Pitch preparations, mowing and marking will be in full swing. Following the 10-12 day guidelines, try to produce a consistent wicket with fast medium pace. Be sure to get your lines accurate and straight. When you get the opportunity, give the square a good irrigation of the square.
Make sure you follow any feedback from your soil analysis if applying liquid or granular fertilisers. As you move through the month, regular mowing of the square at 10-12mm will need to be continued whilst preparing pitches. The outfield should be boxed off or gang mowed at 15-18mm, avoiding scalping. Repairs and renovation to used pitches should be carried out as soon as they come out of use, paying particular attention to your foot holes as they may require more intensive work.
Fertilising of the square can be undertaken, if not already done so, remembering that granular feeds to be well watered in.
Do not neglect your outfield, as this the largest area of maintenance. It still needs to be carefully managed.
Irrigation is a key management tool, so it will be a case of watering little and often when you can, preferably at night so the water can reach the root system. Evapotranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming month, initiating the need to begin regular syringing of the square. The combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces will be rising due to the warmer weather. Watering will be essential for wicket repairs and preparation. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. Watering in high, daytime temperatures will be less effective and could encourage shallow rooting as the water fails to get deep enough to stimulate the plant roots.
Cricket clubs without a supply of water are often left in the lap of the gods. The use of covers or groundsheets is one way to help protect pitches and retain moisture, providing they are not left on too long. Facilities that do not have or use pitch covers will also be more vulnerable to the changing climates and environment. Put an action plan together to get the best out of the weather conditions after a good shower or prolonged rainfall.
It is important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allowing surfaces to remain dry for a period of time can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
The use of covers (flat or raised) will be invaluable during the preparation of match wickets; take care when removing to ensure any surface water is prevented from running on to the protected pitch.
Keeping some additional grass cover will help retain some soil moisture, thus slowing down the soils capacity for drying out. You may want to consider raising the height of cut on the square by 1-2 mm to maintain some additional grass cover.
Any period of rain will have stimulated the Poa grass species in the square, thus increasing thatch and procumbent growth; regular verti-cutting will alleviate any thatch build up and stand up the sward prior to mowing.
With the drier weather now expected, the bounce and pace of the wickets should start improving. More and more Groundsmen are now taking the opportunity to measure and monitor the performance of their pitches. Having a better understanding of the condition of your square is paramount in deciding on what level of maintenance inputs are required.
The ECB have an excellent guideline booklet, TS4, which provides a wealth of information on construction, preparation and maintenance of cricket pitches.
Taking a number of soil samples on a regular basis helps monitor the condition of your soil profile, enabling you to see for yourself any problems that may be occurring, such as root breaks, poor root growth, soil layering and depth of thatch; all of which can be rectified by appropriate actions. With the advent of digital cameras, we now have an excellent tool for recording what we see.
Structures: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. Finish off any painting that may have been delayed due to bad weather.
Artificial Pitches: Keep all surfaces clean, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer’s recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
Other work to consider:-
- Mark out boundary line or ensure rope is in place.
- Scoreboards are ready for use
- Erect security netting around buildings to deter balls from damaging properties.
- Ensure stumps and bails are correct size, yardage disks are available.
- Check sightscreens, covers and machinery as breakdowns could be time costly.
- Artificial netting facilities should be checked, cleaned and marked out ready for use.
Long range forecasts indicate June to be a mix of varying degrees of heat and unsettled conditions. In practice, that is likely to mean periods of hot, dry weather interchanged with significant volumes of rainfall. In both these instances the primary factor at play for turf managers will be water management. Something which is important because water (H2O) is the master variable which governs plant health. Adequate water availability is crucial to plant and soil function, with the key word being adequate.
Associated beneficial microorganisms drown in the soil, limiting plant defence and the mineralisation of nutrients for plant uptake. Like ourselves, plants also need to respire. It is commonly understood that plants photosynthesise taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which is combined with water sourced from the roots, before going on to react with energy from the sun to make plant-available biological energy in the form of sugar. However, this process requires oxygen to keep all the electrons balanced and the cells healthy.
In the leaves, plants source this oxygen themselves as a bioproduct of the photosynthesis reaction. Root cells, on the other hand, still require oxygen for healthy function but are not capable of generating it themselves via photosynthesis. As a result, plant roots respire oxygen by sourcing it from the air pockets between soil particles. If those particles are full of water, the roots cannot function healthy and the plant suffers from abiotic (environmental) stress.
