With the new rugby union season in full swing and the rugby league fixtures coming to a climax, pitches should be looking at their best at this time of year. The generally warm temperatures will have encouraged grass growth but, in areas where rain has been prevalent, roots might not be to depth as they have not had to go searching for water. Take a soil sample to see what your roots are doing and respond accordingly.
Continue with regular mowing of the sward to help promote tillering, mowing the grass at least twice a week; or more if you have the resources. A cylinder mower will provide the best results, cutting in a different direction each time.
Air temperatures will continue to be high during September, so it is important during these periods to keep on top of growth to ensure a decent playing surface.
Key Tasks for September
At this time of the year, it's a case of keeping on top of the mowing and preparing pitches for matches:
- Continue brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, removing early morning dew and controlling disease
- Mow regularly at your preferred cutting height to ensure a good sward density
- Verticut to clean out lateral growth and aid air circulation
- Continue spiking when the conditions are right - alternating between surface and deep with occasional slitting
- Aerating and spiking high wear areas ‘now’ will help them later in the season
- Linemarking; “measure twice: mark once” is a good tip to take on board when marking out new pitches
- While temperatures remain fairly high, take the opportunity to apply an autumn fertiliser. The application of a good balanced feed, with perhaps a seaweed tonic, may help to fill your grass out, but bear in mind the need to apply it in line with your feeding programme
- Don't be tempted to apply too much nitrogen, as you may find yourself struggling to keep up with the flush of grass growth
- Do not apply fertiliser during drought periods, unless you have the means to water in
- Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this draws moisture from the plant. Use of liquid fertilisers are less likely to scorch grass, but may still need to be watered in
For the rugby league teams, it's also time to plan for any end of season renovations.
Traditionally, the good levels of available moisture, coupled with adequate warmth at this time of the year, make it the perfect window to successfully germinate and establish seed. Getting young seedlings off to a good strong start is important in terms of maximising establishment prior to the onset of winter.
Yet again, humates are strong in this regard with the increased nutritional availability, hormones synthesis and bacterial promoting benefits all contributing to generate real gains in post germination establishment. A high quality pressure extracted humate with a natural pH of just above 4 will give the best results; and with lower application rates, typically from around 5-10 L/ha with the advantages a natural pH affords, such products are a very affordable and justifiable expense for sports clubs of all disciplines and levels.
If you have not yet taken the plunge with humates, and for that matter seaweeds and carbon sources, then I would go as far as to say you really are missing a massive, cost effective trick.
If you do what you always do, you’ll get what you always got: A common phrase often attributed to many principles. In this instance. the subject for reappraisal is iron sulphate: for years applied to turf surfaces prophylactically throughout the autumn and winter as a turf hardener, with the intent of helping the turf resist the rigours of the winter climate and fungal disease by thickening cell walls.
Perceived wisdom which holds no truth in scientific reality.
Iron has no involvement in the thickening of plant cell walls; for that, you need calcium. Furthermore, the acidic nature of Iron sulphate will actually act to weaken plant cell wall structure. The unsuitability of Iron sulphate for this purpose was shown in disease trials in autumn 2016, where prophylactic applications of iron sulphate statistically performed no better in controlling disease concentrations around 35-40%. Curative applications of iron sulphate produced a 50% reduction in disease concentration, but you’ve then got the problem of reduced leaf integrity due to the acidic action.
In this instance, use phosphite, which stimulates plant protection without simultaneously making it more susceptible to further infection.
These research findings concur with the message we at Pitchcare have been recommending for some time, which is:
- Do not use iron sulphate to harden turf against disease
- Use foliar calcium in combination with phosphite and potassium silicate
- To promote colour, use a 100% chelated iron (worth asking the question: how much is chelated, as most are not 100% and contain some iron sulphate) or, alternatively, consider applications of magnesium
If you are going to apply iron sulphate, then do so in the spring to control moss when temperatures are too low for bacterial moss treatments to work effectively, and the sulphate will promote early season plant metabolic function.
In terms of general nutrition, then September is still not too late for an organic based fertiliser, with longevities of up to eight weeks, this should see you through to the end of autumn.
July through August witnessed high disease pressure due to prolonged humidity driven by persistent rainfall and overcast days. During this period, diseases such as microdochium patch constantly bubbled away on fine turf surfaces, ebbing and flowing in the background to varying degrees of severity. Due to typically strong leaf growth through July and August, the grass is often able to outgrow the disease, preventing severe infection. However, as cooler nights in September cause soil temperatures to fall and growth rates to subsequently subside, the grass begins to lose any advantage.
The use of systemic active ingredients will be the only option once Iprodione - the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface - is most likely to be withdrawn in the next twelve months.
The new norm will be fungicides having to be applied prior to visible signs of disease, using cross referencing of historical outbreaks, weather forecasts and turf conditions to make informed decisions on the best timing. This latter approach is something which actually has the advantage of preventing early season scars, and the subsequent depositing of densely concentrated populations of fungal spores at their margins lying in wait for the slightest whiff of opportunity to fire back up and create ever expanding scars all winter long.
Now is the key time to apply entomopathogenic nematodes for the control of Leatherjackets and Chafer Grubs. Plenty of moisture both before and after application is the key to success, and the addition of a penetrant wetting agent will further aid results.
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
Ensure you look after your equipment and store safe and secure, it is a good idea to get into a habit of washing down and and cleaning after use.
Keep your mower clean and well serviced, check bottom blades and cylinders for sharpness.
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.
If preferred, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
We have the following LANTRA accredited one day courses planned:
Tuesday 3rd October, Thanet, CR9 1RN
Tuesday 17th October, East Harling, Norwich, NR16 2NB
We also have a one day LANTRA accredited LINEMARKING COURSE being held:
Wednesday 18th October, East Harling, Norwich, NR16 2NB
Other training courses available include:
Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers
Please ensure that all goalposts meet health and safety standards. Now is a good time to thoroughly check them over. If you have stored them away, give them a thorough once over to ensure that they will be fit for purpose for the new season. If you find any defects, these must be reported to your management/committee, with appropriate remedies being sought – ahead of the season!
It would be prudent to thoroughly clean out your linemarking kit. If the forecasted showers appear, what better time to do this mundane but important job? Regardless of the type of machine you use, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much better your lines will look for the start of the season.
Other areas should also be checked over, such as fences and dugouts.