Groundstaff Honour Fallen Hero PC Keith Palmer

Peterborough United will pay their own small tribute to fallen policeman Keith Palmer tomorrow (April 1).

Palmer lost his life in the recent Westminster attack. He was a long-standing Charlton season ticket-holder, the team Posh host in a League One clash at the ABAX Stadium tomorrow.

There will be a minute’s silence before the match as it’s the first one played by Charlton since the incident.

But the Posh groundstaff will also change the pitch patterns at the ABAX to honour PC Palmer and all serving police officers.

Head Posh groundsman Daniel Selcraig said: “In light of the recent attacks in London and in light of PC Keith Palmer being a Charlton fan, the pitch patterns for tomorrow’s match will be changed to include thin blue lines.

“The thin blue line is a charity which supports police officers up and down the country and provides them with an excellent support network.

“I thought it would be a brilliant tribute to burn a line into the bands in the pitch in memory of the victims and injured.

“It will look similar to Manchester City’s pitch and remind us all of the brilliant work our emergency services do.”

Charlton have draped a scarf over PC Palmer’s regular seat at the Valley in his honour.

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Head Groundsman Ensures Essex Are Pitch-Perfect

Bathed in early-spring sunlight this week, the renamed Cloudfm County Ground in Chelmsford looked as pretty as a picture as the final preparations were being made ahead of the start of another season.

Stuart Kerrison, head groundsman since 1991, looked out from the pavilion and declared: “I think most people looking at it would think it doesn’t look in bad nick: it’s green, it’s stripy, it looks fairly flat …”

However, groundsmen are pessimists by nature and Kerrison is no different. There is an almighty “but” lying in wait to ambush the sentence: “… all I can see are imperfections. I know where all the bad bits are. It’s about 80 percent there at the moment.”
Kerrison sees “fairy rings” all over the outfield, patches where the grass has died back because of a lack of moisture and bemoans a drainage system that has to cope with a six-foot drop from end to end. He has a bucket-list of how he would spend any slice that came his way of the £1.3 million annual payment to counties the ECB are proposing if the city franchise scheme goes ahead.

Kerrison is a happy soul really and especially happy in his work that brought him runners-up spot for the fourth time in the 2016 Groundsman of the Year award, second only to Headingley’s Andy Fogarty. Considering Chelmsford is “only a provincial ground”, to use his words, and is constantly up against the big Test-match stadiums, it is no mean achievement.

The pristine square is ready for the off. The strips for the three-day game against Durham MCCU, starting on Sunday, and the opening Specsavers County Championship match against Lancashire next Friday, are already cut and primped, as well as the practice wickets on either side for batsmen and bowlers.
Apart from a new stand at the Hayes Close End, and a general lick of paint, the most notable improvement to the ground will become apparent if and when Chelmsford suffers anything more than a shower. The impromptu lakes that form in front of the Tom Pearce Stand at the River End should be a thing of the past.
“We put a bit of extra drainage around the square because all the water sheds off the covers and sheets,” Kerrison says. “Then we put a gravel band in, which is 300mm deep every 750mm to insert a gravel bed feeding into all the drains that we’ve got. We’ve had problems with the water gathering down there in the past and we’ve ended up with massive lakes. It goes eventually, but we need it to go quicker so we can get as much play as we can.
“But it’s only a stopgap as far as I’m concerned before we spend proper money on doing the whole outfield. We try to stay within budget – I spend money like it’s my own. But the outfield needs a bit more levelling, it needs a bit more drainage and it needs proper irrigation. If you’ve got £200,000 to spare we can do it next winter.”

That is for the future. For the present, Kerrison and his team of four full-timers and two apprentices are looking forward to life in Division One after Essex’s promotion. “This should be a good year,” he says. “I think we’ll stay up.”

To read the original article, click here

A Lesson In Being Pitch Perfect

Few schools in the UK can claim to have over 22 different sports pitches located within their grounds. However, for Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate in York, their sporting facilities rival many of the country’s leading premiership clubs.

Opened in 1912, the Independent boarding school’s sporting curriculum is one of the most expansive in the country, with tennis, basketball, handball, hockey, rugby, football and cricket just a few of the sports on offer.

Home to 1500 students from over 66 different countries on a 200 acre campus. Continuous capital investment over the years has transformed the site, and the last 6 years has seen over £20 million dedicated solely to improving the 34 acres of outdoor training facilities alone.

