Key Tasks for October
With the rugby union season in full swing and the rugby league season coming to a close, most groundsmen will now have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing.
Presentation is important. If it looks well presented, with bands, stripes and a consistent surface, it makes the game more enjoyable for the players.
Most facilities will maintain a height of cut between 30-40mm.
Essential tasks in preparing pitches for play involve, mowing, marking out, divoting, brushing and carrying out aeration.
Training areas will be prone to damage from specific training regimes. Where possible, rotate the areas where these drills take place.
- Continue cutting when necessary and ground conditions permit 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 as and when required
- Continue shallow spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to compliment your deep spiking.
- 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
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.
Divoting is crucial, so start as you mean to go on. At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will help to repair any deep scars. Repair damage using a fork to close up scars and make sure divots are replaced and firmed into surface to give roots a chance to take hold again.
Oversow sparse or bare areas. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that, without good seed to soil contact, the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
- Keep your linemarker clean
- Keep string lines taut when marking out to avoid deviating from the straight
- 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
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is level and safe for play
- Check for and remove debris (glass, stones etc.)
- Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out, 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
- Remove debris from the playing surface with a rotary mower
- Check goals and padding
- Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
- Repair and maintain fence lines
- Sweep up/vacuum fallen leaves
The start of October promises to be fairly settled as high pressure dominates and clear skies promise low relative humidity and cold night time temperatures. The sun is still high enough in the sky that bright sunshine during the day will provide enough energy to drive continual recovery growth from post drought renovations. It is likely, however, that settled weather will not extend throughout the whole of the month; beware cloudy days, milder nights, still days and high relative humidity, for these are the conditions where Microdochium nivale will proliferate. With the withdrawal of the fungicide Iprodione in June of this year, autumn 2018 is the first year UK turf managers head into high periods of disease pressure without a get out of jail curative card. Furthermore, there is significant pressure on other active substances so don’t be surprised if autumn 2019 sees us with even less chemical options on the menu. Now then more than ever, all levels of the turf industry from top end professional to the hard working volunteers of the local amateur scene need to engage with a proactive mentality of Integrated Pest Management. If you are at all unsure of what this entails, then pick up the telephone and call one of the Pitchcare Technical Advisors who will be able to provide you with advice on cost effective solutions and practical steps to implement.
Regulating nitrogen inputs to maintain steady hardy shoot and leaf growth is a priority. Lush growth is more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens so slow release nitrogen, either polymer coated or methylene urea in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through to the new year. Where conventional fertilisers are chosen, ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.
A dose of micronutrients is a good idea to ensure the plant has a full menu of essential nutrition.
Iron – the traditional go to option for hardening the plant in the winter. However, there is no research to suggest iron plays a role in hardening the plant against pathogen attack. Calcium and silicon are the proven elements for this need. Sulphate of iron in particular will weaken the cell walls of the leaf due to the acidity, rather a fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling beneficial microorganisms.
Carbohydrates - Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar during the autumn will be sorted in the plant and soil over winter. The benefit of this is a more resilient and well developed plant in the early spring.
Seaweed – maintain seaweed applications during October, but avoid applications at times when environmental conditions favour fungal pathogens. Seaweed will illicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity and when conditions favour the disease.
Amino acids – play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events.
Humates – continue applications to maximise nutrient availability and application efficiency as well as providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.
Ø Adequate balance nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK
Ø Minimise stress by raising heights of cut and avoiding activities such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf integrity
Ø Look after the soil via regular light aeration
Ø Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or using dew dispersants (apply only to a dry leaf)
Ø Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
Ø Plan, stock, apply beneficial nutrition as part of non-pesticidal disease management
Ø Take advice on and plan strategic preventative fungicide applications using historic data, live weather forecasts and site specific conditions and protected maintenance operations which may cause abiotic stress.
There are no legal substances which can be applied for the control of worms. Any substance or products which act directly upon worms would never be approved by CRD for authorisation.
The only legal option is modification of the local surface soil environment via acidifying with specifically formulated solutions of ammonium sulphate or the application of straight sulphate.
Beware regular applications of sulphate of iron, they may well discourage surface casting activity, but the iron will accumulate in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout rest of the year.
Keep your machinery well serviced, sharp and clean. Take time to inspect cutting blades and ensure they are sharp, set at the correct HOC (Height of cut).
Line marking materials should have been ordered in time for the new season. There are plenty of marking compounds on the market, along with a wide range of markers. Keep your markers clean and use string lines to help keep your lines straight.
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!
Other areas should also be checked over, such as fences and dugouts.
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.
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:
Safe Use of Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers