Best Technical Merit Answers- July 2003
Following the success of the Technical Merit Award 2003, sponsored by Tillers Turf. Pitchcare have started to publish some of the best answers submitted to the monthly scenario questions. This month we have the best of July's answers. Next week the best answers to August's scenario question will be shown.
July Scenario Question:
July- As the use of chemical control for weeds, pests and diseases is becoming increasingly difficult with new legislation, explain ways in which healthy turf can be managed and sustained culturally.
1) Healthy turf can be managed successfully, without the use of potentially harmful substances, but before turf can be managed "organically" several relevant points need to be considered:
- The intended use of the area. This has a direct influence on the type of grass species desired, and thus the conditions to provide the optimum environment for vigorous growth.
- The current status of the area: Weeds are very good indicators of both environmental and soil conditions, which affect growth. Understanding why certain weeds are thriving on a particular area can give vital clues to the subsequent management of the area to encourage healthy grass growth but discourage weed infestation.
- Level of tolerance: Grassed areas can be categorised into fine turf areas and amenity areas. Fine turf areas such as cricket wickets and golf greens require a low level of tolerance for weeds, however amenity turf may not need to be so stringent. Setting a level of tolerance before implementing a cultural control management program will be a good guide to its success, and a point at which other control methods, such as chemical control will have to be employed, (as a last resort- the turf comes first in these situations).
Turf managers that know what they want to grow and how to sustain it at a suitable level, will already have the 'edge' on managers, which don't when implementing a cultural pest control regime for turf. A healthy sward is the greatest deterrent of turf pests. Identifying weed and pest species is absolutely vital for cultural control pest management. How can a pest be successfully reduced below tolerance levels if the pest is not correctly identified?
A final, vital point for turf managers to consider when opting for cultural control, are the changes in the industry; including new innovations, products, practices and on a biological level improved grass cultivars. The cultural control program should always be flexible, and changed regularly to ensure that the best cultural practices are used for the best possible turf.
2) All is not lost. The job is getting more skilful, and maybe we should all be embracing the need to use chemicals more wisely since we are at the forefront of managing our environment.
There is a range of physical and cultural control methods that have always been available to us. Most fungi thrive in moist conditions; our biggest defence is to maintain a clean well-ventilated turf by the rigorous removal of thatch and clippings using mechanical methods such as verti-cutting and scarifying.
Physical rolling of turf or the temporary use of ground sheets can help control root-feeding larvae such as leatherjackets. Penetrative spiking encourages deeper root growth and a more robust plant. Timely application of feeds will help grass compete with invasive plants.
The use of 3 or more varieties of grass seed can insure against the risk of a particular disease attacking one vulnerable species. In the future we could see the increasing application of biological controls such as nematodes or "friendly" bacteria, and "organic" feeds such as Biosept are now on the market, which are observed to improve fungi resistance on other plants and may be developed for turf application.