With Halloween and firework displays ongoing, November can be a headache for groundsmen as stray fireworks can do a lot of damage to the playing surface; the drying winds and lack of rainfall through October though will have helped many groundsmen catch up on their end of season renovations.
As autumn slowly creeps in, cooler temperatures during November and less daylight hours will slow down growth rates, so mowing with a rotary will be more beneficial in reducing surface compaction. The onset of autumn brings its own problems such as high winds and falling leaves that smother the ground, killing off vegetation as well as encouraging worms, so leaf collection is vitally important to keep the surface clean and dry.
Aeration of the square and outfield is vitally important, as this will assist drainage and air, vital to the plants root system, but is often delayed until November allowing the chance for the square to retain more moisture for the roots. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the likelihood of an outbreak of disease. Regular brushing to remove the dew will help reduce the prospect of any fungal attack.
Continue mowing the outfield whilst growth is present, raising the HOC and allowing photosynthesis to take place to encourage root development. Give your outfield a light rake or harrow to lift the grasses to allow air movement around the sward. Leaf collecting from areas of the outfield needs to be monitored, and a programme of aeration to relieve compaction through solid tining or deep slitting should be employed.
Where there's moisture, moss will lurk. Moss spores could develop on the square as the weather closes in and air temperatures drop, creating damp conditions. The use of an approved moss killer will check any growth quickly. Worm activity can also be prevalent during early autumn; keep an eye on the square and treat accordingly. Sarrel roll your square to keep surface moisture to a minimum.
Further topdress any areas that may have sunk after renovation, such as foot holes, to retain levels following germination.
Have your machinery booked in for your winter overhaul and service.
Diary Compiled by Robert Stretton
Massey Ferguson Sports Club
Key Tasks for November
Be careful with the use of germination sheets as there maybe a risk of encouraging disease. Removing the sheeting during the day will minimise this risk. Regular brushing of the square to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will also reduce this risk. Diseases most commonly active at this time of the year, such as fairy rings and red thread, should be monitored and controlled using cultural techniques before resorting to a chemical approach.
Regular brushing and sarrel rolling the square; spraying of worm and moss treatments;
One of the difficulties with the spraying chemicals at this time of the year is getting an accurate forecast to know when there is a dry window of opportunity. The last thing you need is to spray a chemical for it to be rendered ineffective by weather patterns. These products are expensive enough to buy in the first place. Check your local weather with the Pitchcare weather link to your area.
pH levels may need monitoring, as November tends to be wet and windy as worm activity increases. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH levels are usually the main factor but, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed. Also Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.
Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the ground. It is important to maintain a constant HOC on both the square and outfield. The square should be maintained between 15-20mm with the outfield maintained at between 25-35mm.
Aeration of the square is often delayed until mid or end of November. Aerating when the square is too dry can lead to problems of root break. Ideally, you need moist soil conditions of around 75 -100mm to enable good penetration with the aid of solid tines. Sarrel roll your square to keep the surface open and surface moisture to a minimum.
Too many clubs tend to neglect their outfields, it is important to undertake some work on the cricket outfields as they are an important part of the game, they need to be firm, flat and free from weeds. Some cricket outfields are often maintained as winter sports pitches, and the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).
Ideally, on the outfields, aeration should penetrate to a depth around 150 to 200mm to promote deeper rooting. This can be achieved by deep slitting or solid tining. Some groundsmen like to carry out a programme of hollow coring, which again increases porosity and can also help to redistribute/recycle topsoil and which, in turn, helps restore levels. The frequency of aeration activities will often depend on the resources - money, machinery and time - available. In the main, you should be looking to aerate throughout the winter period on a monthly basis, weather and soil conditions permitting.
Some cricket grounds may have a number of mature deciduous trees nearby, which will inevitably lead to some amounts of leaf debris lying on the square and outfield. It is essential to remove leaves from the square. If left to accumulate, these leaves will become wet and which, in turn, will restrict light and air being available to the grass plant, thus putting the grass under stress and resulting in it turning yellow and then decaying. Vacuum, sweep or rake up leaves on a regular basis.
Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf.
There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main three tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD): this will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH: It is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants, and a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
N:P:K: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Turf disease can be quite prevalent in November when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.
Recently, we have seen evening air temperatures dropping dramatically, especially when we have clear cloudless nights, resulting in heavy morning dews on our playing surfaces.
Dew forms when a surface cools to a temperature which is colder than the air next to the surface. Dew is water that has condensed from some of the water vapor contained in the air. If the layer of air next to the ground were actually cooling, then fog would form. Instead, it is just the surface (for instance, grass) that is cooling, and a very thin layer of air next to the grass deposits some of its water vapor on the grass.
The combination of early morning dews, warm and wet weather and diminishing daylight hours increases the risk of fungal disease outbreaks. The right conditions to trigger these disease attacks are weakened or susceptible plants, a disease-producing organism (pathogen usually fungi) and weather conditions which favour the formation of fruiting bodies and spores (moist, mild wet conditions).
