Key Tasks for July
At last, we are getting back to normal, and looking forward to an exciring summer of cricket.
Uniform irrigation of the square is important. Maintaining consistent moisture levels will help with promoting new pitches and re-establish old strips.
Regular mowing of the square will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. Make sure your machinery is up to the task with regular services.
As the month progresses, repairs and renovation to used pitches should be undertaken.
Pay particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intense work. Do not neglect your outfield either, as this is the largest area of maintenance it still needs to be carefully managed
Irrigation - Water is essential for the repairing and preparing of wickets. Together, with the use of ground sheets and covers, water helps to control the rate the clay soils dry out. Not all clubs may have an adequate supply of water or, indeed, adequate water pressure on or near their square, and so have to rely on the weather to provide enough rainfall to keep the sward alive. If you do not have an adequate water supply, then you are likely to be faced with problems. Clay soils are prone to shrinking in dry weather, the surface will soon begin to crack up, especially on bare soil areas where there is insufficient root growth to bind the soils together. Other causes of clays showing signs of cracking can be associated with the aeration techniques used and when these operations were carried out.
The use of roll on roll off covers and flat sheets are essential for controlling the amount of moisture in your soil profile. You are generally using them to protect the soil from rain or, on the other hand, you are using them to prevent the pitch from drying out. Getting the balance right is often a tough call. Flat sheets come in various forms, some are breathable others are simply plastic sheets. The decision when and how long to use them is often down to experience, there is no hard or fast rules. However, leaving flat sheets down too long can cause a deterioration of the sward; it can turn it yellow in colour and become weak and elongated due to the lack of sunlight and air whilst covered. Also, you may have induced the ideal microclimate that will suit the promotion of disease pathogens.
Soil and air temperatures will be increasing, so grass growth this month is likely to be prolific, especially where there is sufficient soil moisture and nutrients present. The long daylight hours increase the amount of photosynthesis taking place in the grass plant. The net result is more frequent mowing, feeding and watering to maintain a stress free sward.
Mowing - With regard to mowing equipment, be sure to keep them clean and serviced. You cannot afford to have a breakdown during the peak growing period. Keep an eye on fluid levels and remember to check your height of cut and sharpness of the cutting blades. Badly adjusted mowers will affect grass cutting operations, leading to problems of scalping, ribbing and tearing of the grass surface, which in turn leads to the grass plant suffering from stress and being vulnerable to disease.
Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis. The square should be maintained at between 10-14mm and the outfield between 12-25mm.
Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut options then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units, be careful not to mark or scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.
Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass surface, carrying out regular mowing, raking or verti-cutting, aerating and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward. A light harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open. Apply balanced fertilisers such as a 9-7-7 as part of your annual maintenance programme to help stimulate growth and recovery. Aerating the outfield will help to increase aerobic activity and get some much needed oxygen around the grass plants root system.
Regular tining and, if possible, an application of sand dressings to the profile will definitely improve soil water movement in the top 100mm, ideally whilst maintaining a cutting height of between 10-14 mm. Many outfields tend to be undulating and uneven, preventing close mowing at these heights and, in reality, most are probably mown at a height between 12-25 mm. Also, the type of mower used will dictate what height of cut can be achieved. Rotary mowers tend to scalp undulating ground, whereas boxing off with a cylinder or a hydraulic gang mower with floating heads can give a better finish.
Outfields which have been predominantly overseeded with rye grasses are subject to stress if mown too short. Fescues and Smooth stalked meadow grasses are quite tolerant to close mowing and are less likely to be stressed out. The damp outfields may have been easily damaged by both the fielders and bowlers who have had to play in wet conditions.
Bowlers run ups in particularly are bad, with strong depressions being made during games. These will be a need to be lifted, in-filled to restore levels and overseed.
The 10 -12 day prep shown below is only a guide; most groundsmen will have their own interpretation of these activities
Pitch preparation should start 10-12 days prior to the match. Following the guidelines below will help you achieve a good standard of pitch. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string to help achieve clear, straight lines.
DAY 1 String out pitch lines to ensure correct width, 10 ft; Mow out @ 8mm. Always double mow (up and down the same line), using an 8 bladed pedestrian cylinder mower for maintaining the square. Test the pitch with a key or knife for moisture.
DAY 2 Brush / light rake, mow @ 8 mm, light roll to consolidate surface levels.
DAY 3 Scarify or Verti cut to remove lateral growth and surface thatch avoiding deep surface disturbance. Reduce HOC & mow @ 7 mm, continue medium light rolling 1000 kg 10-15 minutes.
DAY 4 Roll pitches increasing roller weight to consolidate the surface.
DAY 5 Scarify with hand rake to raise sword after rolling. Reduce HOC to 6mm.
DAY 6 20-30 minutes with heavy roller.
DAY 7 Light scarify by hand to raise sward, mow @ 6 mm, increase weight of roller to 1500- 1700 kg continue rolling 30 minutes reducing speed to consolidate surface.