Joining Queen Ethelburga’s in the autumn of 2016, Grounds Manager, Ben Grigor, and his three-man team, represent the school’s new grounds department and they have a determination for the sporting grounds to be some of the best in the UK. Having worked for iconic venues including the RICOH Arena, Kassam Stadium and the Ibrox Stadium, Ben relishes the challenge of maintaining such varying and high profile sporting facilities.

With £20 million invested in new pitches alone, the team’s daily maintenance requires high power machinery as they have natural grass, synthetic, water-based and traditional sand-based pitches to contend with.

“Having maintained groundcare for renowned sporting events including the Commonwealth Games and the Euros in 2012, I know that the quality and condition of the Queen Ethelburga’s pitches really are second to none,” said Ben. “When visitors come and see the sheer expanse of the site and its condition, they can’t believe that the sporting facilities belong to a school, and this is an expectation that we strive to maintain.”

It was the school’s commitment to their sporting vision that forged the partnership between Ben and leading local groundcare dealer, Russells of Hull. The dealership is at the forefront of providing first class machinery and aftersales support across the region and it was this unrivalled service that made the partnership between themselves and the school so strong.

The Collegiate purchased nine Kubota machines from Russell’s, including Kubota’s leading RTVX900 utility vehicle, two L4240 compact tractors, four W831R-PRO pedestrian walk-behind mowers, two G23 ride-on mowers along with two Kubota trailers.

“When we were resourcing new groundcare machines, it was paramount that we chose vehicles that facilitated the consistent maintenance of 22 pitches, day in – day out. When I joined the Collegiate in September, they already had some older Kubota machines that had done not hundreds, but thousands of hours of work and they’re still going strong. So, when it came to maintaining the new pitches, I knew that Kubota was up to the task.

“The RTVX900 is extremely useful when navigating both staff and equipment around site, especially for light towing jobs when both of the L4240 tractors are in use. With such a significant investment into both the pitches and sporting facilities, it is essential that we ensure that the machines work as economically as possible and meet the site’s varying requirements.”

It was Kubota’s compatibility with a wide range of implements and machines across the range that made the manufacturer such a clear choice. The two G23 ride-on mowers are at the forefront of the pitches daily maintenance, providing clean and consistent cutting every day, while also being a useful tool during winter for cleaning up leaves and debris after professional and school matches. Supporting the G23’s are two manual L4240 compact tractors which provide easy operation for the team when completing spraying, top dressing and aeration work.

“The Collegiate’s recent investment into its facilities, staff and machinery already reflects their continued commitment to making the sporting ground one of the best in the country. Big changes are set for the year ahead and it’s up to us and our machines to ensure that the pitches are kept to the highest possible standards.”

For more information on Kubota and its extensive range of solutions for the groundcare sectors, or to find your local dealer, visit www.kubota.co.uk or call 01844 268000.

Newquay Golf Club Proves Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Since Dan Kendle, head greenkeeper at Newquay Golf Club, arrived at the links course overlooking Fistral beach in Cornwall in 2014, he has been steadily adding Toro to its shed.

From the first Toro, the revolutionary Greensmaster 3400 TriFlex to the most recent, a Groundsmaster 4300-D that arrived in the spring, the club now boasts a Toro fleet to “rival most others” says Dan. And the difference both Dan’s and Toro’s arrival has made at the club is most significant in the health and quality of the grass.

“When I arrived at Newquay Golf Club the turf was in a very sorry state,” says Dan. “There was a lot of disease scarring on the greens and the sward was very weak. It’s a hard-working course, open 365 days of the year and it needed a lot of improvement.

“Woodhall Spa, where I’d been for 15 years before heading back to Cornwall, uses solely Toro machines so I was well versed in their capabilities. Working with the management committee at Newquay we came up with a strategy that would allow us to get the best out of the course, acquiring machines through Devon Garden Machinery for the most pressing issues first when the budget could accommodate the investment.”

It’s a strategy that has worked; in less than three years the proof is clearly in the turf, the health and species composition of which has improved hugely, a fact supported by the members whose feedback is “really positive”.

Particularly instrumental in that improvement, says Dan, is the formidable pedestrian aerator, the Toro ProCore 648. “One of the early arrivals, the ProCore is one of our most invaluable pieces of kit. With interchangeable tines, it will do anything and everything when it comes to aeration. We can micro-tine in the summer and you wouldn’t even know it had been done and most importantly it doesn’t disturb play. We’re lucky to have really good drainage, but we use the ProCore monthly without fail to maintain the standards we are becoming known for.”

