Key Tasks for July
As with last month, you will need to be guided by your governing body regarding usage and procedures. However, signs are positive and a slow return to some form of normality appears to be on the way.
Continue cutting regularly to ensure a good sward density. It may sometimes be helpful on newly established grass to lightly roll the surface before cutting to ensure that the grass does not get pulled out by the action of the mower. Also, ensure that any mowing equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing. Let the clippings fly to assist nutrient levels and retain water in the surface.
The soil can dry out quickly in any periods of sunny conditions, so make sure that your irrigation systems are functioning correctly as, once soils become hydrophobic and dry patch sets in, it becomes very difficult to get water back into the surface.
You may choose to use wetting agents to ensure uniform wetting, particularly on soils prone to dry patch.
Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease.
Spike when the conditions allow, but keep your regime flexible.
Do not apply fertiliser during periods of drought, unless you have the means to water in.
June was a month where we saw warm and hot conditions give way to persistent rain and heavy thunderstorms in many areas, and with it much needed rainfall. Consequently, the dormant road verges and stressed sports turf surfaces at the end of May have given way to lush green vigorous growth. If April and May were challenging, then June has been a somewhat optimal month for plants, warmth, long daylight hours and plenty of rain; perfect.
Of course, even perfect weather is not without its challenges as heavy rainfall can wash nutrition through low CEC surfaces and humidity contributes towards the growth of fungal pathogens. Long range weather indications suggest July looks set to be a similar pattern of one extreme to another and back again. Therefore, keeping an eye on the upcoming forecast to best inform action today is vitally important when it comes to optimising windows of opportunity.
Facilitating water percolation rates by surface organic matter management, over the long term, helps water to penetrate into the surface rather than be held in the base of the plant, where it reduces the ability of life-giving oxygen to enter the rootzone and waste gasses to escape. Less water in the surface of the soil profile reduces humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. Facilitating water percolation and reducing surface humidity breaks the causative disease triangle in two ways: it promotes the overall health of the plant and limits conditions suitable for pathogen development. Practically speaking, little and often aeration from a sarrel tine aerator, in combination with regular deep tine aeration throughout the year, works to assist water’s passage down the profile, as well as helping maintain plant root health and organic matter decomposition via beneficial microbial action.
Aside from good aeration practices, useful tools in the product armoury, which will assist water management when weather conditions are wet, include penetrant wetting agents, which grab hold of water and pull it down through the soil profile faster and more effectively.
Plenty of excess moisture, combined with available warmth, are of course excellent conditions for germinating and establishing seed, so any areas requiring patching should infill quickly and easily.
The flipside of excess water is, of course, deficient water. Weather forecasts suggest that the trend for July is for the extremes of wet to be counteracted quickly by dry weather. With the sun high in the sky, long warm sunny days can very quickly push water levels in the opposite direction, as excessive moisture is replaced by moisture deficit. Keeping a close eye on weather forecasts, and intervening with timely applications of cold pressed liquid seaweeds, calcium and potassium silicate, prior to challenging conditions, are all inputs which assist the plant in preparing for and resisting the rigours of water deficit.
In advance of forecast hot and dry weather, ensuring irrigation systems are running optimally is sensible practice. Being able to objectively monitor the levels of water in the soil at different depths via a Thetaprobe water meter, and cross referencing this against local evapotranspiration rates, takes the guess work out of irrigation and facilitates applications which are appropriate for the plant, the environment and the budget. Investing in weather stations does not have to be an expensive course of action, and working with your irrigation supplier to understand the volume of water your system is supplying, in litres and millimetres, are core areas of knowledge for any sports turf manager at any level.
Allowing dry down periods in the soil following intensive irrigation is an important operation. This allows the soil to breathe, encourages the grass plant to develop roots to chase water and minimises surface humidity, which would otherwise lead to conditions favourable for fungal pathogens and other ailments such as cyanobacteria and algae which will colonise and clog the soil surface, impeding the passage of water and air.
Whilst conditions are wet and warm, growth levels are likely to be strong; in such circumstances, applications of the growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl or the newly available prohexadione-calcium, can prove useful in checking growth, with the added benefit of increase tolerance to moisture deficit should conditions take a turn. Keep a close eye on nitrogen inputs and avoid applications if growth is strong, as promoting even softer growth will assist virulent fungal diseases to attack.
Warm and humid conditions will promote a number of diseases, but once temperatures exceed 28 degrees Celsius, anthracnose foliar blight will be become activated. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the spread of the disease as effectively as a fungicide.
An emergency authorisation for Acelepryn was issued on the 16th May for the treatment of chafer grubs only.
The treatment window for chafer grubs expires on the 30th August 2020. Note that a separate authorisation is actively being sought 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.
Most clubs will be continuing with their closed season renovations, and assessing what resources will be needed - manpower, materials and machinery.
With reference to 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. 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.