Most cool season turf grass diseases spread via water droplets. Plants also release excess nutrients via their stomata (gutation) during night hours when there is no sun and rarely any wind to evaporate it. These exudates become mixed with the dew water and become the perfect food source for disease pathogens in their early stages of development.
The majority of diseases that are occurring now have responded to the unusually warm, autumn weather conditions. Boundary layers around the leaves have stayed very moist and humid. Relative humidity is important for spore germination and penetration of leaf tissues, and constant wet conditions will allow the development and transportation of active fungi spores.
Most fungi grow well between 10°C - 40°C and function best at a pH range of 4-7pH. The current lack of cooler weather and sharp frosts has not helped in reducing these active pathogens.
The first step in turf grass disease management is identifying the true nature of the problem. Diseases are only one cause of turf loss, and disease control measures will do nothing to alleviate damage from other causes such as management, wear or plant stress. It is therefore essential to determine whether the problem is disease, and if so, which disease.
The three disease factors: susceptible grass/host, pathogen and environment, provide the evidence for disease diagnosis. Symptoms are the expression of the susceptible grass to the disease and can take on a variety of forms.
Symptoms may appear on the leaves as small, circular, tan-coloured lesions surrounded by brown or purple borders (leaf spotting); as yellow, red, or tan blotches over most or all of the leaf blade (blighting); stunting; wilting; or as a brown or black rot on the crowns and roots. The appearance of these symptoms will also vary depending on the type of disease, the severity of the attack and the developing stage of the disease.
Early identification of the symptoms is essential for good disease management, however the best form of management is using preventive, cultural turf maintenance methods that reduce the ideal environmental factors that these diseases require for development, e.g. regular brushing/switching of the grass to remove excess moisture, regular aeration to allow gaseous exchange and water percolation.
Over the years, we’ve developed many methods of removing dew from playing surfaces, from dragging hose pipes over pitches to switch canes on bowling and golf greens. However, these laborious tasks have been superseded with the development of brushing attachments that can be fitted to both mowers and gators to speed up operations, though hand switching also gives you an opportunity to get close and personal and keep an eye on what’s happening.
Other cultural methods to help reduce disease pressure would be removal of thatch, which harbours pathogens, by Verti-cutting and end of season renovations, as well as checking mower blades are sharp to provide a precise cut of the leaf blade and reduce the potential for disease.
Identification of these diseases can sometimes be difficult in the early stages of attack. It’s often only possible to recognise the type of disease when the fruiting bodies of the disease produce structures such as spores, mushrooms, or mycelium (small, thread-like filaments produced by fungi) that can be seen without the aid of a microscope. A good example of this is Red Thread (Laetisaria fuciformis) where the distinctive red filaments can be seen amongst the grass.
Site characteristics and turf management practices have a large influence on disease management. Factors such as air movement, drainage, soil conditions, and the amount of sun or shade, slope, Fertilisation and aeration programmes are important in influencing the development of turf diseases.
It is important to remember that pathogenic fungi can survive and remain in a dormant state in plant debris and soil until favorable conditions arrive again to stimulate another disease outbreak.
The pathogens that cause these diseases are always lying dormant, waiting for the ideal conditions to become active. Once these spores are activated, and have found an appropriate host, they are able to grow and reproduce themselves, spreading new spores and infections to other areas of turf. This cycle continues whilst favorable conditions prevail.
Understanding and implementing works that can break up the disease cycle will help reduce the opportunities for disease development and outbreak.
When it comes to disease identification, there is as much emphasis on you, as the turf manager, to provide appropriate turf samples for analysis as there is for the lab to accurately identify the problem. In most cases, the best place to remove a turf sample for analysis is from the leading edge of the symptoms, where the affected or discolored plants give way to healthy turf.
It is also important for the lab to be able to see what the general composition and condition of the sward is like and what the rootzone profile is like and, for those reasons, a 90mm diameter core sample, taken to a depth of approximately 60mm using a golf hole changer (or similar) makes for an ideal sample.
If possible, email photographs of the symptoms so that the lab can get an idea of how the problem is developing - a good picture can often tell so much more than a detailed written description.
There are a number of excellent laboratories that offer disease recognition, along with some good weather services that offer disease watch forecasts. One we recommend is Syngenta’s Greencast service.
Worms can also be active this month. Keep an eye out and treat accordingly. Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square may need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.
Servicing time, so get your machinery booked in.
Store away all other equipment in a dry area; cold and damp conditions can do a lot of damage.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Cricket Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of Cricket Pitch (square and ourfield) maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a cricket square and outfield.
There are two courses - Spring & Summer Maintenance and Autumn & Winter Renovations.
Our spring courses are in the process of being planned. Up to date information can be found on our Groundsman Training website.
Delegates attending the courses and using the accompanying manuals will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles they set out. Included in the Course Manuals are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month.
The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
If you haven't already done so, it is good practice to erect some sort of protective fencing around the square, which not only protects it from pests, (dog walkers, rabbits, deer, foxes), vehicles and vandals, but deters people from trampling all over it disturbing the end of season renovations.