October Football Diary 2020

Expected weather for this month:

Miserable start to October with a lot of rain expected. Should clear up again however and dry spells should follow.

Key Tasks for October

With the season now underway, although lacking 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 24-30mm.

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, such as goalkeeping drills and small sided games. Where possible, rotate the areas where these drills take place.

  • Continue cutting 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 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.

Overseed 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.

Marking out

  • Keep your linemarker clean
  • Keep string lines taut
  • 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.

Machinery

  • Keep your machinery in tip top condition
  • Grease where you find a grease nipple, oil where you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water
  • Clean it when you've finished

Pre and post match routines

Before the match

  • Check that the pitch is fit and safe for play
  • Check for debris (glass, stones etc.)
  • Ensure the surface is firm and not saturated, correctly marked out and flagged, and that the posts are safe and secure

Post match

  • Replace divots, even if it’s just the worst affected areas - it will make a difference!
  • Dragmat/brush/harrow to restore playing surfaces
  • Clean up the playing surface with a rotary mower

As we come to the end of September and start looking ahead towards October, it appears from the forecast that it will be an unsettled start to the month. This could be an unwanted disruption for those who still have renovation work to carry out. The average rainfall for September was 70mm (region depending), with highs of 20oC or above. This allowed many to make the most of the good ground temperatures and moisture available, with only a steep drop in temperatures towards the end of the month causing some challenges.

The middle of the coming month looks to be more settled and it will be important to monitor the local environmental conditions with a view of the site’s previous history and patterns in disease outbreaks. As conditions become more conducive for disease development, checking historic information against current conditions and also factoring in what is expected ahead is key to increasing the probability of successful turf grass pathogen management in autumn 2020. Principles and actions which collectively form part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.

At this juncture in the calendar year, Microdochium nivale (microdochium patch) control is key for many turf managers. Predicting the likelihood of disease expression can seem about as easy as predicting the winning lottery numbers, however, knowing what has happened, what is happening now and what could be about to happen is essential when attempting to determine the likelihood of disease expression. Understanding these elements then allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any inputs aimed at counteracting any outbreaks of disease, whether they be fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications. As we adapt to the newer chemistry and modes of action available, the more information gathered to make accurate well-versed decisions on what, when and how to apply, the increased likelihood of success there will be. Success will look different for each turf manager, with varying budgets, resources and club expectations. For some, it will be blemish free surfaces, for others it will better control than the previous year and different again for others. There is no fixed target, however, having a target and planning around it increases the chances of success.

Nutrition

As temperatures and available sunlight changes, so must the approach to the applications of nutrition, mainly nitrogen. The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, with any lush, flushes of growth being more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. Fertilisers with a slow release nitrogen source, such as methylene urea or polymer coated urea, perhaps used in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through the autumn and into winter. If slow release fertilisers are not suitable for a specific site, when using a conventional fertiliser (to avoid the aforementioned flushes of growth), ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.

Nitrogen is not the only important nutrient to be applied this month; micronutrients and biostimulants are a good idea to ensure the plant has a full suite of essential nutrition available.

Iron, calcium and magnesium – the traditional go to options for hardening the plant and providing colour through the winter. A fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling microorganisms than Sulphate of Iron. Required Magnesium and Calcium can be applied as part of a nutritional application when factored into a well-balanced fertiliser programme.

Biostimulants applied at the right time will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. As the rate of photosynthesis changes in line with the seasons, applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar can assist the plant in being more resilient and well-developed in the early spring.

Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity, before conditions favour the development of disease.

Consideration should also be given to amino acids and humates, with the former playing an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events, such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content.  Humates assist in maximising nutrient availability as well as stimulating and providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.

Key activities:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Worms

Worms have been a focus for turf managers throughout the last month with the increase in soil moisture levels. There are 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.  This 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. The above does not completely eradicate the problem, but it will lead to less negative lasting impressions on the surface from the casts.  Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.

Tom Wood
Amenity Specialist

B.Sc (Hons) BASIS FACTS