2 Further research on sugars

Further research on sugars

Cliveclose.jpgBy Clive Liddiard

We continue to trial sugars on two football pitches, one rugby pitch and all six of the cricket squares at Hampton School in Middlesex. The general advice about sugars from many companies is that they are particularly useful from the spring to the summer, but my trials have shown proof that winter usage of sugars is the most important time, as there appears to be greater effect in winter than summer. The soil already has a high bacterial count in the summer due to the general heat /soil temperatures. What we are discovering at lower temperatures, because the plant photosynthesis is reduced, due to less available light, is that we can provide a direct source of carbohydrate into the plant without the need for it to warm up to photosynthesise.HScricket.jpg

By removing the element of photosynthesis we are able to encourage the plant to reduce the production of chlorophyll, which means we encourage the energy to concentrate the growth only in the roots. Here at the school we have a pan on the cricket squares but, since the introduction of the sugars, we have been able to get the roots to break through this pan, holding the surface together much better. This has enabled us to get on to the squares and do aeration operations that before were impossible without serious 'lift'.

I have also now had the squares drilled, as you may have seen in my previous article. I would also like to point out that on all of these trial areas there has been no use of granular fertilisers for the last 12 months. We apply the sugars as a pure liquid mix, and there has been only minimal nitrogen applied, except for about 2% that's found in the sugars natural state. As this is a natural source, the plants use it far more efficiently.

The sugar programme has meant that we can now get the Wiedenmann tines down to 8 inches (200mm), without causing any damage (top disturbance). As well as this, the plants on the squares are very healthy, very strong colours, and you can see from the pictures that the plants which were only seeded in October, and therefore late in the season, have taken very well.

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A minor problem that seems to be associated with the sugar treatments is the development of surface cross roots and feeder roots, but a scarifying operation usually deals with this.HSCLplugfootball.jpg

People tend to use granular fertilisers, developed originally from the agriculture market, where growth was promoted in the leaf not the root to produce big healthy blades of grass for crop silage and fat rhizomes etc for other crops. We now discover that, with recent samples, the leaf blade has become very acidic when high Nitrogen levels are used and the plant produces much more chlorophyll. With the addition of nitrogen, we found that the middle of the plant is weakened dramatically. By removing the Nitrogen and artificially providing the plant with the correct formula of sugars we are able to reduce the acidity and therefore optimise growth. I do add magnesium and potassium with the sugars as well as 2% seaweed with the mixture. This keeps the bacteria levels very high, and we do not get any algae trouble from the seaweed.

We took samples recently and tested the grass leaves on both fertilised and unfertilised areas, the difference in the plant leaves was dramatic. Plants gaining a granular feed were very lush in the leaves but offered poor rooting, whereas the non fertilised, but sugar treated plants were not lush (low chlorophyll count), were more healthy and importantly had an extensive and improved root system.

At the moment we're at a stage where we can only apply the sugars in a liquid form but we are developing it to be used with a carrier in a granular formula so the plant can draw the sugar from the carrier as required, instead of straight diffusion. We are also looking to manufacture it in a solid block form so that it could go into irrigation systems holding tanks or into a spray gun for syringing.

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We spray the pitches with the sugar liquid about every 6-8 weeks. I change the application rate to what I regard as suitable at the time, but a rough guide is a 30:1, water/sugar solution. The biggest difference that we've seen physically is the growth, we are mowing all the sugar treated areas every two weeks at the moment and, on the football and rugby pitches, we are removing a box of grass per cut. I cut these pitches with a 2.1metreHSCLplugupclose.jpg

I'm not saying that we're getting growth in sub-zero temperatures, that's an impossibility, what we have discovered though is we can actually encourage growth at a much lower temperature of between 4-6 degrees. We also thought that the plant was only taking the sugar through the leaf but actually the plant has been accessing the sugars successfully through the root system as well.

We have discovered six sugar types found naturally within the plant. The break through really with all the sugar treatments is when we realised that the addition of magnesium within the feed is critical. The magnesium acts like a catalyst for the sugars. The addition of calcium to the sugar mix further improved plant performance. What we also know for certain is that the bacterial levels have increased dramatically, reducing disease and thatch levels considerably. More importantly the loam on the cricket squares seems to be changing. The four-inch (100mm) pan caused a layer of stagnation. Following the sugar treatments this layer has now disappeared. The loam is now fresh smelling and the bacterial levels are up by 200-300 %.

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Although much of the testing has been conducted here at the school, we also have similar trials on two golf greens at a prestigious golf club and two stadium venues. All of which have produced startling results. I have been conducting the research and trials for eight years, and I can at last see light at the end of the tunnel. We hope to complete the research by June this year (2004). We need this spring to put the last few finishing touches to it, finding the appropriate carrier; once completed I will issue a paper of our research.

I read theory books all the time, but science and technology continue to move on and books can become out dated. I agree you still need to do the basics in terms of aeration, scarifying and other principle works. My research developed from a simple question. "Why are we giving plants elements that are not natural for it? Why not provide something that's natural to it and develop ways of how to let the plant use it efficiently."

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