That heavy rain in the middle of May came as a welcome relief to most golf clubs. The forecast appears to be for generally settled conditions coming into June, and therefore we can expect a good deal of dry and bright weather for most areas.
The temperature is likely to be warmer than the June average, especially in the west and south. There's a good chance the sprinklers will be back in use, providing of course that a hosepipe ban isn't introduced!
Key Tasks for June
As cutting frequencies increase, alter cutting directions and patterns to reduce the amount of stress from turning circles and the problem of grass ‘napping’. Remember to make large turning circles where possible, or to make three-point turns.
Tees, fairways and surrounds will require heavy divoting as volumes of play start to increase. The warmer weather and sporadic showers should allow for quicker germination and establishment. Similarly, any bare areas should also be renovated to try and reduce potential levels of weed/poa invasion as we move through the growing season.
The increased temperatures and sunshine hours will bring with it increased volumes of play. Whilst pressures to produce the highest levels of playing surface will be high, with many competitions and social events occurring, remember the importance of little and often aeration and topdressing. During warmer, drier periods, do not use tines that will leave large holes (e.g. slit tines), as the ability of the hole to fully recover will be lessened in these conditions.
With expected drier weather, irrigation systems will begin to be used more often. Ensure that all pop-ups and central systems are in good working order. Cleaning the system and ensuring the sprinkler arcs are in the correct positions should be major objectives. Trimming around the pop-ups and valve boxes will aid presentation and increase the speed of work during busy morning periods. Try to use the pop-ups when the surfaces need moisture, as this is better practice than applying water at set intervals or when there are few signs of stress. Also, check your water quality, what pH is it? Is it suitable for your green? Check filters on recycled water systems. Poor water quality will affect plant growth and sustainability.
Mowing frequencies can vary from daily to twice weekly operations dependent on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course manager. Mowing heights may vary depending on local conditions, type of course, course expectations, sward type and mower type. The mowing heights are a guide, and will be subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time, the better the results further on into the season.
• Greens - Mowing height should be maintained at around 3.5-6mm.
• Tees - Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
• Fairways - Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
• Rough and Semi rough grass areas - Mow and tidy up these areas.
Changing of hole positions should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors; green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During wet periods, it is likely the hole will wear more quickly, resulting in a crowning affect and surface wear. This wear is more apparent if the green has thatch problems. The hole will tend to wear quickly and form a depression caused by the placement of golfers' feet. Most golf courses are changing their hole positions at least three times a week.
Light topdressings of sand/rootzones are essential for maintaining surface levels preparation and again, 'little and often' being the ideal practice. Aeration should also continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance. Sarel rollers are another alternative; the main objectives being to 'vent' the rootzone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the rootzone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most groundstaff would have applied a spring fertiliser dressing back in March and, depending on weather conditions and type of greens, will have already applied or considered applying another dressing of fertiliser to balance growth. Cut back on the (N) nitrogen input and (P) phosphate elements, and apply something like a 9+7+7 NPK fertiliser. Many greenkeepers are also using a programme of base feeds topped up with liquid fertilisers. Generally, USGA sand based greens tend to be more hungry for fertilisers compared to the pushed up soil greens. There is the option to use straight compound fertilisers that act instantly to the conditions, rather than use slow release products that can initiate or stimulate growth when you don't want it.
You can colour up the greens with an application of iron and seaweed products prior to competitions and tournaments.
We have also seen, in recent years, some greenkeepers going down the route of applying compost tea formulations with a top up of tonics and seaweed extracts. However, whichever route you take, the key is to apply a balanced feeding programme to maintain plant health.
Moisture management could also potentially be a key feature of the month. Now is the time to get ahead of dry patch with a wetting agent – prevention by applying them whilst the soil is still moist is much better than cure on baked hard massively hydrophobic soils. Many greenkeepers have invested in weather stations to inform of potential evapotranspiration rates within their sward. Remember not to let the soil dry out too much, but keep irrigation practices as natural as possible. Soaking the playing surface every few days is better than religiously watering at set schedules. Moisture meters are available to help you have a greater understanding of the situation beneath your putting surfaces.
Established turf areas will be no doubt be seeing a flush of growth due to the rainfall, especially where fertilisers applied at the end of March or early April have lain dormant awaiting activation and availability to coincide with growth. Monitoring plant response and timing additional applications as part of your maintenance plan will continue to be the way forward throughout June.
Proactive, timely applications of biostimulants such as seaweed, humates and carbon sugars in combination with key essential plant nutritional elements, such as potassium, calcium, phosphite and silicon prior to periods of environmental (abiotic) and pathogen (biotic) stresses, will help to directly prime natural defences in the plant and prime plant defence beneficial microorganisms. Nature is the perfect system, respecting it, understanding it and then using it to our advantage is always wise.
