Key Tasks for June
As we gradually move back to some normality, general maintenance should 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 plant 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.
June is when soils can dry out quickly. 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. However, suspend this operation for a period to allow for the germination of the new seedlings to take place, particularly on oversown thin areas.
Spike when the conditions allow, but keep your regime flexible. Surface spiking in a dry spell will help what rain you receive, or water you put on, to move quickly down through the profile to reach the new roots.
Now is a good time to thoroughly check your goalposts. Don’t just take them down and store them away.
Other areas should also be checked over, such as fences and dugouts.
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.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean.
- Inspect and repair any watering or irrigation systems.
- Continue to check and service your floodlighting systems.
- Replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.