Key Tasks for April
It's a difficult time for everybody, and our advice is to follow any guidance issued by the Government and the Sports Governing Body regarding the maintenance of your sports surfaces. In addition to the maintenance guidelines below, you will also find topical advice on the Pitchcare Forum on how to manage your surfaces should the Coronavirus restrictions be increased.
Your number one priority is to keep safe.
With no decision taken, as yet, on the resumption or otherwise of fixtures, you can only continue with your basic maintenance regimes as best as possible. End of season renovations can be planned as and when you know whenever that may be.
Regular brushing will help to prevent disease outbreaks and also stand the grass up.
Always ensure that any disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.
Maintain a height of cut between 30-40mm.
Undertake aeration if conditions allow.
- Keep your machinery in tip top condition
- Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water
- Clean it when you've finished
We face what is an unprecedented situation in modern times. Each and every corner of society at large is facing the reality of global pandemic at the hands of a microscopic infectious agent consisting of genetic material, in the form of long chains of DNA or RNA molecules. Viruses are somewhat indefinable; having been said to be “organisms on the edge of life”. As we all already knew, but are now understanding, whilst they are both incredibly small and incredibly simple, viruses are able to impact all avenues of human life and society on a gargantuan scale. Their simplicity is, of course, their greatest strength.
At a time when the whole of human society is facing its greatest viral adversary since the 1918-19 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the value of the sports turf industry and the dedicated people who work to facilitate a surface for play, will no longer be in an active position of contributing towards providing recreational sporting activity in people’s daily lives. The industry, both at a professional and amateur level, contributes great value to the recreational activities of society; activities which will be sorely missed by many, but perhaps this presents an opportunity for them to be appreciated anew once they return. There are many challenges to be faced in the coming weeks and months, both professionally and sadly personally too, but with each hardship also comes opportunity. In particular, awareness of the smaller things; the details we often overlook in our busy day to day activities and pressures. Time may also be there for thought, reflection and inventiveness. For it is in the quiet times where the greatest opportunities for inspiration and creativity lie. These will be the things which allow all of us to collectively rise from the hardships. Things will be different, but we have it in our control to be able to make things a better kind of different. I was speaking to a Head Greenkeeper of thirty-five years’ experience a few weeks ago. Just as the current situation started to take shape, he said to me; “one thing’s for sure, we’ll all learn a lot from this, each and everyone one of us.” He was right. Let’s make sure we all support each other as an industry to make those lessons count.
The impact of this should mean that we do not hide from a situation where sports turf professionals and amateur volunteers across the country are facing immediate tough challenges and stresses. Clubs of all sporting disciplines will be facing tough decisions, relating to business and people, with curtailed budgets due to wholesale drops in revenue, and reduced staffing due to efficiency savings and governmental advice. All these things are real, and all of them are tough. However, I know that one thing at the forefront of the mind of everyone involved in the day to day management and maintenance of a sports turf area will be the continued maintenance of the facility and the grass plant. For whilst human society grinds to a halt, nature in all its spring-like glory relentlessly endures without pause or consideration for human constructs. In the current situation however, we must be realistic about what we can achieve and we must, as with many aspects of our life, focus on the basics; the basics with respect to the grass plant are nutrition, light and water.
Key Agronomic Points
- Grass plants not being subjected to play will be under reduced levels of abiotic stress. Without the need for play, we can reduce this further by increasing heights of cut. This will allow the plant to collect more energy, giving solar radiation and in turn create more carbon, both for itself and the beneficial microorganisms inhabiting the rhizosphere - as a result, we would expect plant health to be more resilient. Slow release spring fertilisers will provide cost effective nutrition in a steady flow, helping to regulate growth in a manner which promotes plant health but reduces pressure for maintenance.
- Plant growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium, will reduce growth pressure and may help to ease the mowing burden on stretched teams working reduced shifts or split days.
- Water management will be assisted by sarrel tine aeration, which is time efficient, cost effective and allows a large surface area of the turf to respire gasses and percolate water. Surfactant programmes may still have a place for those seeking to reduce costs with water bills, should irrigation be required later in the year.
- Pests such as leather jackets and chafer grubs will continue in their life cycles. So, whilst it may not seem the most pressing thing to pay attention to at this moment in time, maintaining observations as part of your Integrated Pest Management plan will be crucial for timing operations later in the season. The aim being to keep surfaces in the best condition possible later in the year, and at a time when maximising revenue streams may well be even more important than ever.
The coming weeks will be challenging, but if we do support each other as a sports turf community we can all help one another to the other side.
Start thinking about your end of season renovations (you'll still have some to do, whenever that may be), and how you may be tackling the possibility of an extended season and the need to get onto the pitches to carry out the work. Start to build your strategy and get it down on paper. Look at what resources you will need - manpower, materials and machinery.
With reference to your machinery needs; if it's part of your inventory, drag it out, dust it off and fire it up to make sure it will work for you when you need it. If you don't have it in your inventory, but you know someone who has, a neighbouring club or school perhaps, particularly if you are on good terms with them; you may come to some arrangement to borrow it when they are not using it.
Alternatively, look at the option of hiring. There are a growing number of hire companies these days that are now specialising in the hire of sports ground equipment. With reference to your material needs, get them ordered now so that they are on hand when you need them.
Grounds Training was established in 2006 to provide a complete and unique service delivery training courses for the sports turf industry. We are now the go-to provider for on-site, bespoke training for groups. Grounds Training also works with the industry’s awarding bodies – Lantra and City & Guilds (NPTC).
Our Online Sports turf maintenance courses which are independently accredited by Lantra which are going from strength to strength. The video tutor is leading industry consultant, Alan Lewis MSc NDT FinstG. The course provides flexible, cost effective training and is accompanied by a comprehensive training manual. https://www.groundstraining.com/online-grounds-training-courses/
In addition we have a wide range of ground care machinery courses, safe handling of pesticides, tree survey, and ecology courses. All our which are delivered by industry qualified instructors registered with Lantra Awards and or NPTC.
We also offer a small number of open courses at our site at Allscott ,Telford.
All the courses we have to offer can be found by visiting https://www.groundstraining.com/