DAY 8 Continue rolling for 30 minutes at slow speed to achieve consolidation. Cover pitch over night to encourage moisture to rise to surface.
DAY 9 Brush / rake lifting any lateral grasses reduce HOC mow (with a shaver blade) to 4mm, try to avoid scalping. Roll using heavy roller slow speed (crawling) 30 minutes morning & again late afternoon where possible. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 10 Brush & mow pitch, roll morning and afternoon slow as possible (crawling).
DAY 11 Brush, mow & roll to polish surface, test bounce with an old ball along edge of pitch. Continue rolling to consolidate surface. Cover pitch over night.
DAY 12 Brush, mow & roll polish up pitch. Your pitch should effectively have take on a straw like coloration, a sign that the preparation has been achieved. String and mark out as in accordance to E.C.B guidelines. (TS4 booklet)
Mowing heights for the cricket square during the playing season should be:-
8-12mm April-September (playing season)
5-6mm Wicket preparation
3-4mm Final cut for match
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 we approach halfway through the year, this brings about a familiar feeling of, “Where has the time gone?” and “Is it nearly July already?” It was unfortunate that we had the news that further easing of restrictions was to be delayed, but hopefully that will happen this month. Fortunately, many sports are in full swing, to name a few we have seen Test cricket, the Euros and Wimbledon start.
June finally brought us some consistent temperatures, which actually continued on from the last week in May. This provided more suitable growing conditions compared to previous fluctuating weather which was challenging to manage. This was long overdue and has meant that everything has seemed a little bit later this season in comparison to other years. Although the average rainfall for June is currently at 40mm, which is nearly half of what fell up to the same point last month (average 75.2mm), it wasn’t until the 25th June that the average monthly rainfall went above 10mm, which gives an indication of how little water has fallen since the back end of May. This has proven challenging for those without or with limited and restricted irrigation systems. As such, the recent rainfall has been much needed by many across the different regions.
July temperatures look set to continue to be decent, with most days around 19°C or above. Rainfall is forecast to be sporadic which should help prevent surfaces drying down too much. With warmer temperatures comes the possibility of an increase in humidity. When temperature is higher, the air can hold more water vapour, meaning that when climate conditions are warmer the humidity level can be higher. As an example, at 28°C a densely saturated amount of air may contain 28 grams of water per cubic metre, but only 8 grams of water per cubic metre of air at just 8°C. Higher humidity can increase the likelihood of the development and growth of fungal pathogens.
Water management is a key tool for maximising overall plant health, ensuring there is enough to support nutrient uptake and growth whilst ensuring there isn’t too much that will restrict root growth, prevent gaseous exchange and reduce available oxygen. Following a water management programme is one way to help ensure water is distributed evenly across the whole area and reduce any localised dry patches. When using products to achieve this, the earlier in the season they are applied can have an impact on the results they achieve. Therefore, ensuring applications are made well in advance of drought conditions is recommended. Having less water around the soil surface and base of the plant helps reduce humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. This restricts the conditions that are suitable for disease development. Regular aeration, using a variety of tine depths help maintain pathways for water to enter the rootzone and pass through it.
The forecasted conditions for the month will provide strong growth. As such, the application of a plant growth regulator alongside any nutrition is a useful management tool with a range of benefits. Reduced clipping yield is a notable advantage, plus many others including increased rooting, regulated growth of different grass species, improving surface conditions, better turf colour through an increase in chlorophyll content and lower ET rates. Where growth is strong, nutrition may only need to be applied to provide enough recovery from wear. All forms, liquid, granular and soluble are suitable and each site will have their own preference. Liquid applications allow greater control in applications supplying little and often, and further beneficial stress relieving biostimulants such as amino acids and sugars can easily be added to the spray solution.
For Anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale), warm, humid weather and increased light intensity are the primary environmental factors controlling the development of conidia. Laboratory studies indicate that Colletotrichum cereale produces conidia at temperatures between 24‑32°C with increased maturity of conidia observed at 28°C compared with lower temperatures. Once conidia have been excreted from the acervuli in a water‑soluble matrix, they can be spread by wind, water or human activity, but need continued leaf surface moisture to establish. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the development of the disease, as has minimising any stresses on the plant. Applied preventatively fungicides are available as a method of control, although some will find the above measures sufficient when dealing with this disease.
Emergency authorisation for Acelepryn has been issued for the treatment of chafer grubs only. The purchase window for chafer grubs expires on 4th August and the storage and application window ends on the 31st August 2021.
A separate authorisation is awaiting approval for Leatherjackets, but this is yet to be approved. As with previous years, all applications must be approved by a BASIS qualified advisor.
For anyone not able to apply Acelepryn, cultural and biological controls in the form of Entomopathogenic nematodes are the only legally authorised controls available. As with the specific restrictions of application for Acelepryn, these are in line with best practice Integrated Pest Management.
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.