Key Tasks for June
Most clubs will now be back operating at full capacity out on the course, so it's all hands to the pump.
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 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 continued dry 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.
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.
- Ponds, lakes and streams - Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. Some clubs arrange for their ponds to be dredged to clean them out while at the same time recovering any stray golf balls.
- Tee boxes, tee markers and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new tee positions as required.
- Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.
- Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas, ground under repair (GUR) and range markings.
- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
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.
At this time of the year, it is important that all machinery is in good condition and well maintained. Machinery downtime, due to lack of maintenance or poor set-up, can be costly. As the weather continues to improve, you will be all-out to keep your course in tip top condition.
Courses with their own workshop and mechanics will be at an advantage. Those without such luxuries need to be ahead of the game - all machinery should have been serviced and back in action by now.
Having a good wash down facility is an essentail tool for keeping equipment clean; it is a wise investment.