Key Tasks for July
Watching the Euros 2020 reminds me of how high the standard of groundsmanship is; all the pitches have looked and performed fantastically. The grounds teams are a credit to their profession. Here in the UK, we are on the verge of normality (whatever that may be) after the Covid-19 pandemic, so it's all hands to the pump again and preparing for the new season to start in a couple of months.
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.
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.
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.