Scotland rugby staff fight turf worms with garlic

THE hallowed turf at the home of Scottish rugby is under attack from parasites, but scientists have come up with an unusual remedy – spraying the Murrayfield pitch with garlic.

The playing surface at Murrayfield has had the grass roots eaten by worms. Picture: Ian Rutherford

It was revealed yesterday by the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU)that the turf has been under siege by roundworms known as Nematodes, which damage the grass root structure.

Ground staff have been trying to eradicate the naturally occurring parasite for almost two months, ahead of three international matches that begin on Saturday when Scotland play host to Japan.

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Scientists were sent samples of the turf for analysis and came up with the surprise treatment – a new type of grass feeder which contains natural garlic plant extracts.

Mark Laidlaw, Scottish Rugby Union’s director of management services, said: “A soil examination in September revealed an excessive build up of nematodes, which have caused significant root damage. The result is a shallow and weakened root network and, though it continues to perform well in play, it can weaken under the significant pressure exerted by scrums.

“We’ve worked with some of the leading experts in this area to examine and treat one of the best surfaces in world rugby using natural remedies, including the spraying of garlic, but it takes a number of weeks to eradicate the problem and then to recover root strength.

“The ground staff will continue their efforts to develop and consolidate the root structure and hope to return the pitch to the standard we all expect to see at the national stadium.”

The problem was identified in September, but the Edinburgh Rugby club team continued to play their home matches at Murrayfield as scheduled.

The SRU said the national team’s three upcoming matches against Japan, South Africa and Australia are not under threat.

A spokesman added that this is the first year the Murrayfield pitch has been troubled by roundworms, but he had been told this summer’s warmer weather may have led to the parasites’ unwanted appearance.

He said: “The roundworms are enjoying the quality environment of the pitch because it is so well looked after.

“The care is hourly, daily, and they are moving in because it is so comfortable.”

Other sports grounds that have suffered roundworm invasions include the KC stadium in Hull, Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough and Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road. They can also be a problem on amenity grounds and golf courses.