Over 100 greenkeepers, turf managers, agronomists and golf club managers attended the first ever Turf Science Live at the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) this week (Tuesday 27 July 2010). The event, which included an innovative approach of live demonstrations of some of the latest developments in turf agronomy, was hailed a great success.
Organised by Syngenta, Scotts Professional and STRI, the practical topics covered highlighted surface conversion techniques to establish desirable fine grass species on greens, how to successfully manage environmental features around the golf course to maximise biodiversity value and application techniques to get spray treatments on target. The new format gave the opportunity for small groups of greenkeepers to engage in active discussion and debate on the merits and potential for different techniques.
Simon Barnaby of Scotts Professional reported the ability of Primo Maxx to increase chlorophyll concentration in the leaf can help plants stay greener and healthier through periods of stress. Raising the height of cut by just 1mm can significantly relieve stress and reduce susceptibility to Anthracnose, whilst the enhanced turf density means no loss in green speed, he added. Turf Science Live trial plots demonstrated the potential of Primo Maxx and nutrition programmes to enhance turf colour and improve surface smoothness - with a 20% improvement on treated areas. Discussion between greenkeepers at Turf Science Live highlighted the flexibility in Primo Maxx use to suit individual situations, with many finding a lower application rate of 0.2 l/ha applied at fortnightly intervals can maintain growth suppression more evenly than rates of 0.4 l/ha at monthly intervals, and fits with the 'little and often' approach to plant nutrition.
Accurate quantitative assessment of playing surface quality, using the latest tools and techniques, gives greenkeepers the vital information to make better turf management decisions. STRI agronomist, Henry Bechelet, told groups of greenkeepers at Turf Science Live that objective monitoring can help the move towards targets for improved turf conditions. "Armed with the knowledge provided by the STRI Programme you can focus maintenance and priorities in the right areas for speed, smoothness, hardness, moisture and organic content management," he said.
Over seeding with a mix of desirable bentgrass species and sand direct into grooves cut into the turf surface can achieve the combined objectives of lowering organic matter and enhancing sward composition in one operation, reported Keith Kensett of Kensett Sport. Trials at STRI, assessed at Turf Science Live, compared the success of the Graden machine to hollow tine coring and other over seeding techniques. Application of Primo Maxx five-days prior to over seeding to suppress competition from existing plants can significantly improve the establishment of seedlings, he added.
Nutritional input for fine turf areas has been one of the hottest topics of discussion in the turf industry for many years, claimed Ed Carter of Scotts Professional. Demonstrating a full range of fertilizer technologies at Turf Science Live, he highlighted that inappropriate fertilizer applications have long been known to create poor growing conditions for fine turf. "Too much nutrient can create soft lush grass, which is susceptible to disease and excess wear. It can also encourage the coarser grass species, such as Poa annua," he warned. It is also worth noting that too much nutrient is wasteful and can harm the environment, he added. "Liquid and foliar applications are becoming more popular as they can be easily tank mixed and give the turf manager flexibility with inputs, whilst allowing maximum control of growth. The key to successful turf is to use high quality products, proven through research, which allow the turf manager a flexible and prescriptive approach to feeding."
Knowing the current status the soils beneath your golf greens allows you to make the decisions required for your management plans, says STRI Laboratory Manager, Michael Baines. He demonstrated some of the latest techniques used in the STRI laboratories, which analyse more than 5,000 test samples every year including rootzones, construction and maintenance materials used in sports playing surfaces, golf courses and amenity areas. The USGA approved laboratory is the official testing house for the British Rootzone and Top Dressing Manufacturers Association, he added. STRI Plant Pathologist, Julie Wheater, also demonstrated how the STRI laboratory can manipulate environmental conditions to test products in small-scale trials. Laboratory studies showed how Primo Maxx can be used in conjunction with Heritage Maxx to reduce stress and increase water use efficiency of turf plants.
Improved application techniques could help greenkeepers target sprays where they will get consistently better results, according to Syngenta Application Specialist, Ben Magri. At Turf Science Live he demonstrated in action the new nozzle developments from Syngenta that include foliar nozzles designed to retain more spray on the leaf at lower water volumes and with significant reduction in drift, compared to conventional flat fans, along with Syngenta Turf Soil Nozzle designed to target applications into the base of plants and the soil surface for enhanced Take All and Fairy Ring control. Mr Magri pinpointed the need for regular calibration and the importance of correct boom height setting in achieving accurate results and optimum spray coverage.
STRI trials to assess new management techniques of environmental areas to boost bumblebees and biodiversity created a buzz of interest and excitement at Turf Science Live. STRI Head of Turfgrass Protection, Dr Ruth Mann, said new options to use Rescue and Primo Maxx to control invasive grasses and allow sown wildflowers to flourish had achieved amazing results in just two seasons that would have taken years to create with conventional techniques. Syngenta Technical Manager, Dr Simon Watson, added the turf specific knowledge being generated by the Syngenta-sponsored STRI project builds on the success of the company's Operation Pollinator, which had seen endangered bumblebee numbers increased by up to 650% by the management of specific areas of farmland dedicated to habitat creation and managed to boost pollinating insect populations.
Introducing Turf Science Live, STRI Chief Executive, Gordon McKillop, said: "At a time when there are constant demands from club management and players calling for ever greater quality within tough budget constraints, it's crucial that turf managers get the chance to see first-hand the many exciting developments in turf agronomy, and how they can put the innovation into practice on their own courses.
"Turf Science Live proved to be a highly informative and practical format to showcase some of the industry's latest innovations. The feedback from those who attended has been extremely positive."
Neil Smith, Head Greenkeeper at The Belfry, added: "I found the whole day to be extremely useful and thought-provoking, presented in an enjoyable format. There have been some valuable ideas from the demonstrations, along with the discussions on the experiences of other greenkeepers, that I can take away and consider how we could use in the future."