Key Tasks for November
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. Most areas of the country will be ok following all the rain we have had in October. Sarrel roll your square to keep the surface open and surface moisture to a minimum.
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.
Many cricket grounds have a 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.
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.
After mild October temperatures and a number of days filled with sunlight, which has been good for grass growth, we end October with a period of wet, dingy, cool weather, which sees us transition from the tail end of summer and autumn into the winter period. Looking ahead, November is forecast to be a month of mixed weather, with the usual rainfall for this time of year but also some clear days too. The temperatures are set to start the month in the low teens and then shift towards the back end of the month to high single figures. Any clear nights at this point potentially introducing some morning frosts with the low night-time temperatures.
As days become gloomier and nights become longer, the obvious result of this is a decrease in the amount of opportunity the grass plant has to photosynthesise. Less photosynthesis in conjunction with a decrease in temperature means less growth and recovery. The mild start to the month should mean a gradual decrease in soil temperatures rather than a sharp drop off, which will mean growth decreases steadily, meaning that mowing and other practices will still be required. Whilst this is happening, it gives the turf manager opportunity to apply products to promote any recovery needed and improve plant health. As shade and damp environments become more of the norm, it plays straight into the hands of mosses, algae and fungal diseases. One of the main fungal diseases through this period in the UK is still Microdochium nivale (Fusarium patch).
Predicting when these disease outbreaks may occur is challenging. Understanding what contributes to disease pressure and completes the disease triangle on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure. These may be fungicides, nutrition or plant response applications. Previous applications may have already been made as part of a disease prevention strategy or an autumn IPM programme which is being followed. It is important to ensure, where possible, that active ingredients are being rotated to avoid any resistance establishing with the pathogen. It is also essential to follow label recommendations for application rates to minimise any risk of resistance. More information on fungicide groups can be found via the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee.
With the changes in weather outlined above, the mild temperatures in early November will continue to provide opportunities for growth and recovery. This is best visualised using growth potential (GP). GP is a concept to express the relative growth rate of turfgrass at a given temperature. GP should be matched with the appropriate amount of nutrition and a suitable nitrogen source. Essentially, there is going to be very little activity in a low growth potential period for slow release fertiliser or any fertiliser source that relies on microbial breakdown to release plant available nitrogen. Therefore, choosing the most suitable source is key when considering the results you are aiming to achieve.
Maintaining an appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases, and drying opportunities are reduced. The use of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants are now commonplace in a bid to keep surfaces as dry as possible and restrict the occurrence of disease outbreaks. Using a penetrant wetting agent enhances the infiltration of water into the profile, ensuring the water has a route into the upper rootzone. It is important to note that this water needs somewhere to go, and therefore using such technology is most effective when there is an element of drainage within the profile, so the water can flow through the rootzone. If this is not in place, then essentially more water is just taken into the rootzone with no effective escape route, leading to more water being held in the profile. Something which is essential to getting effective use out of dew dispersant products is that it’s important growth should be minimal when they are applied, this will ensure the product is not removed from regular mowing. The plant should also be as dry as possible to ensure the product remains on the leaf surface.
A further reminder that the emergency authorisation for applications of Acelepryn for the control of leatherjackets is still available, with an end date for sale and application being 29th November. There are still reports of late hatching and Syngenta have released new research findings indicating applications can be made up to one month after peak flight. Acelepryn is most active on the 1st and 2nd instar larval stages. As with an integrated approach to disease management, monitoring, record keeping and understanding of the pests organisms life cycle are key factors for success.
The rise in moisture levels means that earthworm casts are now a serious issue again for many, with them being a major factor in the ‘damage’ to turf playing surfaces, which can affect playability and visual presentation greatly. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management is the only route currently available. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent, but it is worth using with caution to avoid over application which may lead to negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
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.