Where areas have been seeded then little and often applications of foliar applied nitrogen combined with liquid humates, seaweed and sugar (carbon) will foster multiple metabolic functions enhancing establishment. Foliar phosphite should also be considered into the routine due to its powerful root stimulating effect.
An upturn in growing conditions due to rainfall benefits fungal pathogens just as much as grass plants.The key drivers of diseases, such as microdochium nivale, continue to be continual leaf blade wetness due to prolonged periods of rainfall, or humidity which coincide with relatively still air. If these factors are forecast to remain for 12-48 hours, then the fungal pathogen will be able to advance and infect.
One thing to remember with spring disease, when compared to autumnal disease, is the ability for more effective recovery. The grass plant will be actively growing; if this rate of growth exceeds the advancement rate of the pathogen, the damage is likely to be confined only to the leaf rather than moving into the crown, which leads to plant death. Whilst damage to leaves may cause superficial aesthetic damage, the risk of long term scarring is low compared to later in the year.
With increasing restrictions on fungicide active ingredients forecast to come into force over the coming twelve months, each individual responsible for managing sports turf surfaces is going to have to become knowledgeable and competent in the following areas.
- Understanding of contributory underlying agronomic conditions e.g. thatch, species composition
- Disease life cycles
- Disease forecast modelling
- Fungicide mode of action classification
- Utilising specific nutritional and bio-stimulant inputs to elicit specific preventative effects
Together, accumulation of this knowledge can form the basis of a proactive approach which formulates turf disease management as part of an integrated approach. Often you will see this labelled as IPM (Integrated Pest Management), or within our industry ITM (Integrated Turf Management).
Many people have been caught out in 2017 by chafer grub and leatherjacket issues, which could have largely been avoided if a proactive approach to understanding the ins and outs of biological control had been undertaken in the run up to chemical withdrawal. We all need to work together to ensure this is not repeated when it comes to disease management.
Keep an eye on Pitchcare throughout the year as we provide resource materials and opportunities for direct learning at events.
Fair Ring and Dry Patch
Increased activity in soils of certain fungal species may lead to regions of the profile exhibiting hydrophobic behaviour. This is to say water repellency, similar to the manner in which water beads on the surface of a freshly waxed car. This may lead to dry patch or class one fairy ring damage, whereby the inability of water to adhere to the soil particles in these regions results in drought stress, wilt and finally grass dormancy (browning off). If drought conditions within a region of soil persist, then dormancy will be over taken by plant death.
The treatment for both is very similar;
- Identify the depth of the area of repellency by dropping a small amount of water onto a cross profile.
- Poke into the areas of repellency with aeration.
- Soak the areas with water combined with a penetrant wetting agent
Variation on the above occurs with respect to dry patch and hydrophobic activity due to the activity of Basidiomycota spp. fairy rings. In the case of class two fairy rings i.e. dark green rings, a fungicide containing azoxystrobin such as Syngenta’s Heritage Turf Disease Control applied alongside the wetting agent can assist in control.
One word of caution: there are two species of fungi relating to ring like diseases.
- Rhizoctonia spp. – this fungus results in a disease commonly referred to as either Brown Ring or Waitea patch and favours low nitrogen high, thatch conditions in times of moisture and humidity. Generally, it occurs only in the thatch layer.
- Basidiomycota spp. – results in the classic class one, two and three type fairy rings, resulting in various combinations of; hydrophobic soils, flushes of green growth and sporocarps (mushrooms). Generally, it occurs in soil horizon.
The key point here is in relation to water because rings occurring due to Basidiomycota spp. require wetting to relieve symptoms whilst rings occurring due to Rhizoctonia spp. will be made worse by wetting. A case of mistaken identity with these two diseases and, in particular mistaking Rhizonctonia spp. for Basidiomycota spp. which then results in applications of water, will only serve to promote the disease further.
You may be interested in this article on Fairy Rings - https://www.pitchcare.com/news-media/fairy-rings-the-subject-of-superstition.html
If growth is good and areas are not under drought stress, then June represents a very good time of year for an application of selective herbicide. Ensuring sprayers are well calibrated and nozzles not worn increases efficiency significantly. It is also good practice both in terms of economics and environmental responsibility. An addition of an adjuvant to increase uptake will enhance efficacy and should be considered. As should the use of a pH buffer in areas where your water source exceeds pH 6.4. This is because a water pH above this value increases the vulnerability of pesticides and fertilisers to hydrolysis – the chemical breakdown of a compound due to a reaction with water – increasing the risk of pesticides and fertilisers degrading or precipitating out of solution. This results in poor performance of those products due to the reduced availability of the active ingredients.
Please note: more information on Weeds, Pests & Disease can be found on the Pitchcare iGuide
Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)/ Daily:- Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.
Materials/ Monthly:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for golf courses. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the other courses available are:
Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
Pesticide Application (PA courses)
Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection