Garlic used to fight parasites at Murrayfield

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IT has long been known to ward off vampires – but now garlic is being used to prevent a pitch invasion at Murrayfield.

Ground staff have been spraying the hallowed turf with the herb in a bid to rid it of millions of parasites.

Pesky critters known as root-knot nematodes have been damaging the grass, with chucks expected to fly in the Autmun Test match against Japan this weekend.

Stadium bosses admit staff have been “working round the clock” to get it up to match standard since they were detected following a soil inspection in September.

SRU director of management services Mark Laidlaw said the pest had caused “significant root damage”.

He said: “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 treatment has been applied to the pitch, in a spray from the mower, three times in the build up to Saturday’s clash, with South Africa and Australia also playing in the Capital later this month.

Insiders said it is quick, clean and easy to apply, improves the look and quality of the grass, and is a natural and safe way of reducing nematode populations.

But officials admitted: “There is a faint smell of garlic on the pitch on the day it’s sprayed, but it quickly goes away.”

Expert gardener Tim Pitt from the award-winning New Hopetoun Garden Centre in Broxburn, said garlic could be used to trick pests into thinking grass was something else.

He said: “We used to do a garlic spray that you would spray on the plants as a natural barrier to things that eat the leaves but I’ve never heard of it being used on a pitch before. It tricks them into thinking it isn’t the plant they thought it was.

“Some nematodes are good and others bad. People often buy them to get rid of slugs but they can cause problems on grass.

“There was a chemical that you could put on them that has been taken off the market this year which might explain why they’re using this.

“I imagine it will smell quite nice for while and it will definitely keep the vampires away.”