Key Tasks for August
- Continue brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, removing early morning dew and controlling disease
- Mow regularly at your preferred cutting height to ensure a good sward density - 30 to 35mm; dropping it to around 25mm for matches
- Verticut to clean out lateral growth and aid air circulation
- Continue spiking when the conditions are right - alternating between surface and deep with occasional slitting
- Linemarking; “measure twice: mark once” is a good tip to take on board when marking out new pitches. Make sure you have enough linemarking material for the season
- Do not apply fertiliser during drought periods, unless you have the means to water in
- If you are unable to provide irrigation to the whole pitch, then at least you should try and ensure adequate watering of the goalmouth and centre circle areas
Entering August signals the start of late summer, and with it shorter days and cooler nights than the long days of June and warm sticky nights of July.
August regularly offers periods of heavy rainfall and storms. Generally, conditions for growth are good during August but, as ever, it is extremes which challenge the grass plant and the turf manager in equal measure.
Strategic application of nutrition aimed at providing the grass plant with the means to maintain consistent health are as important as ever.
Calcium is a key nutrient to regulate water use efficiency, as well as increase tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress via thickening of the plant cell wall.
Towards the end of the month, dews will become heavier potentially providing conditions for Microdochium patch; at the start of the month, the risk of high temperatures combining with high humidity will promote disease such as Rhizoctonia. High temperatures during July’s hot periods will have activated Anthracnose. Other diseases such as Take-all patch and Waitea patch and Dollar spot may occur.
The key here is to understand the environmental and cultural triggers, and then employ nutritional and cultural strategies to counteract the risks. Increasingly, with the withdrawal of chemical fungicides the turf manager is responsible for seeking out the knowledge to understand the drivers of each disease and then employ multiple tactics to combat the risk. For example; Take-all patch attacks the base of the plant and root system, acidification in the rhizosphere helps to combat this; something which can be achieved via the regular application of Manganese. Anthracnose; it’s a saprophyte, which means once triggered by hot temperatures it lies in wait for senescent (dying) plant material to trigger its attack into full blow foliar blight. Avoiding the stress, mitigates the pathogens ability to pounce. Therefore, adequate moisture, consistent appropriate nitrogen levels and the avoidance of other diseases (Anthracnose often occurs as a secondary infection) will help to keep it at bay.
Pests and Diseases
Effective integrated pest management necessitates monitoring of local target pest populations as a precursor for taking action. Chafer beetle lures set out in May will have given an indication of hot spots for adult activity. Lifting back turf in zones identified to be high risk for grubs allows turf managers to eyeball larvae and take action. The same can be said of leatherjackets, simply sheeting the surface with a 1m2 sheet of plastic overnight may encourage larvae to rise to the surface. Knowing what your high risk areas are, and then identifying the level of pest incidence, allows for targeted treatment with Entomopathogenic nematodes. This biological control requires warmth and moisture in the soil to be most effective. Targeting this year’s larvae when they are small and susceptible gives your army of microscopic worms an increased chance of success. With chafer and crane fly larvae hatching out in August and September, these are the key months to gain preventative control and prevent problems in spring and early summer 2020.
Preparation for end of season renovations should be in full force; the prime aim being to manage organic matter accumulation and promote recovery of the grass plant in time for autumn and winter. Biostimulants, such as liquid Seaweed and humic acids, will promote seed germination and establishment in combination with the usual fertilisers.
Start of Season
As some sports engage in renovations, winter sports start their playing season. Maximising pitch quality through late summer and early autumn is critical to keeping you ahead of the curve when things turn against the grass plant in the winter. A good quality slow release NPK feed now will keep things moving in the right direction over the next few months. It will also help to showcase surfaces at their best as the first matches of the season begin.
With reference to your machinery needs; if it's part of your inventory, drag it out, dust it off and fire it up to make sure it will work for you when you need it. If you don't have it in your inventory, but you know someone who has, a neighbouring club or school perhaps, particularly if you are on good terms with them; you may come to some arrangement to borrow it when they are not using it.
Alternatively, look at the option of hiring. There are a growing number of hire companies these days that are now specialising in the hire of sports ground equipment. With reference to your material needs, get them ordered now so that they are on hand when you need them.