The mid-May downpours will have come as a welcome relief to most clubs. After the dry April and beginning of May, the ground was getting harder and the grass plant was coming under stress - not ideal in what is supposed to be the perfect time and conditions for renovations and grass growing. Hopefully, the downpours didn't do too much damage to any of those newly seeded pitches.
Generally more settled and average temperatures forecast for this month, which should be ideal for the rugby league clubs busily preparing and repairing their pitches as the season unfolds; whilst also enabling the rugby union clubs to focus on mowing the new grass to encourage tillering.
Be prepared with the irrigation - despite those downpours, there is still talk of water shortages in some areas. Grass will stress quickly in hot and dry conditions. Watering late evening is recommended to minimise loss from evaporation.
Key Tasks for June
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 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.
For rugby league clubs, it will be a case of preparing for matches and repairing any damage in readiness for the next one:
Regular brushing will help to prevent disease outbreaks and also stand the grass up.
Always ensure that any disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.
Maintain a height of cut between 30- 50mm.
- Continue cutting to encourage good sward density.
- Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut
- Regular brushing will keep the air circulating around the base of the plant
- Deep spike to alleviate compaction when conditions allow
- Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting
- Hand fork goalmouth and centre circle areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
- Use any downtime to overhaul/service machinery
- Try to keep the top 100mm free draining; this can be achieved by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of 150mm or more.
- Keep your linemarker clean
- Keep string lines taut
- Ensure that right angles are correctly formed. Use the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be.
Pre and post match routines
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
- Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)
- Clear away leaves – a thankless task, but one that needs doing
- Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out and flagged, and that the posts are safe and secure
- Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas - it will make a difference!
- Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces and remove worm casts
- Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower
- Dragmat, harrow and groom rake surface, as required, to maintain levels, remove any dampness, control disease and generally get air in and around the plant
- Spike/verticut as often as possible
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.
Feed-wise, you should be in the middle of your programmes now, but regular applications of SeaAction seaweed and Biomass Sugar are paramount to help plant function, stress tolerance and soil biology. Where granular feeds are ticking along as a base foundation, then liquids can be used to supplement growth at specific time, such as for competitions or in-between maintenance operations to give the turf professional fine control of the plant.
For anyone who has not checked their irrigation system for accuracy and function – now would be a really good time to do it. Irrigation is a key management tool, so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can, preferably at night so the water can reach the root system. Evapotranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming month. The combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces will be rising due to the warmer weather. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. Watering in high, daytime temperatures will be less effective and could encourage shallow rooting as the water fails to get deep enough to stimulate the plant roots.
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
All machinery should be fully in use at this time of year, particularly the mowers. Keep the machines clean, keep the blades sharp and check for oil leaks - basic, but important advice.
You are now able to obtain the basic knowledge of how to maintain a rugby pitch online:
Our LANTRA accredited Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance Course (Rugby & Football) is now available in an online format.
Like our one day course, it is 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. As an online version, it means you can learn at your own pace and at home. The Course Manual is included as part of the online course.
Delegates attending the one day course or using the online version, 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.
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.
Our next one day course is being held:
Tuesday 22nd August, Basingstoke RG21 3DR. More information
If preferred, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Other training courses available include:
Safe Use of Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers