we have seen few or no sign at all of turf pieces raising, as it happened a lot in the past. Is it correct to say that the grass roots are responding well to the “teraphy” and growing along the fibers? Would it be correct to say that the actual “added value” of the reinforced grass system resides in the 20 cm fibers down into the ground?
The pitch is indeed very even and stable after the first serie of matches. Grass roots grew around the artificial fibres, anchoring the total pitch. The total system was protected in that way, even if the weather conditions were harsh for the newly installed natural grass (very high temperatures combined with very intensive playing schedule).

Since, as suggested in your presentation video, there will be no extra ordinary maintenance, how long can the fibers “survive” in a normal football pitch? Do you have any prevision on the fibers’ life expectancy at San Siro, where up to 4 games in a week are played?
The lifetime of the total pitch (natural grass + artificial fibres + subbase system) depends indeed on the quality of the daily pitch management and the intensity of use. Obviously, the weather has its impact on the natural grass, but thanks to the artificial fibres, the total system will keep its quality.
Example: the Desso GrassMaster stadium pitch at Huddersfield (UK), lasted more than 16 years, and was used for both rugby and football matches. To keep the pitch in perfect conditions (especially the visual effects), one need to add additional technology (special light to get the natural grass grow, heating system for colder areas, protection system for non-sports events etc). In San Siro, the light technology has just been started up, its effect on the natural grass will become more visual the coming months.
(N/A If you happened to be at San Siro for Inter-Fiorentina and walked outside the stadium along the orange stand, you might have noticed some strange machines, protected by security. That was it, the new pitch lighting system, which will provide a simulation of the sun light and heat during winter).

In the past years, extreme weather conditions have marked the winters and summers with constat replacement of the grass. Inter has it played at San Siro on an icy pitch due to external temperatures down to -12º or snow. There was very little grass, all burned by the cold temperatures and virtually “dead”. What do you expect to be the response of the pitch at such low temperatures? And on the opposite scenario of hot weather, will special maintenance be needed? Are the fibers subject to melting due to high temperatures?
Cold, example: our pitch at Denver Broncos (American Football), installed at “Mile high stadium” (stadium is 1 mile = 1600m above sea level). Also our pitches in Ukraine(Donetsk, kharkiv) have successfully come out of a very harsh winter (temperatures for several weeks between -20 at -30C), just before the kick off of Euro 2012. Obviously, this was only possible thanks to the total system, including lights, pitch heating and all the necessary equipment for the daily pitch management).
Hot: our fibres won’t melt at temperatures evoked by the sun. All artificial fibres (for both Desso GrassMaster as our 100 % synthetic turf systems) passed rigourous tests at very high and low temperatures. (It’s also included in the tests by FIFA for artificial grass pitches)

Your presentation video is very clear on the fact that Desso GrassMasters have created a computer programme to make the machine work on the field inserting the fibers into the ground. Is there a different density of the fibers injection into the ground or a different natural grass variety, as for example in highly stressed areas, as the space in front of the two goals or the very centre of the field?
The density of the artificial fibres and the type of natural grass is the same throughout the pitch, also in the more intensively used zones such as the goal area. The natural grass mix is tailormade per project, due to climatical and stadium circumstances.

According to your long and successful experience in football pitches, are you satisfied of the progress of the San Siro pitch so far? Have you received any feedback from Inter or Milan on the ground conditions, also at their training grounds? (Where the same system hsa been installed as well N/A)
Yes we are satisfied, especially because immediately after the installation, both weather and intensive use put the young pitch to the test, and it succeeded. We are in close contact with the groundsmanager and the technical staff of the stadium management in order to further improve/ keep the pitch in good condition the coming months (intensive use combined with winter), the special growing lights will play an important role in growing the natural grass/ overall visual effect.

Milito, green grass, a goal. Hopefully.

I must sincerely thank Desso GrassMasters Team for the kindness and availability.

Italian version here

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