Like people and animals, plants are essentially tubes. Unlike people and animals, plants process water from the bottom up. This water transportation system starts at the roots, transfers into a network of transport pipes called xylem and ends in the leaves, as water escapes into the atmosphere through pores on the leaf surface called stomata. This cycling of water from roots up and into the xylem, and out through the stomata is called evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration rate is the speed at which this process takes place, the warmer and drier the atmosphere, the faster the evapotranspiration rate.
When evapotranspiration has drawn water out of the soil, through the plant and up into the atmosphere to the extent there is not enough available water in the soil, the water level in the plant falls below the level required for healthy plant function. The result is a number of negative physical effects on the plant.
Wilting – the initial signs of water stress, caused when the turgor (water) pressure in cells falls leading the cell’s to collapse and plants to droop, or in the case of grasses to loose the ability to spring back up when walked upon. If the water content falls low enough the cells will die.
Reduced photosynthesis – lack of water is limited the plant diverts the available water to all systems, which limits or even stops photosynthesis the process by which the plant creates its own energy to fuel its metabolic processes.
Reduced respiration – as with reduced photosynthesis in the leaves reduced respiration in the roots leads to the reduction or halt of metabolic processes required for maintaining health roots.
Reduced Transpiration – transpiration is the vital process plants rely on to move nutrients and metabolic substances around their bodies utilising water pressure. Without adequate water this water pressure cannot be maintained and the system slows or halts.
In the soil – beneficial microorganisms are killed or sent into dormancy, water repellency of soil particles or surface material is initiated limiting the potential for subsequent rewetting of the soil. Nutritional elements and minerals cannot be solubilised into water films for transport into roots.
In both cases, excessive water or deficient water have a number of negative consequences both on the plant and the wider ecosystem within the soil profile. When plants are subjected to abiotic stress in the form of too much or two little water this makes them more susceptible to biotic stress in the form of pathogens such as anthracnose disease (Colletotrichum cereal), microdochium patch (microdochium nivale), brown patch (Rhizoctonia solani), or dollar spot (Sclerotinia homoeocarpa). All of which will be active when heat and humidity are the prevailing conditions.
Of course, given the understanding outlined above, it is worth considering that dry soils around roots which place stress on plants, can be also accompanied by humid swards and leaf surfaces due to environmental conditions on overcast showery days or, due to lack or inadequate irrigation which favour the activation, infection and proliferation of fungal pathogens.
As we can see, water is vital for a consistently healthy plant. The relevant point for anyone producing a sports turf surface is that a consistent healthy plant is paramount to producing a consistent sporting surface and, as turf managers, it is always worth reminding ourselves that our primary role is to facilitate a surface for play.
There are a number of management factors which promote adequate water management of a sports turf surface conducive to consistent plant health.
- Aeration – minimise and reduce compaction to create air spaces in soil and facilitate more effective surface water penetration and drainage.
- Surfactants – wetting agent programmes help to manage soil water. Penetrants overcome water repellency aiding penetration of irrigation and rain water. Block-copolymers hold water in the profile making it available to plants.
- Monitoring of evapotranspiration levels – a number of services and systems are available to record daily evapotranspiration levels in millimetres of water lost. Hard data on water lost enables calculation of water replacement.
- Moisture meters – regular readings from surfaces allows for determination of areas soil water volumes are approaching critical limits. This informs the requirement for water proactively, before the plant shows symptoms of stress.
- Irrigation – well serviced and maintain irrigation systems, with manufacturer supplied figures for water application rates in millimetres per minute allows managers to precisely replace water lost via evapotranspiration once moisture meter readings signal that soil water volume is approaching critical levels.
- Potassium – potassium regulates the closing response time of leaf stomata in reaction to water loss rates from evapotranspiration. Adequate supply of potassium thought out warm hot periods allows the plant to react faster to water loss, conserving soil water and postpone wilting.
- Seaweed – fresh cold pressed seaweed contains a number of plant beneficial bioactive compounds such as abscisic acid, cytokinin’s and gibberellic acids which stimulate a plants natural defence responses to both abiotic and biotic stress. Application of a liquid fresh cold pressed seaweed prior to stress events primes the plants responses in readiness, promoting increased tolerance and improved recovery.
Chafer grub and leather jacket monitoring
Chafer beetle traps should now be in place as part of monitoring within an integrated pest management system. Also, record sightings of crane flies to better plan application timings of entomopathogenic nematodes later in the summer.
Maintaining a cricket square requires regular mowing, so it is important to keep your blades sharp at all times. Backlapping will help prolong their lives, but they should be sent for re-grinding, with your bottom blade replaced at the same time, especially a shaver blade.
Check your ground for foreign objects, such as studs or stones which can cause considerable damage to machinery and pitch.