What consequences do we draw from the weather conditions of the last 12 months?

Norbert Lischkain Golf

After the exceptionally wet second half of 2017 and the extremely dry year of 2018, will the question of changes in maintenance of golf and grass sports facilities, but also in the private sector, have to be discussed again?

With more and more players (golf/football), board members, managers and private garden owners, it is increasingly welcome to understand that, in such dry conditions, persistent, deep green swards are unlikely to have a future. Also, in long-lasting dry weather conditions, restrictions in water consumption can be expected.

However, the insight for a changed maintenance is yet to come before most clubs and garden owners.

Only by selecting the right grasses and a suitable maintenance (correct dosage/optimisation of fertilisation and irrigation as well as the air/water balance for the respective location), the future of your sward can be secured long term.

Another positive aspect of these points above would be harder playgrounds/lawns. This could greatly reduce foot- and tyre prints and could even increase the cutting height again. For example in golf, deep pitch marks on greens would be easier to avoid.

Only a few available fungicides will require a rethinking and therefore a reduction of the highly susceptible, flat-rooting and therefore strong water-dependent Poa annua all the more urgently. Targeted reseeding, especially with Agrostis/Festuca (Lolium) grasses, can support the process of decimation of Poa annua and conserve water resources over the long term.

However, the main focus is on the removal of the thatch, which we find on most swards worldwide. The picture above clearly shows this problem in the first 3cm.

Thatch acts like a sponge under damp conditions; above all it stores moisture and promotes compaction, giving the Poa annua ideal growing conditions. As a result, the risk of diseases (golf/football) increases significantly. On the other hand, when dry, the thatch hardly absorbs water, resulting in dry spots and thus increased water consumption and costs.

These two sponge-like effects in wet and dry conditions often lead to soft surfaces and the previously mentioned densities, tracks and deep pitch marks on golf greens.

In order to achieve a reasonably acceptable ball rolling speed and a true ball roll in golf, soft greens are therefore often cut too deep, with all the known disadvantages.

The elimination of the thatch, the reduction of the shallow-rooted Poa annua and the elimination of compaction are therefore prerequisites for healthy lawns.

For most surfaces, however, depending on the problem, this requires, among other things, an increased amount of mechanical care (2-5 years). However, this would significantly increase the use of the much-needed oxygen and the highly required water.

At the same time, however, the costs of water consumption could be sustainably reduced - water charges, maintenance and electricity costs.

It is therefore worthwhile to follow this path specially to reduce the thatch and the Poa annua in order to be able to provide a playable surfacein the future to users all year round.

© Norbert Lischka, The Turf Fox.