It is time to go back to mechanical methods to rejuvenate turf, which can offer significant financial and environmental benefits, suggests Tim Merrell of the Grass Group.
"Coming out of a hard winter, there's an ideal window of opportunity to boost turf health once growth starts," he explains. "Well timed scarification can encourage healthy growth, tackle disease and make the turf less susceptible to attack by pests. Greenkeepers and groundsmen can also save on chemical and fertiliser costs."
Tim points out that the snow which fell onto relatively warm soil in November will have led to die back and created ideal conditions for fungal activity. "Get into the turf with a scarifier in the spring and take out the dead areas and moss that has grown," he advises. The clean turf will make overseeding more effective, and ensure that fertiliser and top dressing can get into the sward. New growth can then infill as the season progresses, making for a harder-wearing, more resilient sward.
"Fertilisers and top dressings can get caught up in the mat of thatch and moss rather than benefiting new growth," Tim points out, "and later in the season will soak up rain or irrigation water like a sponge. A clean sward makes the best use of nutrients, water and air throughout the growing season. Scarification can have a dramatic effect on turf at a key time of year as air gets into the sward, stimulating vigorous growth."
Thatch can also harbour pests such as wireworms and chafer grub eggs, whereas strong spring growth means they have nowhere to go, he comments. Making best use of fertiliser, and minimising the need for pesticides not only helps cut costs, but is also better for the environment, says Tim.
Selecting the right machinery depends on the area to be treated and the amount of material to be removed.
"For greens and tees, light and compact machinery is needed to protect the fine turf," he points out. " The ATT TMSystem offers the ideal opportunity to make the most of machinery - greenkeepers who have the cutting units can quickly and easily swap for a scarifying reel. The options range from the pedestrian Infinipower unit which is the ultimate lightweight turf maintenance unit, to cassettes for greens triples and fairway mowers," says Tim.
Tractor mounted options for greens and tees include the Rotadairon ED130 dethatcher from the renowned range of maintenance equipment, which also offers the versatility of use as a spiker. The ED130 can work to 60mm deep, rapidly clearing out dead material into an optional collector.
Larger areas such as fairways and pitches need higher output equipment, and The Grass Group offers a number of solutions from Trilo, including the VCU verticutter and scarifier collectors.
"Some fairways can produce as much as 20cu.m of dead material, so a scarifier collector is needed, or you could choose a TMSystem scarifying reel on the fairway mower followed by a Trilo vacuum collector."
With machines on the market to suit all budgets, Tim suggests that scarification could offer golf clubs and sports facilities the opportunity to cut costs when renovating turf this spring, which could be very useful in the current climate.
"The industry is being encouraged to move away from quick fixes and return to good husbandry, and clearing out the turf in the spring is an excellent example of this. We have neglected the benefits of mechanical controls in recent years, and it's an ideal opportunity to go full circle and get the best out of turf by encouraging optimum spring growth," he concludes.
The Grass Group, Wadebridge Farm, Landwade, Exning, Newmarket Suffolk CB8 7NE UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1638 720123 - Fax: +44 (0) 1638 720128 - www.thegrassgroup.com