Expected weather for this month:

Settled start to September with above average temperatures forecast. High pressure still dominating for most of the month.

Key Tasks for September

  • Heavy morning dews can cause problems to your sward as the plant stays wet for long periods and is vulnerable to attack from Fusarium. Regular brushing to remove as much moisture from the plant will help in controlling the disease. Spray where possible as prevention is better than a cure.

    Most football clubs will be well into their weekly maintenance regimes, divoting, mowing, verticutting, aerating, brushing, over marking and watering. It is important to keep an eye on the moisture content of the playing surface, particularly hs we have been experiencing quite a dry period in recent weeks. Water moisture content (MC) is very important on sand based pitches. Ideally keeping the MC at around 70% between games and achieving around 85% on match days.

    Most groundstaff will be applying autumn N P K fertilisers, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 or 3/12/12 (Application Rates: 14-28 bags per Ha35g-70g/m2 25Kg Bag) to maintain grass colour and vigour. The choice of materials and how well they work will depend on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.

    September is usually a good month to carry out any additional ground works, particularly drainage, especially when using heavy pipe laying machinery. Ground conditions are able to sustain the weight and action of these machines without causing too much damage to the turf surface.

After a long hot and dry summer, the end of August has proved to be somewhat text book in many areas of the country, with cooler temperatures, periods of rainfall and less intense sunshine all combining to increase soil moisture and instigate grass plant growth. Whilst this may seem like a return to normal, maximising recovery from a position behind where we would normally expect to be at this time of the year requires consideration and thought if surface quality is to be maximised ahead of oncoming reduced growth over the autumn and winter. A situation made all the more challenging due to the impact of recent legislative changes in the plant Protection Product market.

It is then, not an over exaggeration to state that September 2018, more than any other September in recent memory, is the month which will define the turf management year, with the three R's of recovery, renovation and repair.

Soil Water Management

With increasing rainfall levels in many areas of the country, moisture is returning to the soil. However, aiding the penetration of that water away from the surface and into the soil profile via the combination of aeration and wetting agents with a high percentage of penetrant activity. This enables the perennial grasses, with their deeper root systems, to access water in good time and helps to stem the encroachment of emerging algae and moss, along with germinating weeds and Poa annua seeds closer to and at the surface. This is particularly important on surfaces which contain a greater percentage of thatch than is desirable, as these will be the most hydrophobic surfaces, actively repelling water absorption.

Nutrition

Once soil moisture levels have returned to optimum, then granular fertilisers will provide the optimum means of introducing nutrition into the profile by which to induce recovery. Try to avoid feeds which are heavy on ammonium as the nitrogen source, as this will produce a flush of growth which is then susceptible to fungal disease. Rather lower ammonium values, accompanied by urea and methylene urea, will provide a steady feed and consistent controllable growth.

Be aware that in optimum moisture and temperature conditions, granular fertilisers (which are made available to the roots via the soil water solution) will in the case of ammonium take between 5-7 days to induce a noticeable response in the plant, with urea coming online after 10-14 days. Methylene will then slowly become available over a period as long as 10-12 weeks dependent upon the ratio of short, medium and long chain molecules in the product.

Weeds

Due to the traditional June spraying window being unsuitable for the application of herbicides, many areas will have gone untreated. Turf weeds such as Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) are adapted to persist longer in a surface during drought conditions, in the case of this plant due to the deep tap root. Additionally, weed seeds on the surface of thin swards will germinate with the moisture provided by rainfall.

Consequently, September provides the last opportunity of 2018 for controlling weeds at a time when strong growing conditions persist, thus aiding the uptake, translocation and efficacy of selective herbicides. Undertaking this operation now will prevent weeds taking a firm foothold into next spring.

Pests

Now is the time to apply nematodes to areas for the control of leatherjackets and chafer grubs. This time of year represents the period when young juvenile larvae are hatching out and moving through the soil surface. Consequently, this is the time nature intended for the nematodes to predate upon the small juvenile grubs. Soil water levels need to be good before and for two weeks after application to allow the nematodes to swim to their prey and be effective. Facilitating their passage into the soil with a penetrant wetting agent is a useful strategy, as is sarel tine aeration immediately prior to application.

The newly approved chemical control Acelepryn is on an Emergency Authorisation which expires on the 20th September 2018. Releases of stock are dictated by strict Stewardship conditions which require each situation to have been assessed and authorised by a BASIS qualified advisor. The only authorised application areas are; airfields, race courses, golf greens and golf tees.

September heralds the arrival of worm season. There are no authorised chemical controls for worms. The only acceptable means of managing the issue are cultural ones such as brushing casts when dry or temporarily amending the surface pH via the application of substances such as sulphur. At a time of change which places new demands on turf managers to produce results and maintain standards, a raft of control options can become available, often these options are not labelled for the control of a particular issue however any substance applied with the intention of directly effecting, harming or deterring a pest is done so as a pesticide, and consequently is being done illegally if it is not registered with a MAPP number (Ministry Approved Pesticide Product) by the Chemicals Regulation Division.

Users should also consider the associated risks to the wider environment and ecosystem of any product which has not been subjected to the rigorous, scientific, independent testing standards.

Disease

Once moisture returns so does relative humidity; when humidity combines with stressed turf and warm temperatures, conditions are conducive to the growth of fungi. Consequently, a host of turf diseases can expect to be witnessed through into September.

However, 2018 is the first year without the curative activity of the fungicide iprodione, the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface. The only chemical options for turf disease are preventative systemic substances. Application prior to the observation of symptoms is vital in ensuring their success.

It is worth consulting the Turf Disease Triangle below and giving due consideration to what circumstances, conditions, maintenance practices and inputs on your site may influence each of the three factors.

Away from Plant Protection Products, such as fungicides, which directly target a virulent pathogen, thriving in a favourable environment, one of the most effective tactics available to the turf manager is to reduce the susceptibility of the host. In this regard, adequate water availability combined with appropriate and balanced base nutrition are further bolstered by the benefits of cell wall boosting and plant system enhancing calcium, phosphite and silicon.

Start thinking about your end of season renovations, 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.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Winter Sports Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of rugby and football pitch maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a winter sports surface throughout a 12 month period.

Delegates attending the Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles it sets out.

Details of our forthcoming autumn courses can be found on our new website Grounds Training

Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.

In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 - 10 people. Email Carol Smith for information.

Other courses available include:

Linemarking
Safe Use of Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers
Hedgecutters
Brushcutters/strimmers
Toolbox Training
Manual Handling

More details

On the Pitchcare website, there are a number of articles/features on pitch maintenance and end of season renovations.

View the Pitchcare Football Section