Key Tasks for June
In the current climate, you will be guided by advice from the Government and the Governing Body regarding play and use of facilities.
In the main, however, maintenance procedures will continue as usual to ensure areas are available for us when needed.
With the current dry weather, irrigation is a key management tool, so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can, preferably at night so the water can reach the root system. Evapotranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming month, initiating the need to begin regular syringing of the square. The combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces will be rising due to the warmer weather. Watering will be essential for wicket repairs and preparation. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. Watering in high, daytime temperatures will be less effective and could encourage shallow rooting as the water fails to get deep enough to stimulate the plant roots.
Cricket clubs without a supply of water are often left in the lap of the gods. The use of covers or groundsheets is one way to help protect pitches and retain moisture, providing they are not left on too long. Facilities that do not have or use pitch covers will also be more vulnerable to the changing climates and environment. Put an action plan together to get the best out of the weather conditions after a good shower or prolonged rainfall.
It is important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allowing surfaces to remain dry for a period of time can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
The use of covers (flat or raised) will be invaluable during the preparation of match wickets; take care when removing to ensure any surface water is prevented from running on to the protected pitch.
Keeping some additional grass cover will help retain some soil moisture, thus slowing down the soils capacity for drying out. You may want to consider raising the height of cut on the square by 1-2 mm to maintain some additional grass cover.
Any period of rain will have stimulated the Poa grass species in the square, thus increasing thatch and procumbent growth; regular verti-cutting will alleviate any thatch build up and stand up the sward prior to mowing.
Taking a number of soil samples on a regular basis helps monitor the condition of your soil profile, enabling you to see for yourself any problems that may be occurring, such as root breaks, poor root growth, soil layering and depth of thatch; all of which can be rectified by appropriate actions. With the advent of digital cameras, we now have an excellent tool for recording what we see.
Structures: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. Finish off any painting that may have been delayed due to bad weather.
Artificial Pitches: Keep all surfaces clean, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
Other work to consider:-
- Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
- Scoreboards are ready for use
- Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
- Ensure stumps and bails are correct size, yardage disks are available.
- Check sightscreens, covers and machinery as breakdowns could be time costly.
- Artificial netting facilities should be checked, cleaned and marked out ready for use.
As parts of the country begin to open back up for sporting activity, there is no let-up in recent pressures for many across the industry. With effects of the Covid-19 crisis ongoing, there will be a lot of variance in what is achievable for individual facilities but, as late spring gives way to early summer, let’s look at how we can focus on providing the grass plant with some helpful assistance where circumstances allow.
Consistently warm soil temperatures in June create ideal conditions for fertilisers with an organic component, whether that be straight organic fertilisers or organo-mineral. Organic sources of nutrition help to support the soil food web and manage the soil-plant system in an holistic fashion. Spring inputs of nitrogen aiming to get things going can be reduced and grass growth will naturally start to drop back as temperatures rise. In the wild, the plant would have now gone through its leafy growth spurt and be diverting energy into setting flower.
Calcium is a key driver of growth for roots and shoots, as it is responsible for the construction of cell walls. Calcium availability can become limited in dry soils, so ensuring soil levels are adequate and supplementing with foliar calcium helps to maintain good health. Calcium, along with potassium, are essential for regulating stomatal function, helping the plant to better react to the onset of heat and water stress. Cold pressed liquid seaweeds contain plant hormones which also help to regulate against water stress and are a significant resource to be employed. Seaweed also contains hormones which promote germination and establishment.
The use of wetting agents, where it was feasible this spring, will start to pay dividends during June if hot weather occurs. Ideally, these should have started with the application of a block co-polymer in March at the latest, to give the soil a chance for the chemistry to accumulate in the soil. Where that wasn’t able to take place, or where planned applications were interrupted, penetrants surfactants will facilitate increase of water from the surface, although the holding capacity in the soil will be reduced.
Regular sarrel tine aeration is a key cultural means of maintaining soil moisture levels as the shallow but tightly spaced tines puncture a large percentage of the surface area, allowing gas to escape from the soil and better aiding the percolation of water from the surface.
Growth regulators such a trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium applied during periods of good growth in anticipation of hot dry weather to come will help the plant to conserve energy and manage water stress, again mitigating drought pressure.
With respect to irrigation, applying water at the end of a hot day creates a nice thermal blanket, trapping a greater percentage of the day’s heat in the soil.
Little and often watering is appropriate for germinating seed and very young plants, but it is advantageous to thoroughly wet the profile and then let the soil dry down to just above wilting point if you can. This encourages the roots to penetrate and allows carbon dioxide to leave the soil and life-giving oxygen to enter.
Little and often watering also maintains surface humidity and will encourage algae, mould and fungi such a botrytis and Rhizoctonia spp. to attack swards.
Disease such as dollar spot and anthracnose may become a concern as the month progresses. Ensuring adequate fertility and soil moisture levels are cultural means to lessen the impact of these fungal pathogens by mitigating plant stress. Closely monitor weather forecasts, your historical site records and disease predictors to keep an eye out for major outbreaks. Resorting to a systemic fungicide if required.
Chafer grub traps deployed in May should have shown up garden chafers on sites where that species is present. Regular monitoring and recoding of other areas for adult beetles of the other species will facilitate the prediction of accurate intervention points for treatments such as entomopathogenic nematodes and Acelepryn later in the summer, should you be managing a site authorised for application of this insecticide. Acelepryn has been awarded an emergency authorisation again in 2020 but this time it is split into two windows, one each for Chafer grubs and leatherjackets respectively. As with 2018 and 2019 applications of Acelepryn are governed by a stewardship process and all releases of stock must be validated by a BASIS qualified advisor.
Senior Technical Manager – Amenity | MBPR
Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Backlapping will help prolong their lives, but they should be sent for re-grinding, with your bottom blade replaced at the same time, especially a shaver blade.
Check your ground for foreign objects, such as studs or stones which can cause considerable damage to machinery and pitch.