Minimising the risk of bird strike has seen Mexteds working the night shift to establish 1.7 hectares of AVANEX turf next to the runways at Wellington airport.
The deterrent properties of the grass are provided by novel endophytic fungi in the plant that are repellent to insects and the majority of fungal diseases.
The specialised grass seed has been developed by Grasslands, a commercial arm of New Zealand’s AgResearch. Mexteds has worked on the project with Sports Surface Design and Management (SSDM), an accredited consultancy for AVANEX.
SSDM sports turf consultant, Will Bowden, says Mexteds’ specialist equipment and knowledge were key factors in its selection as the contractor of choice.
While the AVANEX seed itself is not difficult to establish, the environment where it is used is challenging, and the turf will require ongoing maintenance once established.
“Airports tend to have heavy soil, are windy, have no irrigation and no turf specialists on site, so they are the challenges.”
The work must also be carried out at night when planes aren’t flying, for safety reasons.
The contract involves a double spray off of the area to be re-seeded, verti-sweeping to scarify the soil while minimising dust, an application of pre-seed fertiliser and then drilling of the seed.
A temporary irrigation system ensures the grass is established over summer.
A small area of AVANEX was established at the airport last year, and has already proved its value in terms of a fewer birds.
The programme to convert all the turf at Wellington airport to AVANEX is expected to continue for a number of years, according to Bowden.