Key Tasks for June
How good is it to be getting back to some sort of normality?
We've had a lot of rain lately, but June is generally a dry month, so be prepared. Irrigation is a key management tool so, when necessary, 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.
The recent 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.
Fortunately, the further easing of restrictions on May 17th has meant there are much more activities taking place and more for everyone to do, which is great. Hopefully, later this month the next step of easing of restrictions will come into place too. I think those that were doing a rain dance in April, might have wished they had danced a little less come early May, where people up and down the country were experiencing more rainfall in one day than the whole of April combined. Changes in weather patterns are clear to see and it’s another factor we must try and deal with the best we can. Having said that, it makes planning grounds management incredibly difficult and sometimes the pressure the wrong weather, at the wrong time, brings is very challenging. Certainly, the weather conditions from the end of 2020 right through to the end of May have been very difficult to work with.
Temperatures finally look set to increase in June, with 27 out of 30 days at 16° or above. More importantly the low temperatures are increasing, with again 27 out 30 days forecast to be 9° or above. This was a big issue last month with night- time low temperatures holding back any real gains in terms of strong growth and recovery. The change this month should pave the way for more consistency in growth.
So, it is later this year than many would have liked, but we are starting to see late spring give way to early summer and, as we transition through this period, we can focus on how best to provide the plant with what it needs to remain healthy and to provide excellent playing surfaces. Some key areas of focus are covered below:
More consistent soil temperatures provide the ideal environment for fertilisers which rely on microbial activity to release the nitrogen. Examples of these are organic, organo- mineral, methylene urea (MU) and crotonylidene diurea (CDU). These forms release nitrogen gradually over a period of time and can be classed as slow release. This release pattern complements the amount of growth at this time of year, as the release is dependent on environmental and microbial activity. This reduces any flushes which would produce lush soft top growth. Utilising this technology as a source of underlying nutrition can then be complemented, when required, by the plant, with additional inputs to further support growth and plant health. This gives the turf manager greater flexibility. These inputs could be in the form of liquid nutrition, plant response elicitors, plant growth regulators, liquid iron or biostimulants. Utilising biostimulants, such as seaweeds, amino acids, carbohydrates and fulvic (and humic) acids, can also help to mitigate many of the biotic and abiotic stresses. Cold pressed liquid seaweed is full of plant hormones, which are useful for helping mitigate against water and heat stress. Amino acids and carbohydrates (sugars) are great stress relievers, given that they are a readily available source of a key resource the plant requires and must expend energy to produce itself, therefore stress can be reduced following applications. Fulvic acids condition the soil environment which support the natural soil processes of nutrient cycling and biological processing, increasing nutrient uptake and overall plant and soil health.
The use of wetting agents can be key to providing consistency in moisture management throughout a rootzone. The aim being to have even moisture distribution through the rootzone, within a determined ±% tolerance set by the turf manager, which helps eliminate any excessively dry or wet spots. This not only helps promote good rooting but also assists efficient nutrient uptake, maximising any inputs that have been applied. Early applications of block co-polymers will now have accumulated in the soil and will help maintain surface quality through any dry periods should they appear. If early applications couldn’t be made, then a penetrant wetting agent will break surface tension and allow for infiltration, although water holding will be reduced. Cultural methods go hand in hand with such a programme and sarrel rolling keeps surfaces open allowing water to infiltrate and is also important for gaseous exchange. This can be followed up with regular pencil tine aeration to create deeper channels for water movement and root development.
Plant growth regulators (trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium), applied throughout the growing season, can mitigate stresses through dry periods. Deeper rooting is promoted which allows the grass plant to cope better with stresses and ET rates have also been seen to be reduced, meaning the plant is put under less water stress and can conserve more energy.
When irrigating, it is more advantageous to drench the profile and follow this with a dry down period, which will encourage roots to penetrate down the profile and search for water reserves. In comparison, regular little and often approach only serves to keep the upper profile moist which can lead to soft surfaces, promote annual meadow grass dominance and encourage disease.
Anthracnose is now a major disease of concern as we move into summer, especially on the back of the spring stress the plant has been under. The disease is triggered by stress factors such as low fertility, compaction, drought etc…Therefore, adequate fertility and soil moisture levels are ways to lessen the impact of these fungal pathogens by mitigating where possible any plant stress. The key with this disease is to be aware of your historic outbreaks, and time any maintenance or inputs in advance to reduce the likelihood of a further outbreak this year. If required, a preventative fungicide can be applied ahead of a high-pressure period.
Acelepryn has been awarded an emergency authorisation for chafer grub control again in 2021, covering golf courses (restricted areas), airfields, horse racecourses and gallops. As with previous years, applications of Acelepryn are governed by a stewardship process and all releases of stock must be validated by a BASIS qualified advisor.
Any pheromone traps deployed in May should have shown up any activity of garden chafers on sites where that species is present. It is important to regularly monitor and record activity so that informed decisions can be made about the best way to manage the issue.
Treatments, such as the relevant entomopathogenic nematodes, can be made on sites where emergency approval is not granted. Apply 4-5 weeks after the peak adult flying time has been recorded, ensuring that: the number of larvae in the soil has reached the action threshold; the soil temperature is within the tolerance limits for the nematode; the soil is moist and has been aerated; further rain is forecast or you can apply irrigation. Continue to keep the area well-watered for at least two weeks.
There have been significant reportings of issues with leatherjacket damage this spring, which has no doubt been exacerbated by the poor growth that has been experienced, leading to stressed and weakened turf. There is no emergency authorisation for the control of this pest currently. Use of entomopathogenic nematodes early in the season need to be done with care, ensuring the correct species are used and realistic expectations are set in terms of achievable results.
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.