Stress relief to build and protect turf quality

Syngentain Chemicals & Fertilisers

Turf is under constant stress from factors including wear, heat, light, cold and drought - along with actions to create good putting surfaces. Now, new research results from a six-month Syngenta trial at STRI this summer have shown that the right stress mitigation tools can importantly reduce its effects.

Results have shown that marginal gains from individual stress mitigation tools can, overall, add up to big improvements in turf quality, reports Syngenta Technical Manager, Glenn Kirby.

The principle objective of the STRI trial was to determine if a 'stress management' programme could improve turf quality, colour and resilience, when compared to standard management.

Turf plants can be seriously challenged under stress conditions. The over riding fact, which has been shown in scientific research and seen in trials, is that when stress hits it can compromise the plant's ability to photosynthesise efficiently. That further magnifies the effects of the stress.

The chance to build turfs' natural energy through biostimulants, and specifically the supplementary use of essential amino acids, has proven to add an important tool to pre-empt and protect against stress.

The bespoke STRI 'stress management' programme included fortnightly applications of Ryder pigment and a new biostimulant product from Syngenta, in addition to incorporating Qualibra wetting agent and Primo Maxx II growth regulator.

The stresses under assessment included:

Light intensity. In May, June and July the UK typically receives in excess of 16 hours of sunlight per day, where too much UV light frequently presents an often over-looked stress on plants. Long days also mean more hours of play and associated extra wear.

Heat stress. Changing climatic conditions are witnessing prolonged periods of hotter weather, and extreme heat days. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred in the past decade. The trend suggests heat will be a primary stress for turf over the coming years.

Moisture stress. Typically allied to heat and light intensity, moisture stress can be largely mitigated by irrigation on primary playing surfaces. But on a hot windy day, on a sand construction green, it can easily impact on plants even between irrigation opportunities - where water retention can help to mitigate stress.

Wear stress. Leaf damage, from player wear and maintenance actions, imposes stress as plants divert energy to recover. At STRI, simulated wear was imposed on the turf throughout the trial, matching the intensity of a busy golf green in summer.

The products used in the stress management programme, along with Sportsmaster WSF SeaMax, were designed to combat the various stresses that turf is exposed to during summer, even under lower intensity management programmes.

The STRI trials assessment team reported:

  • Results from the trial demonstrated significant statistical differences were observed between the two management programmes throughout the trial period.
  • The stress management programme gave the biggest uplift in turf colour. Turf colour scores were consistently higher in the trial plots, compared to standard management, throughout the trial.
  • Improvements in turf quality and live grass cover from the stress management programme were more subtle than differences observed in turf colour, but they were still evident, and statistically significant, throughout the trial period.

Turf quality assessments (Fig 1 below) show the stress management programme delivered enhanced results pretty much all season. But it was particularly noticeable through the most stressful intense heat at the end of July and August, with a consistent 5% uplift in quality scores, and then again in the dry period through September with up to 10% improvement in turf quality.

One of the key learns from the trial is how to use the techniques to hold onto gains in made turf and playing surface quality through periods of stress, along with better preparation for stressful turf maintenance actions necessary on the course.

Mark Ferguson, STRI Trials Manager, added: "It's been a really successful trial. What we saw was a definite uplift in turf quality from the trial plots in the stress management section of the trial.

"The actual turf quality turned out to be really good. It was good in the standard management, but a bit better in the stress management plots. And that's what we can take away at the end of the day. We are looking at marginal gains."

"A lot of these products we use now to improve turf quality and improve turf health. They are products you would maybe add to an existing management programme, to give you these marginal gains. Each one gives a little improvement, but when you add all these up, you end up with quite a big improvement; and that's what we have seen here."

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