55 years of topdressing with Mete-R-Matic

Turfco introduced the Mete-R-Matic topdresser in 1961. As the first mechanized topdresser, it revolutionized the industry by decreasing the amount of time and physical energy needed to care for turf.

“Prior to the introduction of the Mete-R-Matic in 1961, literally the only way to topdress was using a shovel,” said Scott Kinkead, executive vice president of Turfco. “It was how far you could throw a scoop of sand or dirt.”

The original self-propelled Mete-R-Matic featured a wooden hopper that held 11 cubic feet of material and used wooden slats on the conveyor belt, for which Turfco will still occasionally receive requests for replacements. The durability of the machine increased when the wood was replaced with a metal hopper and slats.

In 1981, Turfco debuted its patented ground-drive to the Mete-R-Matic. This was also the first year the machine became towable, an important feature for sports turf because it could be hooked up to most turf vehicles and wasn’t dependent on hydraulic power. The ground-drive ensures that the drop rate remains consistent whether operators are moving faster or slower, which makes it one of the best machines for topdressing with crumb rubber, in comparison to hydraulic-powered topdressers that change the rate based on the operator’s speed.

“It’s tried and true,” Kinkead said. “The ground-drive is still an integral piece of the Mete-R-Matic.”

Hopper capacity also doubled in 1981 and spreading width increased to 60 inches to help turf managers get jobs done without stopping to refill as often. In the late 1980s, Turfco added six wheels to the Mete-R-Matic to reduce ground pressure.

Eventually, a smooth rubber belt was used to convey materials until the patented Chevron belt was introduced in 1993. Unlike a smooth belt, the Chevron pattern would carry consistent loads of any material, wet or dry. This allowed turf managers to evenly topdress using calcined clay, crumb rubber, wet sand, compost, even with ryegrass seed. The self-cleaning roller ensures that none of the material ever builds up or causes an uneven spread.

All of these changes have led up to the current line of Mete-R-Matic machines. Each features a galvanized metal hopper that is bolted together instead of welded, because it’s more efficient for turf managers to replace just one side instead of an entire hopper if damages occur. Electronic controls have also made using the topdressers easier on operators.

“We used to have a rope pull. You could tell who was manning the topdresser because their right arm was bigger than their left,” Kinkead said.

Kinkead said that when he started at Turfco in 1991, the Mete-R-Matic had more name recognition than the company itself. The reliability of the machine is reinforced by Turfco’s 3-year warranty, including the belt, showing the confidence the company has in the durability of each piece of equipment.

“Realistically, it doesn’t need to be complicated, no hydraulics, no engine. Those are the bones of it,” Kinkead said. “You just hook up and go.”

How research and technology has changed product development

By Scott Kinkead, executive vice president of Turfco

The challenges are constantly changing for sports turf managers whether it’s new practices, labor or increased field use. Our job at Turfco is to listen, observe and figure out how to make the job for turf managers more productive and their tasks easier. Every feature on our products comes from the direct input of sports turf managers so our research is built on a 360-degree view of their challenges and work.

Labor and productivity is a big issue facing sports turf managers, so Turfco added MagnaPoint Technology to the Torrent 2 debris blower so managers know when they send someone out, the job is done right. In our research, we found if you’re 10 degrees off the optimal blower angle, you lose 33 percent of distance. With the right blower angle, the job gets done faster with less fuel consumption, and an operator can move on to the next job.

In today’s world, maximizing the use of a machine is important by making it versatile and fast, as well as minimizing maintenance. We made the TurnAer XT8 riding aerator fast enough to do up to 2.5 acres in an hour, but nimble enough to get around a campus to improve overall turf conditions. Sports turf managers told us that minimizing maintenance is a critical need for them, so we eliminated grease zerks and have a covered drive chain on the outside. The new auto-depth control keeps operation simple and straightforward because operators can set the depth once and the machine will adjust to meet ground conditions.

There’s a lot of new technology to help our research and development but still nothing beats being in the field talking directly to sports turf managers about their work, and watching the products in use to come up with the best solution. In development, we see the benefits of using 3-D parametric modeling computer programs to develop products faster, and videotape products and performance in the field.

Much of Turfco’s equipment has benefitted from technology, too, but we don’t make changes to machines just to say something new. Technology for the sake of technology isn’t a solution to increase productivity and all development at Turfco goes toward making the job easier and more efficient for turf managers. To share experiences or help us know about issues facing your field, contact us at 800-679-8201.