With both the rugby union and rugby league seasons now underway, albeit minus the spectators, most groundsmen will now have a better understanding of how their pitch is performing.
Presentation is important. If it looks well presented, with bands, stripes and a consistent surface, it makes the game more enjoyable for the players.
Most facilities will maintain a height of cut between 30-40mm.
Essential tasks in preparing pitches for play involve, mowing, marking out, divoting, brushing and carrying out aeration.
Training areas will be prone to damage from specific training regimes. Where possible, rotate the areas where these drills take place.
- Continue cutting when necessary and ground conditions permit to encourage good sward density
- Ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut
- Regular brushing will keep the air circulating around the base of the plant
- Deep spike to alleviate compaction as and when required
- Continue shallow spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to compliment your deep spiking.
- Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting
- Hand fork goalmouth and centre circle areas, if difficult to get onto the pitch with machinery
Try to keep the top 100mm free draining; this can be achieved by regular spiking with solid or slit tines to a depth of 150mm or more.
Divoting is crucial, so start as you mean to go on. At this stage of the season, the addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will help to repair any deep scars. Repair damage using a fork to close up scars and make sure divots are replaced and firmed into surface to give roots a chance to take hold again.
Oversow sparse or bare areas. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that, without good seed to soil contact, the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
- Keep your linemarker clean
- Keep string lines taut when marking out to avoid deviating from the straight
- Ensure that right angles are correctly formed. Use the 3:4:5 triangle method. The bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be
Before the match
- Check that the pitch is level and safe for play
- Check for and remove debris (glass, stones etc.)
- Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out, and that the posts are safe and secure
- Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas – it will make a difference!
- Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces
- Remove debris from the playing surface with a rotary mower
- Check goals and padding
- Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
- Repair and maintain fence lines
- Sweep up/vacuum fallen leaves
October sees autumnal conditions set in, and thoughts of summer have all but disappeared. Most renovations will have taken place whilst conditions were favourable, whilst those who have not yet been able to carry out such work will be holding out for temperatures not to drop off too quickly to ensure there is some recovery before winter when growth potential drops to ‘low’.
Mornings and nights continue to become noticeably darker and importantly for turf managers, leaf wetness (dew) on the grass plant becomes a management priority.
Nutritional inputs will start to reduce inline with the reduction in growth potential. Applying a fertiliser with a nitrogen source suitable for the time of year is key to minimise any disease outbreaks. Following the base nitrogen figures outlines above, applications if around 2kg of nitrogen per hectare will be sufficient. Which is the equivalent of 6.0.12 conventional release granule (4-6 week longevity) applied at 20gm2. Choosing a fertiliser that is going to release nutrients as the temperatures decrease is also needed. Some slow-release technology will release extremely slowly in cooler conditions which may not provide an adequate supply of nutrition to maintain a healthy plant able to withstand pathogen attack. Therefore, it is as important to not under apply at this time of year as it is to not over apply.
Monitoring disease pressure is a main priority for October as cooler, damp conditions are experienced over longer periods during the day. Conditions in October can be ideal for Microdochium nivale outbreaks and predicting when these outbreaks may occur is challenging. Gaining an understanding of what contributes to disease pressure reaching tipping point on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any of the applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure These may be, fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications.
Fungicide technology is only one part of an IPM approach and increasingly it will be the other applications which will become more in focus as tools in which to reduce disease outbreaks and severity. Morning dews can lead to an increase in leaf wetness in October and this additional moisture on the surface can be the perfect vehicle for pathogens. Therefore, utilising dew dispersant technology can be a useful tool.
Expectations need to be set to a realistic level in relation to longevity of the products compared to when using them in cool months when growth potential is low. When frequent mowing is still taking place, the longevity is going to be relatively short, however this can still be long enough to reduce the level of leaf wetness long enough to get through a high disease pressure period.
- Use a programmed approach to maximise plant health, through balanced nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK as part of an IPM plan.
- Raise cutting heights to minimise stress with a reduction in stress invoking practices such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf blades.
- Ensure cutting units are sharp to provide a clean cut to minimise weakened points for pathogen attack.
- Well timed aeration to maintain movement of water away from the surface and down through the profile. (Caution when tining around Leatherjacket hatch periods)
- Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or utilising dew dispersant technology (apply only to a dry leaf)
- Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
- Use biostimulants and plant response promoters to maximise plant health.
- Take advice on and construct a preventative fungicide application plan, using historic data, live weather forecasts and site-specific conditions, for applications ahead of when conditions favour the development of disease.
You can check reported sightings of crane fly species on the Pest Tracker (https://www.greencast.co.uk/turf-pest-tracker) on the GreenCast website. To aid effective timing of treatment, follow Syngenta guidelines (7 point plan) for application one month after peak flight is observed. Where chemical control is not authorised, entomopahogenic nematodes can be applied with warm soil temperatures and available moisture being ideal conditions to get the best out of an application. The entomopahogenic nematodes swim in the water film on soil particles in their bid to search out a larval host, useful information can be found on this link.
With the increased soil moisture content worm activity has increased. There are still no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available which can include a combination of practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
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Keep your machinery well serviced, sharp and clean. Take time to inspect cutting blades and ensure they are sharp, set at the correct HOC (Height of cut).
Line marking materials should have been ordered in time for the new season. There are plenty of marking compounds on the market, along with a wide range of markers. Keep your markers clean and use string lines to help keep your lines straight.