Expected weather for this month:

Unsettled start with plenty of rain about and temperatures around average

The rugby union fans will be biting their nails at the moment, as the British and Irish Lions face up to their crucial matches against the All Blacks. By the time some of you read this, the second test will be over - and possibly also the chances of the Lions to win the series. Let's hope not.

From a groundsmanship point of view, the union grounds team will be cutting, aerating and feeding to build up the sward in readiness for the new season ahead, whilst the rugby league grounds teams will be doing their pre match and after match preparations.

Key Tasks for July

Continue cutting regularly to ensure a good sward density. It may sometimes be helpful on any 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. Let the clippings fly to assist nutrient levels and retain water in the surface.

The soil can dry out quickly in any periods of sunny conditions, so 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.

Spike when the conditions allow, but keep your regime flexible.

Apply a summer NPK fertiliser, something like a 12:0:9 or 9:7:7, to maintain grass colour and vigour.  Liquid fertilisers and  biostimulants have become popular, primarily due the fact they can be often mixed and taken in by the plant more readily. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through July and August. The choice of materials and how well they work will depend on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.

Do not apply fertiliser during periods of drought, unless you have the means to water in.

Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this will exacerbate the stress factors in the grass as it draws moisture from the plant. Use of liquid fertilisers are less likely to scorch grass, but may still need to be watered in.

Consider, as an alternative, applications of seaweed or amino biostimulants to help your grass through stressful periods. Another consideration is the use of calcium, an important ingredient for giving the plant rigidity and regulating root and shoot growth.

As the climate lurches from blazing sunshine, intense heat and high evapotranspiration to low light levels, high humidity and potential waterlogging, so the plant is exposed to abiotic (environmental) stress one week and biotic (organism) induced stress the next.

Accordingly, a turf surface may enter wilt and dormancy one week or it may come under attack from fungal diseases the next. The key thing to understand is this; as the extremes are more intense and unpredictable, the buffer zone of tolerance before the onset of plant, and ergo surface damage, comes under increasing pressure. Turf surfaces which do not conform to good agronomic standards and are not being maintained with sound agronomic principles will have a very narrow buffer zone of tolerance, and will be toppled over the edge into damage far quicker than those which are.

So, theory aside, what practical steps can turf managers take through throughout July to help mitigate against stress damage?

  1. Use weather windows wisely

Time waits for no man and the British weather is no exception. Make sure you have stocks of feed and treatment on the shelf; in this way, you can make applications at the very best time to maximise positive effect on the plant and soil ecosystem, thus maximising turf quality and value for money.

  1. Monitor climactic patterns and gain an awareness of triggers

5-7 day forecast is hot and sunny – foliar apply seaweed to trigger plant systemic-acquired resistance mechanisms, tank mix with a little potassium to better regulate stomatal function and thus water loss, add a little calcium to compensate for its lack of mobility in dry conditions by shortcutting it straight into the plant where it can be utilised for the growth of cells.

5-7 day forecast is warm and humid – foliar apply some seaweed and a carbon sugar, again to trigger plant systemic-acquired resistance but also to boost plant beneficial rhizobacteria in the soil, add some phosphite and calcium to guard against fungal pathogen penetration of the leaf.

The key factor for determining success with these strategies is three fold: Monitor the upcoming climate > Understand what the prevailing climate will trigger > Understand the mechanisms by which products have an effect on the plant and in the soil.

The number one rule which applies to both - undertake these operations proactively prior to the stress, aim to prevent not cure.

  1. Look after the physics

Coming into or out of a wet period – soft ground means opportunity for deeper vertical aeration which will allow the soil to breathe assisting soil microorganisms and encourage deeper vertical rooting, increasing the plant’s tolerance to dry periods.

Coming into or experiencing a hot period – undertake sarel or star tine aeration to break through a high percentage of the soil surface, increase the ability of irrigation or water to penetrate, thus increasing the surface’s tolerance to dry periods.

General agronomic jobs for July

  • Maintain wetting agent programmes.
  • Maintain plant growth inhibitor programmes.
  • As a rule of thumb, apply granular feeds when rain is prevalent and look more toward foliar or liquids when experiencing dry spells.
  • Don’t apply herbicides when experiencing hot weather, as the plant will have shut down its systems, massively reducing uptake, transportation and thus efficacy.
  • Continue to monitor the life cycle of insect pathogens such as leatherjacket and chafer beetles in readiness to apply entomopathogenic nematodes, as per the seasonal application periods
  • Monitor for anthracnose activity -  the spores will have been activated by high temperatures at the end of the May and again the end of June, incubation takes around 6 weeks. Chemical treatments are an option, as are weekly small doses of nitrogen.

 

Fairy Rings are in evidence and Red Thread has swept spectacularly through a lot of outfield turf. With such a peak in disease activity in mid-summer we are expecting continued problems over the next few months; therefore acting preventatively by applying a systemic fungicide such as Heritage Maxx will be the most effective form of control. Application before symptoms are visible but the threat is imminent is the key to success when adopting a preventative approach.

Symptoms of Fusarium (Microdochium nival), the most common and damaging disease, are orange/brown patches 2.5-5cm across increasing in size under suitable conditions as the disease progresses. Active patches have a distinctive 'ginger' appearance when viewed early in the morning. Creamy white mycelium resembling cotton wool can be seen in the centre and towards the outer edge of the patch.

Grass in the active patches is often slimy; once the disease is controlled the scars will remain until there is sufficient grass growth to fill in. Regular brushing, switching or drag matting in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. 

Red Thread is ill-defined bleached grass with Pink mycelium visible in early morning dew. Close inspection will reveal red needle like structures which are attached to the leaf blades. The needles become brittle upon death and are easily detached allowing fragments to spread the disease. 

Systemic curatives and protective fungicides such as Chlorothalonil and Iprodione, applied in liquid form with water as a carrier, can be used to control any outbreaks. Mixing two or more products in the same tank can help reduce the potential for disease resistance developing. Fungicides are selected with different modes of action so that resulting mixture will attack the target disease on two or more fronts. This makes it more difficult for the pathogens to develop resistance to treatments. 

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

At this time of the year, it is important that mower blades are clean and sharp. Blunt blades will tear the grass and leave it susceptible to disease.

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:

Linemarking
Safe Use of Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers
Hedgecutters
Brushcutters/strimmers
Toolbox Training
Manual Handling

More details

During this month:  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.