Key Tasks for June
The condition and performance of any natural grass playing surface is always governed by the amount of work put in by the groundsman/greenkeeper which, in turn, to a great extent, is governed by the resources they have available in respect of machinery products and services.
There are still too many bowling clubs working with limited resources, often using very antiquated equipment and machinery. Many clubs have mowers that are often twenty plus years old. Nothing wrong with that, if they have been regularly serviced and are fit for purpose (sharp and able to cut to heights of 4-5 mm). For the next month or so, UK growth reaches a peak, therefore the emphasis will be on mowing frequency as long as there is sufficient moisture within the soil.
- Timely operations of feeding, aerating, watering and grooming (verticutting and brushing) are essential for the welfare of the grass plant.
- Power brush or verticut the sward to stand up any persistently straggly grass, this operation also allows for a fresher, cleaner cut.
- A light scarifying of the playing surface every 3-4 weeks can also improve the speed of the green.
- Check areas where dew is not present for signs of stress or dry patch.
- Do not underestimate the importance of watering correctly, ensuring you are watering to a consistent depth and not allow the sward to become too dry and hydrophobic.
Irrigation. Watering is all about understanding the grass plant's needs and knowing your soil profile; sandy soils are more free draining than loamy/clay soils. Watering is all about uniformity. Ideally, you should soak your green (flood it up) and allow it to dry out over a few days .
Mowing will be the key activity, keeping the greens mown at between 4-6mm, so as not to put undue stress on the grass.
Double cut the green in a diamond formation for tournaments and finals. This type of cut removes more grass from the same area without the need to reduce the cutting height.
Fertilising. Most Greenkeepers will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12:0:9, reducing the N and P inputs, trying to maintain a stable balanced growth during June. You could also look to use a slow release fertiliser that will see you through July and August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
It is essential to ensure there is enough soil moisture present to activate the fertiliser product used. Liquid feeds are more efficient in getting into the plant, especially when used as a foliar feed.
Seeding. Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued. The higher soil and air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process, but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases.
Topdressing is usually carried out in spring and autumn in conjunction with the renovation programmes. However, some bowling clubs have a policy of applying topdressing materials during the season. It is important that an appropriate material is sourced to ensure compatibility with the existing rootzone materials of your green. The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the green.
Long range forecasts indicate June to be a mix of varying degrees of heat and unsettled conditions swapping back and forth between the typical north-south divide. In practice, that is likely to mean periods of hot, dry weather interchanged with significant volumes of rainfall. In both these instances the primary factor at play for turf managers will be water management. Something which is important because water (H2O) is the master variable which governs plant health. Adequate water availability is crucial to plant and soil function, with the key word being adequate.
Associated beneficial microorganisms drown in the soil, limiting plant defence and the mineralisation of nutrients for plant uptake. Like ourselves, plants also need to respire. It is commonly understood that plants photosynthesise taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which is combined with water sourced from the roots, before going on to react with energy from the sun to make plant-available biological energy in the form of sugar. However, this process requires oxygen to keep all the electrons balanced and the cells healthy.
In the leaves, plants source this oxygen themselves as a bioproduct of the photosynthesis reaction. Root cells, on the other hand, still require oxygen for healthy function but are not capable of generating it themselves via photosynthesis. As a result, plant roots respire oxygen by sourcing it from the air pockets between soil particles. If those particles are full of water, the roots cannot function healthy and the plant suffers from abiotic (environmental) stress.
Like people and animals, plants are essentially tubes. Unlike people and animals, plants process water from the bottom up. This water transportation system starts at the roots, transfers into a network of transport pipes called xylem and ends in the leaves, as water escapes into the atmosphere through pores on the leaf surface called stomata. This cycling of water from roots up and into the xylem, and out through the stomata is called evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration rate is the speed at which this process takes place, the warmer and drier the atmosphere, the faster the evapotranspiration rate.
When evapotranspiration has drawn water out of the soil, through the plant and up into the atmosphere to the extent there is not enough available water in the soil, the water level in the plant falls below the level required for healthy plant function. The result is a number of negative physical effects on the plant.
Wilting - the initial signs of water stress, caused when the turgor (water) pressure in cells falls leading the cell's to collapse and plants to droop, or in the case of grasses to loose the ability to spring back up when walked upon. If the water content falls low enough the cells will die.
