Key Tasks for August
After many weeks of unbroken sunshine across the country turf surfaces in all regions have suffered from abiotic stress brought about by heat and drought. As we enter in to August the first vestiges of recovery following localised rain fall are in some areas, beginning to show through. However we are not yet out of this period of stress and dormant turf surfaces and back to business as usual. Grass of course goes into either partial or complete dormancy when subjected to water stress in an effort to conserve the vital crown and roots. Once the weather does break the plant will restart leaf production and swards will return, however turf managers should consider what is returning and how useful those returning species are. Moss and Poa annua will be quick to take advantage of a situation they are evolved to excel in. It is very much the case that the quality of surfaces in 2019 will be dictated by the quality of the autumn renovation in 2018.
Soil which is baked hard will be hydrophobic meaning that early post drought rain fall will not be fully optimised. A penetrant wetting agent will break the surface tension meaning that more of the water which does fall is able to effectively soak into the soil where it is needed to drive fast and efficient recovery. Multi action wetting agents which combine a penetrant with the retention properties of a block copolymer will hold and suspend water which does penetrate into the soil at a depth where plant roots can access it.
Once growth does return regenerating a sward in as short a period of time will maintain surface integrity and stability. Turf managers would be wise to minimise high nitrogen inputs at this time, opting instead for a gentle all round feed which includes secondary macronutrients and micro nutrients with a moderate quantity of nitrogen and phosphorus. It is worth considering that calcium availability becomes limited in dry soils, calcium of course being a driver of cell division and growth throughout all regions of the plant.
Ideally initial feeds would consist of a foliar liquid application to reduce the risk of scorch if soils are still relatively dry. Foliar feeds are also absorbed directly into the plant via leaf absorption. This will encourage steady consistent recovery without forcing excessive growth in September as dew’s start to get heavy. Partnering a feed with the restorative powers of plant phytohormones in seaweed bolstered by the energy source of carbon sugars will underpin the plant soil ecosystem. Humic acid acts to facilitate enhanced nutrient absorption into the roots via the soil water solution pathway, so utilising this ability once soil water levels are returning will help to make nutrition in the soil readily available.
Allowing the soil to breath via aeration is a cornerstone of turf management practices throughout the year. Where surfaces are hard then sarel tine aeration will help to increase the surface area as well as break capping, both of which will facilitate improved penetration of irrigation and rainfall. Areas where soils begin to rehydrate and soften will benefit from deeper aeration with solid tines. This will allow accumulated gasses to escape.
Renovation Considerations – Scarification, Overseeding and Topdressing
If conditions remain dry then aggressive maintenance operations will have to wait until strong and consistent recovery growth returns. However following prolonged dry weather the renovation practices of previous years will not necessarily be adequate and due consideration ahead of time needs to be factored into club meetings and budgets.
The main consideration should be that areas which do not recover well post drought will need to be seeded and baked organic matter will need to be broken up. The survival rate of grass seed which germinates within a thatch layer is significantly reduced compared to seed which germinates in contact with the soil. Aggressive scarification of surface organic matter opens up spaces for seeds to contact the soil as well as allowing water and oxygen to better penetrate into the soil.
Where recovery is patchy or slow providing an adequate supply of seed from desirable species will be important to keep surfaces clean. If there is space in the profile weeds, Poa annua and moss will fill them first ahead of the desirable perennial grasses. Overseeding rates may well need to be increased to compensate for dead and slowly recovering desirable species. Sown seed requires protection, to maximise germination, as a result establishment rates for uncovered grass seed on the surface are significantly reduced.
Once scarification and seeding has been completed top dressing introduces vital mineral matter into the surface thereby diluting dead organic matter and thatch with mineral material. This mineral matter harbours moisture and nutrients as well as creating pores for air. All of which help microorganisms to decompose organic material.
Grass seed requires a light covering of mineral matter to promote effective germination and establishment. Application of top dressing compatible with the underlying soil surface is important. A medium to heavy dressing in during the autumn renovation helps to protect seedlings and return surface levels post scarification and aeration.
Once moisture returns so does relative humidity, when humidity combines with stressed turf and warm temperatures, conditions are conducive to the growth of fungi. Consequently a host of turf diseases can expect to be witnessed through August and into September.
However 2018 is the first year without the curative activity of the fungicide iprodione, the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface. The only chemical options for turf disease are preventative systemic substances. Application prior to the observation of symptoms is vital in ensuring their success.
Diseases to be on guard for during August if conditions become increasingly warm and wet include; Anthracnose, Dollar Spot, Brown Patch, Rusts, Red Thread, Leaf Spot.
It is worth consulting the Turf Disease Triangle below and giving due consideration to what circumstances, conditions, maintenance practices and inputs on your site may influence each of the three factors.
Away from Plant Protection Products such as fungicides, which directly target a virulent pathogen, thriving in a favourable environment. One of the most effective tactics available to the turf manager is to reducing the susceptibility of the host. In this regard, adequate water availability combined with appropriate and balanced base nutrition are further bolstered by the benefits of cell wall boosting and plant system enhancing calcium, phosphite and silicon.
August is the start of the Entomopathogenic nematode application window for the control of Chafer grubs and Leatherjackets. Be sure to apply when soil moisture levels are adequate and where levels can be maintained with irrigation in the absence of rain for best results
You should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season.
- Inspect machinery and equipment
- Clean after use
- Remember to check air filters
- Inspect and reset mowing blades on cylinder mowers to ensure they remain sharp
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for tennis clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
- Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
- H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
- Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
- Pesticide Application (PA courses)
- Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
- Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
- Ensure drainage outfalls, channels and ditches are clear
- Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards
- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface
- Regular sweeping and brushing
- Repair any hollows or damaged areas
- Repaint lines