Key Tasks for October
With both the rugby union and rugby league seasons now underway, 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
We end September with what seems like more rainfall in the last few days of the month than we have seen over both August and September combined. Although looking back, there have been a few days of significant rainfall in these months, however this rain at the end of September feels much needed as there has been very little over the past weeks and most places are looking significantly dry, certainly for the time of year. Looking ahead at the forecasts, the unsettled end of the month carries on into the start of October. Although further into October appears more settled, those with renovations planned in early October may have to consider the option of drier but cooler conditions slightly later, or wetter but warmer soil temperatures slightly earlier.
As weather conditions change, October can be a high disease pressure month. Cooler temperatures, with increased leaf and soil wetness, mean that it’s important to constantly monitor the local environmental conditions with a view of the site’s previous history and patterns in disease outbreaks; knowing which areas are key indicators can help massively to stay ahead of damaging disease outbreaks. As conditions become more conducive for disease development, being aware of historic turf responses to certain weather conditions form a central part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.
For many, the focus this month is Microdochium nivale (microdochium patch) control. There may still be some signs of the increasingly present Anthracnose, but as maintenance practices alter, raising heights of cut, reduced mowing etc… many of the stresses that contribute to this disease are eased slightly. Conditions in October can be ideal for Microdochium nivale outbreaks, and predicting when these outbreaks may occur is challenging. Gaining an understanding of what contributes to disease pressure reaching tipping point on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any of the applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure. These may be fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications.
As it becomes more difficult to rotate active ingredients, due to the decrease of new chemistry in the amenity market, the more information there is available then the easier it is to make accurate decisions on what, when and how to apply. Fungicide technology is only one part of an IPM approach, and increasingly it will be the other applications which will become more in focus as tools with which to reduce disease outbreaks and severity. Morning dews can lead to an increase in leaf wetness in October and this additional moisture on the surface can be the perfect vehicle for pathogens. Therefore, utilising dew dispersant technology can be a useful tool. Expectations need to be set to a realistic level in relation to longevity of the products compared to when using them in cool months when growth potential is low. When frequent mowing is still taking place, the longevity is going to be relatively short, however this can still be long enough to reduce the level of leaf wetness to get through a high disease pressure period.
With changes in temperatures and available sunlight, a shift in approach to nutrition should follow. The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding any flushes of growth that would be more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. Fertilisers with a slow release nitrogen source, such as IBDU or CDU will give longevity through the autumn and into winter. If slow release fertilisers are not suitable for a specific site, when using a conventional fertiliser ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent (to avoid the aforementioned flushes of growth) or use a suitable application rate.
Biostimulants applied at the right time will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar can assist the plant in being more resilient and well-developed in the early spring. Therefore, a well-planned autumn application can have benefits on the start of the following season.
Seaweed has been shown to elicit important beneficial defence and stress responses in plants and associated microorganisms. Amino acids play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and to cope with autumnal and winter stress events, such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content.
Don’t forget the emergency authorisation for applicatons of Acelepryn for the control of leatherjackets is still available with an end date for sale and application being 29th November. A month later than previous years.
There has been plenty of activity recently reported, with some noting a particularly long hatch period. Applications of the product should continue to be made when peak activity of the adult crane fly on the wing are observed, if this has given satisfactory results previously. If satisfactory control is not been achieved, new research indicates applications can be made up to one month after peak flight. Adult flies commence egg laying almost immediately, with hatching and larvae emergence about two weeks later; Acelepryn is most active on the 1st and 2nd instar larval stages. As with an integrated approach to disease management, monitoring, record keeping and understanding of the pests organisms life cycle are key factors for success.
With the relatively dry August and September, worm activity has been minimal for most, however as moisture levels continue to rise, these may become a major issue to contend with. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management is the only route currently available. There are many options available, but the result should be measured against the amount of input required to get those results and then whether it is justifiable to carry the practices out. Practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. This does not completely eradicate the problem, but it will lead to less negative lasting impressions on the surface from the casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent, but it is worth using with caution to avoid over application which may lead to negative effects to plant health throughout the 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.