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Football stadium grass. © INRA, Didier Combes

Perfecting football stadium grass using agronomic research on meadows

A team from INRA-Lusignan specialised in sown meadows, working together with Terenvi, has developed techniques and tools to extend the life of football stadium pitches. Their scientific expertise is an asset for Quanta Green, an early-stage company which won the ‘Coup de Cœur’ award at Créa’Vienne, a competition organised by the Vienne region’s Centre for Business and Innovation (Centre des entreprises et de l’innovation) on 12 June 2014.

Updated on 07/05/2017
Published on 06/25/2014

A new generation of stadiums are appearing in large cities. In addition to sporting events, these venues are used for concerts, festivals and shows, which puts considerable strain on turf. Covered stands and the overlapping configurations of certain game surfaces means that large swathes of pitch are in the shade. The growth and upkeep of stadium grass is improving with the development of new techniques such as embedded electric heating systems to control temperatures and lighting strips for the darkest areas. The next challenge is to grow high-quality turf while using less energy.

 Managing stadium turf with knowledge sourced from livestock grass

Located in Poitou-Charentes, France, INRA’s Lusignan site is reputed for ecophysiology1 research on sown meadows and the genetic improvement of grass and legume varieties used for livestock feed and sports turf. The sports grass industry has appealed to the site’s Meadows and Forage Plants Multidisciplinary Research Unit (URP3F) to understand and prevent the deterioration of playing surfaces. Light modelling on forage plants carried out at URP3F was used to carry out assessments at stadiums in Rennes, Lille and other cities. A research partnership with Terenvi, a company specialised in lawns and premier league stadium turf, enabled research and development in the area of light radiation and improvements in the use of lighting strips.

 How much and where: calculating the amount of light needed and installing weather stations to target light-deprived zones

A team of INRA research engineers and technicians studied how far apart lighting ramps should be installed to provide sufficient and even lighting to a given surface.
Next, they measured light exposure on each stadium’s pitch over the span of a year and analysed data using a 3D mock-up of the stadium combined with a light radiation model. These simulations allow researchers to determine how much light is needed in the darkest areas and how long lighting strips should be switched on. They are also used to optimise the installation of in-ground heating and irrigation systems in stadiums yet to be built.
Lastly, research findings were integrated into a software management tool called Lami, designed to analyse microclimates. The program is a web portal linked to a database which is updated by the network of micro-sized weather stations installed on the turf. From the Lami portal, turf managers can access:
• information on grass growth conditions;
• recommendations on where lighting strips should be installed above a pitch and how much light exposure is needed.
Weather stations were developed to manage autonomy and wireless transmission problems in an environment where electromagnetic waves are a major issue. So far, the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Lille and a stadium in Valenciennes have been fitted with the system in partnership with Terenvi to pilot the Lami project, which is also being used at Furiani stadium in Bastia.

Technology transfer: Quanta Green wins the Coup de Cœur award at Créa’Vienne

Quanta Green, a new company, is being created to mobilise these new tools and processes. Didier Combes, an engineer at URP3F, will be an associate, providing support to Xavier Varlet-Grancher, the company’s future director, in the form of scientific expertise. Business development began in April at a business incubator in the Poitou-Charentes region. It won the Coup de Cœur award at the Créa’Vienne competition organised by the Centre for Business and Innovation (CEI) in Vienne. The award provides an initial boost in the fundraising stage to launch the business.

1 Ecophysiology aims to understand and predict how plants and plant communities respond to abiotic components (availability of light, water, minerals, etc.) and biotic components (presence of pests) in a given environment.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Didier Combes (+33 (0)5 49 55 60 91) Meadows and forage plants multidisciplinary research unit (URP3F)
Press Relations:
Inra service de presse (01 42 75 91 86), Armelle Pérennès (centre Inra Poitou-Charentes) (05 49 55 61 39)
Associated Division(s):
Environment and Agronomy
Associated Centre(s):