Historic disease and weather records show that typically the weather during November can be changeable, seeing some significant rain and heavy dews that is often accompanied by periods of mild weather. It is during these conditions that you are likely to see an outbreak of disease on the green.
Also, this weather front can change rapidly towards the end of the month particularly north of the country when temperatures can reduce dramatically to below freezing.
Diseases have been widely reported, particularly Fusarium. These outbreaks have been mainly due to the heavy dews and changing climatic air temperatures we have recently experienced. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the moisture from the leaf is an important maintenance regime to deter an attack of disease.
There is no such thing as putting the green to bed and forgetting about it until the spring. It is important to keep the sward cut (topped) at between 10-12mm and carry out regular aeration and brushing to keep the surface clean and open to the elements. A dose of liquid iron would not go amiss, this helps harden the grass plant and maintain some colour.
With temperatures falling and early morning frosts perhaps becoming more regular, grass growth will have slowed down dramatically. It is essential to keep the surface free of debris and aerated.
The use of a sarrel roller will be sufficient to keep the surface open and free draining. The need to cut the grass on a regular basis is not so necessary. You should use this spare time to carry out some other works in and around the greens, clearing out ditches, pruning and cutting hedges to keep them tidy and manageable.
A number of bowling clubs have also, in recent years, taken the decision to play some winter matches/practice sessions out on their greens during the winter months, care should be taken to ensure play only takes place during favourable conditions. The club's greenkeeper should have the last say on whether these activities indeed take place.
With the season finished and the green closed down for the winter, mowing will only be required to maintain a winter height of cut at 10-12mm.
Fusarium patch is often seen during the late autumn/winter months when cool and wet weather and moist surfaces persist. The pathogen can be active across a broad range of cooler temperatures.
Identification of the disease is relative easy, with the turf grass having irregular tan/orange coloured shaped spots of damaged or necrotic grass varying in size 20-350mm with a pale pink / white colour mycelium, seen when the disease is active.
Initial symptoms are seen as small brown spots, which will rapidly enlarge and cause scarring of the turf when conditions are favourable. These scars will be difficult to heal and repair during the winter months, so early recognition and treatment is important to reduce scarring of the turf surface.
Fungus spores can remain viable for up to 2 years; survive temperature as low -20°C. This fungus is severe when soil pH is high, around and above pH 7 (Increase in soil alkalinity). Fusarium patch spores (sclerotia) and (arthroconidia) are spread by wind, water and by traffic. It is during periods of mild, cool, wet weather and heavy dews that an outbreak of disease takes place. Attacks appear during late autumn through the winter.
These spores germinate into mycelia, infecting new plant tissue (pale pink and white mycelium), which can be seen around the edge of the patches, indicating that the disease is active.
Turf grass is susceptible to disease attack when damaged or under stress, and when the soil surface remains wet during prolonged periods of wet cool weather. In severe infections, the fungus may penetrate as far as the crown, but will usually not kill the plant.
If the plant does die, it is more likely from subsequent winter injury or another cause. Infected turf will recover when the plant becomes more active in the spring and is able to produce new healthy leaves restoring its vigour and colour.
The disease will out break during the winter months when conditions are favourable:
• Nutrient deficiency in turf
• Cool temperatures
• Moist / wet surfaces
• Poorly drained surfaces
• Heavy dews, light rain, fog
• High soil pH
Integrated Disease Management:
The fungal pathogen has a disease life cycle which continues when conditions are favourable; understanding this cycle will enable you to understand how the pathogen can be controlled by effective management to break the cycle of disease.
Keeping the sward healthy and reducing the conditions that favour this disease will be the first priority. To keep this disease from your turf, the following actions should help you achieve this:
Carry out programmes of aeration to help keep the surface free draining.
Inspect and monitor existing surface water drainage systems, ensure that they are working.
Prevent moist conditions remaining on the surface by brushing / sweeping / switching the playing surface (remove dew).
Apply a balanced fertiliser low in Nitrogen less than 3-4% to keep the sward healthy (A soil analysis will identify fertiliser requirements).
Control thatch layers as thatch provides a good environment for the disease (Reduction of thatch by hollow coring and scarification).
Reduce the return of clippings (As an accumulation of dead matter will increase thatch).
Maintain Soil pH between 5.8-6.5 do not allow the soil to become alkaline.
Be vigilant and treat the disease early to prevent severe attacks. Treat with approved fungicides.
There are a number of UK approved fungicides that can be used for treating fusarium all should be applied in accordance with manufactures recommendations, product data sheets and COSHH regulations (control of substances hazardous to health).
Useful Information for Disease control
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Frost on the grass leaf blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that 80+% of plant tissue is made up of water, the primary component of plant tissue.
When this water is frozen, foot traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the plant's cell walls, thus killing plant tissue.
When they are frozen, the leaves of the turf get easily bruised by players' feet. After thawing, the affected turf turns black or brown and becomes sparse. The turf can often remain thin for long periods if damage occurs early in the winter. The fine turf on greens becomes more susceptible to disease and the surface becomes very uneven.
More long-term damage can be caused when play takes place, as the turf is thawing after a prolonged freeze. Under these conditions, the top surface of the turf may be soft, but the underlying soil can still be frozen. Root damage occurs easily from a shearing action as players' feet move the soft top surface against the frozen sub soil.
The process of damage to the turf normally occurs in the following pattern:
* Bruising and damage to the leaf.
* Loss of turf colour.
* Severing of grass roots.
* Compaction of the soil.
* Thinning of the swards.
While on the subject of frosts, remember you need to drain down your irrigation watering systems to protect it from frost damage.
Spells of poor weather, particularly the high winds, will have intensified autumn leaf fall. This leaf debris can be problematic, especially when it is left to accumulate on the playing surface for a period of time.
Lack of air and light to the grass plant will invariably cause the grass to discolour (turn yellow) and even decay. This leaf matter could also initiate diseases onto the green.
Regular, ideally daily, brushing with a cane or brush will keep the surface clean and tidy and free from debris.
Leaf & litter debris:- Continue to clean up any leaf debris. Leaves, when wet, can be a slip hazard. Keep walkways and paths clean and tidy. Drainage ditches can be cleaned out. Inspect the condition of your ditch materials (bark /rubber sand), they may need cleaning, replacing or topping up.
Many greens are surrounded by fences or hedges; these will need some maintenance. Natural hedges may need a prune/cut to keep them tidy and manageable.
Useful Information for Leaf clearance
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Many greens may well be still recovering from the season's wear and tear. It will be essential to get some life back into the green, improving the gaseous exchange in the soil profile, whilst at the same time increasing the capacity of the green to drain more efficiently during the winter months.
This will be achieved by some frequent surface and deep soil aeration. However, care should be undertaken when choosing the type and size of tines to be used. Remember, you do not want to be aerating at the same depth all the time, as this will eventually cause a pan layer to form which, in turn, will cause you more problems. Ideally, you should be using a range of tines at different depths within the range of your soil profile.
Useful Information for Aeration
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Earthworms may also be a problem, particularly with the recent heavy rains, so regular dragbrushing will be necessary. Brushing can be daily when conditions are right. Regular aeration to keep the surface open will aid drying. A drier surface may help towards reducing the effects of the earthworm activity near the surface.
November is a good time to apply carbedazim to help control the worms.
Other jobs for consideration are the inspection and maintenance of machinery and irrigation equipment. Now is a good time to arrange servicing of the equipment and replace any worn or damaged parts.
Irrigation Systems:- Drain down any automated watering systems, to prevent any potential frost damage occurring.
Repair Structures:- Bench seats, scoreboards and any other fittings around the green.