ASOY 2019 Finalist Q&A - Daniel Lewis

ASOY 2019 Dan Lewis presentation

Q1 How long have you been working in the Turf Grass Industry, brief details about career to date ?

The love of the outdoors started with working with my dad on the local bowling greens and cricket clubs growing up, he is pretty old school being from an agricultural background, but his methods had withstood the test of time. Studied Sports turf at Myerscough college and was put through my spraying certificates by Malcolm Eckton. Professionally since leaving college at 18 having completed 2 spells at the AELTC moving back North to Blackburn Rovers and working in civil engineering before joining MCFC in 2010.

 Q2 where are you working now and what is your job title and responsibilities

I started at MCFC in 2010, after 6 months in the Southern Hemisphere exploring and playing cricket. I was about to take to the field for my local club Leyland CC and I received a phone call from the main man himself, Roy Rigby, he said he had a special project on the horizon and if I was interested to apply for the role as landscaper/groundsman. With my background in sports turf I started predominately working at Carrington as part of the ground staff team with a little Landscaping thrown in. The ‘special project’ that Roy had spoken about was soon to be unveiled as the new training ground in East Manchester and I moved from leafy Carrington with 6 pitches and very few amenity areas to the City Football Academy, a huge leap in size and standards in the Summer of 2014. The area was very much still a building site when I first moved over and it was fascinating to see things taking shape, it was a real eye opener to see the bare bones of the site and to say it was a steep learning curve puts it mildly looking back. Landscaping then and now takes up all my time and now as Landscape Contract manager I am working as part of the Ground staff team concerned with all landscaped areas hard and soft on the Etihad campus - providing a world class environment for superstars current and future to perform. 

ASOY 2019 Dan Lewis application kit

Q3 what qualifications do you have?

ND Sporturf management. NVQ Construction Ops, NVQ plant machinery incl 360 excavator, NVQ fork trucks, NPTC chainsaws full, NPTC mowers and turf equipment, NPTC pesticides PA1 PA2 PA6, BASIS Foundation in Amenity Hort.

Q4 What spraying equipment do you use and what and how often are spraying ?

 Various knapsack sprayers, most recent Berthoud electric saves the arm and can deliver a more consistent dose without needing a regulator.. Fleet combi boom sprayer, Bowcom boom sprayer and Techneat pedestrian little beauty. In conjunction with our IPM we aim to be as efficient as possible when spraying so the timing of our residual application is critical, if we get this right more often then not we can save on having to do as many total weed treatments. To top up on a granular fertilising program we use Stressbuster on our Amenity lawns and have regular applications of wetting agent periodically through the drier periods (although vastly reduced this Summer).

Q5 . What are your top five challenges with application?

 Timing and conditions, as we all know even with the best plans in place we can be scuppered by the weather. Its frightening how often and how quickly the weather closes in severely effecting the treatment being applied. From our office you can see the large glass faced Manchester Hilton in the distance, we say if you can see it clearly then it’s going to rain and if you can’t see it then its already raining!  Site traffic and football club schedules limit application of total weed killer because of risk of transfer and cross contamination. In the past we have had instances of footprints across areas that haven’t been treated suspiciously following a security officers patrol route. Communication is again key with this but the window gets ever shorter and there doesn’t seem to be an ideal time anymore.

ASOY 2019 Dan Lewis washdown area

Q6 What have you done to address the challenges?

 Flexible approach and a constant almost fanatical eye on the ever-changing weather and site schedules. Never far away from a washout this Summer.

Q7 Top five tips of their sprayer modification or spraying practice to improve timeliness of application?

1. Hard and Soft copies of spraying records.

2. Google forms to keep records up to date on the fly.

3. Notice boards to communicate to all what has been sprayed and when. Keep the whole team up to date.

4. Have a designated sprayer for Total Weed killer ONLY! Do not use this one for anything else.

5. Look after your equipment and it will look after you.

ASOY 2019 Dan Lewis knapsack

Q8 How do you minimise risk of environmental loss?

 Buffer zones near water courses. Correct disposal of chemical containers and washings. Regular calibration and renewal of machinery.

Q9 What record keeping do you use?

 See Q7.

Q10 How do you ensure you keep up to date with new developments? (Attending shows, Acquiring training / Basis Points CPD). 

 Always endeavour to attend relevant trade shows and pick up new developments. Attend STRI Bingley and research events like Turf Science live to fulfil CPD points. BASIS qualified.

ASOY 2019 Dan Lewis

Q11 What bit of spraying do you personally find most enjoyable?

Efficient management. It’s no longer about trying to blast everything with chemicals. As part of our sustainable approach we encourage cultural practices and a proactive approach to dealing with weeds and issues with our surfaces. The balance between total, selective and residual application is an art that needs careful planning and is still a key tool in the armoury but we must strive to use these intelligently because one day we may be without them.

Q12 Do you have a IPM strategy ?

 Yes, in the long term it helps reduce waste chemical usage through effective use and recording of pesticides. Having a more in-depth knowledge of what the problems are on your surface and incorporating them into the IPM strategy is far more sustainable then just reaching for the bottle. We need to challenge ourselves to work in harmony with nature because in the long run there will only be one winner.

Read more of the experiences of all the ASOY finalists:

Find out who is overall winner at the BIGGA Awards Evening, at BTME 2020. Follow @syngentaturfuk to hear the news first.