Key Tasks for October
With the rugby union season in full swing and the rugby league season coming to a close, 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
The start of October is set to continue as September has ended, somewhat on the wet side. There are some signs, however, that for at least some parts of Ireland this may change to a more settled and drier period toward the second half of the month. Whatever the local environmental conditions are at any given time, paying close attention to what happened in previous years with respect to the timing of disease outbreaks, cross referencing that information against the current date, before then checking that against current prevailing weather conditions prior to looking ahead in a bid to see what is just around the corner, are the absolute fundamental basic levels of turf grass pathogen management in 2019 - these all encapsulating fundamentals of an Integrated Pest Management approach.
In the context of Microdochium nivale control, knowing what happened, what’s happening and what’s about to happen is paramount when determining the likelihood of disease expression and the selection and timing of inputs aimed to counteract the onset of disease attack. Say goodbye to the age of the reactive product applier and say hello to the age of the informed tactician.
The second and third aspects, of course, are what factors favour the pathogen and what factors favour the plant. The final factor is what is the effect of the input or action being taken and how will this influence conditions, either towards the pathogen or towards the host (grass plant).
Regulating nitrogen inputs to maintain steady hardy shoot and leaf growth is a priority. Lush growth is more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens, so slow release nitrogen, either polymer coated or methylene urea in combination with straight urea will give longevity through to the new year. Where conventional fertilisers are chosen, ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.
A dose of micronutrients is a good idea to ensure the plant has a full menu of essential nutrition.
Iron – the traditional go to option for hardening the plant in the winter. However, there is no evidence to suggest iron plays a role in directly hardening the plant against pathogen attack. Calcium and silicon are the proven elements for this need. Sulphate of iron, in particular, will weaken the cell walls of the leaf due to the acidity; rather, a fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling microorganisms.
Carbohydrates - Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar during the autumn will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. The benefit is a more resilient and well-developed plant in the early spring.
Seaweed – maintain seaweed applications during October, but avoid applications at times when environmental conditions favour fungal pathogens. Seaweed will illicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity and when conditions favour the disease.
Amino acids – play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events.
Humates – continue applications to maximise nutrient availability and application efficiency as well as providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.
- Adequate balance nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK
- Minimise stress by raising heights of cut and avoiding activities such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf integrity
- Look after the soil via regular light aeration
- Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or using dew dispersants (apply only to a dry leaf)
- Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
- Plan, stock, apply beneficial nutrition as part of non-pesticidal disease management
- Take advice on and plan strategic preventative fungicide applications using historic data, live weather forecasts and site specific conditions and protected maintenance operations which may cause abiotic stress.
There are no legal substances which can be applied for the control of worms. Any substance or products which act directly upon worms would never be approved by CRD for authorisation.
The only legal option is modification of the local surface soil environment via acidifying with specifically formulated solutions of ammonium sulphate or the application of straight sulphate
Beware regular applications of sulphate of iron, they may well discourage surface casting activity, but the iron will accumulate in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout rest of the year.
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.
Please ensure that all goalposts meet health and safety standards. Now is a good time to thoroughly check them over. If you have stored them away, give them a thorough once over to ensure that they will be fit for purpose for the new season. If you find any defects, these must be reported to your management/committee, with appropriate remedies being sought – ahead of the season!
Other areas should also be checked over, such as fences and dugouts.
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