Reduced photosynthesis - lack of water is limited the plant diverts the available water to all systems, which limits or even stops photosynthesis the process by which the plant creates its own energy to fuel its metabolic processes.
Reduced respiration - as with reduced photosynthesis in the leaves reduced respiration in the roots leads to the reduction or halt of metabolic processes required for maintaining health roots.
Reduced Transpiration - transpiration is the vital process plants rely on to move nutrients and metabolic substances around their bodies utilising water pressure. Without adequate water this water pressure cannot be maintained and the system slows or halts.
In the soil - beneficial microorganisms are killed or sent into dormancy, water repellency of soil particles or surface material is initiated limiting the potential for subsequent rewetting of the soil. Nutritional elements and minerals cannot be solubilised into water films for transport into roots.
In both cases, excessive water or deficient water have a number of negative consequences both on the plant and the wider ecosystem within the soil profile. When plants are subjected to abiotic stress in the form of too much or two little water this makes them more susceptible to biotic stress in the form of pathogens such as anthracnose disease (Colletotrichum cereal), microdochium patch (microdochium nivale), brown patch (Rhizoctonia solani), or dollar spot (Sclerotinia homoeocarpa). All of which will be active when heat and humidity are the prevailing conditions.
Of course, given the understanding outlined above, it is worth considering that dry soils around roots which place stress on plants, can be also accompanied by humid swards and leaf surfaces due to environmental conditions on overcast showery days or, due to lack or inadequate irrigation which favour the activation, infection and proliferation of fungal pathogens.
As we can see, water is vital for a consistently healthy plant. The relevant point for anyone producing a sports turf surface is that a consistent healthy plant is paramount to producing a consistent sporting surface and, as turf managers, it is always worth reminding ourselves that our primary role is to facilitate a surface for play.
There are a number of management factors which promote adequate water management of a sports turf surface conducive to consistent plant health.
- Aeration - minimise and reduce compaction to create air spaces in soil and facilitate more effective surface water penetration and drainage.
- Surfactants - wetting agent programmes help to manage soil water. Penetrants overcome water repellency aiding penetration of irrigation and rain water. Block-copolymers hold water in the profile making it available to plants.
- Monitoring of evapotranspiration levels - a number of services and systems are available to record daily evapotranspiration levels in millimetres of water lost. Hard data on water lost enables calculation of water replacement.
- Moisture meters - regular readings from surfaces allows for determination of areas soil water volumes are approaching critical limits. This informs the requirement for water proactively, before the plant shows symptoms of stress.
- Irrigation - well serviced and maintain irrigation systems, with manufacturer supplied figures for water application rates in millimetres per minute allows managers to precisely replace water lost via evapotranspiration once moisture meter readings signal that soil water volume is approaching critical levels.
- Potassium - potassium regulates the closing response time of leaf stomata in reaction to water loss rates from evapotranspiration. Adequate supply of potassium thought out warm hot periods allows the plant to react faster to water loss, conserving soil water and postpone wilting.
- Seaweed - fresh cold pressed seaweed contains a number of plant beneficial bioactive compounds such as abscisic acid, cytokinin's and gibberellic acids which stimulate a plants natural defence responses to both abiotic and biotic stress. Application of a liquid fresh cold pressed seaweed prior to stress events primes the plants responses in readiness, promoting increased tolerance and improved recovery.
Chafer grub and leather jacket monitoring
Chafer beetle traps should now be in place as part of monitoring within an integrated pest management system. Also, record sightings of crane flies to better plan application timings of entomopathogenic nematodes later in the summer.
Tuesday 5th June is when the authorisation for plant protection products containing iprodione ends. As such, by law, it is the official date for the disposal, storage and use of existing stocks by any persons.
June 2018 is the month for anyone not currently familiar with non-pesticidal disease prevention, as part of an Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM), to seek out information and advice in readiness for disease pressure in autumn of 2018.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean.
- Inspect and repair any watering or irrigation systems.
- Continue to check and service your floodlighting systems.
- Replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.
We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Grounds Training website, together with our new suite of Online Courses.
Our Lantra Accredited Bowls Green Maintenance Course is now available as an online course.
Now you can learn about maintaining a bowls green in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. This newly developed course consists of a number of videos with assessment questions, and an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The Online Course is Lantra accredited and provides you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a green over a 12 month period. There is also the option of attending a one day practical course.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Bowls Greens.
We can also arrange Lantra accredited training on site to groups of 6 - 10 people. Email Carol Smith for information.
The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.