Amongst our ever changing weather patterns, one thing that seems to have become established are consistently warmer autumn periods, bringing the regular threat of enhanced disease activity.
Longer seasons and increased demands for quality playing surfaces make it all the more important to try to minimise any disease presence, despite such ideal conditions, during these seemingly more predictable periods of attack.
Headland's Andy Russell looks into the topic.
Over the last few years, the influence of the jet stream has played an ever-increasing role in the development of weather extremes in the U.K and Ireland. Prolonged periods of 'peak' and 'trough' weather patterns now seem normal, resulting in unusually warm, dry 'peaks', and wet, cool conditions during a 'trough'.
Conditions such as these have made it harder to manage diseases like Fusarium on a day-to-day basis, due in part to the increased speed and intensity of disease activity during warm weather, increased plant leaf moisture and a reduction in effective spray windows during cooler, wet periods.
Maximising plant health going into and during this autumn period can have a positive effect on reducing the incidence of turf disease.
This approach takes a longer term, strategic view of turf management using preventative applications of plant elicitors and plant hardeners, applied prior to the main disease period, rather than relying solely on costly, repeated fungicide application.
Based on independent trials carried out at the STRI over the last 5 seasons, and many years of positive field experience, Headland Amenity customers have benefitted from just such a pro-active strategy to maintain surfaces in the autumn.
The now well established '20/20/30' mix of specific plant hardeners and elicitors has shown excellent results and forms the backbone of many late season management programmes.
The aim is to reduce the effects of disease occurrence by promoting a healthy, strong plant, which is more resistant to infection.
The programme utilises a tank-mix application of 3 liquid plant health products alongside a liquid fertiliser.
Of the plant health products, Liquid Turf Hardener is a calcium based plant hardener that helps increase cell wall thickness.
Seamac ProTurf is a citrate chelated iron formulation that also hardens cells and creates an acidic leaf environment, and Turfite is a phosphite liquid, formulated to trigger the natural defence mechanism of the plant (SAR or Systemic acquired resistance) aiding plant growth even in the presence of a pathogen.
The combination of these three products applied prior to the onset of disease, at rates of 20L/Ha (Liquid Turf Hardener), 20L/Ha Turfite and 30L/Ha Seamac ProTurf (hence '20/20/30' mix) has shown to be the most beneficial in helping to minimise the effects of Fusarium over the autumn/winter period.
An additional inclusion of a potassium fertiliser (Vertex K) provides increased winter hardiness and stress resistance and applications should commence before the typical period of disease incidence experienced in previous years.
Further monthly treatments, supplementing an efficient (but not excessive) nutritional program, help to sustain an optimally healthy grass plant that is less susceptible to disease issues in this difficult period.
As with most things, timing is key. If Fusarium is not allowed to proliferate in those early autumn weeks and is kept in check, then experience has shown a much cleaner, healthier sward is evident going into the new season.
The 20/20/30 approach is based on helping the plant to defend itself more efficiently from disease. Any significant level of disease reduction might result in a reducing need for fungicide alongside a more easily managed situation and higher quality turf going into winter.
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