The ProCore also proves its worth in the club’s bi-annual maintenance weeks in March and October. Designed to help ease compaction and aid the turf’s all-important free draining quality, these maintenance weeks see Dan and his greenkeeping team of four solid tine, overseed, fertilise and topdress the greens, aprons and surrounds to help ‘repair’ the course after the hard weather conditions of winter and the heavy footfall conditions of summer.

So what next for the 126-year-old, par 69, 6141-yard course? Dan tells us it’s more of the same, with a real push to keep improving and elevating the course to be one of the best in the county joining fellow Cornish and Toro club Trevose in the top three.

And we have no doubt they will succeed; after all you don’t have to be the hare to win the race!

On The Right Lines At Ardingly College

Ian Card is Head of Grounds and Security at Ardingly College, an independent, mixed school set in a beautiful 230-acre campus in the West Sussex countryside. In 2014, having previously worked at the college under another Head Groundsman, Ian returned to Ardingly, bringing with him his 20 years of agronomy experience. He now leads a skilled team of nine, maintaining the grounds, gardens and sports pitches.

Football is the dominant winter sport played at Ardingly College, unlike many private schools that traditionally play rugby as the first choice game. Still, the oval ball has its place alongside football, cricket, hockey, athletics and tennis (to name a few), with Ian’s team maintaining twelve grass pitches, three squares and two all-weather artificial turf pitches.

As is expected for a fee-paying school, the standards of all facilities must be maintained to an exemplary level and Ardingly College more than fulfils this remit. The pitches are pounded seven days a week by the school’s 400+ students, and in the past have been used as training centres for England U21s, England Ladies, Crawley Town FC plus Bunbury’s Cricket matches. Therefore, the amount of use and the high quality playing surfaces expected of the grounds certainly keep Ian and his team on their toes.

The finishing touch and stand out feature of any sports pitch is the white line presentation. This school year saw Ardingly become a customer for Bristol-based sports paint supplier, Pitchmark. With a growing portfolio of independent schools across the UK, Pitchmark’s user-friendly Eco System appealed to Ian and his staff, as he explained: “I like the marking machine. It’s very simple and easy to operate and has a nice user-friendly feel to it.”

Ian continued: “Customer service is crucial in any of my purchasing. Pitchmark’s assistance before and after I became a customer has been excellent. One of their reps, Olly (Boys), comes to see me and the team, and we chat through how the paint and machine are performing and my general feedback. It’s something that was being overlooked with a previous supplier – good, friendly customer service.”

Pitchmark have been supplying Ardingly College with their ready-to-use paint Ecoline+ for nine months so far and this is having a positive effect on work efficiency. “The no mixing is very convenient. My guys don’t have to spend down-time mixing and getting messy. The product quality and finish is consistent as it’s the same every time you mark. It allows us to spend more time on other tasks to raise the standards further.”

“Sometimes, the paint can be too good,” he said, jokingly. “We swap some football fields to rugby every January and I could still see the old lines weeks after.” Well, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Thanks to Ian for his time.

Pitchmark can be contacted on 01454 776666, sales@pitchmark.com or www.pitchmarkltd.com

Etesia UK announce new dealers

Etesia UK has announced that Forest Park and Gardens, Mowers UK and Blakewell Services have joined its extensive list of UK dealers, and will be distributing the company’s complete product range.

Since 1989, when Etesia revolutionised the green space industry with the Hydro 100 ride-on mower, the company have, year-on-year, introduced market-leading and innovative solutions.

Forest Park and Garden, the family dealership based in South Wales, will be distributing Etesia products in the area of Swansea. The company has rapidly grown since its founding in 2008 and over recent years the company has quickly become leading specialists in the sales and service of quality outdoor products, catering for professional arborists, landscapers and gardeners.

Commenting on Forest Park and Garden’s new Etesia dealership status, managing director Rhys Coles said: “We try and supply products that we know we can stand behind and that are perfect for our professional customers. As for Etesia we were always being asked for the best and a mower that can be used in all weathers and packs grass into the box in all conditions ticks all the boxes. That’s what Etesia does – we bought Etesia push mowers 20 years ago when we first started contracting and we still use them now. For me that says a lot.”

Mowers UK, a division of Acacia Groundcare Equipment Rental Limited, is a leading retailer of garden, forestry and arboriculture machinery in North Hampshire and director Ritain Patel highlighted his reasons for wanting to work with Etesia: “Mowers UK is currently geared slightly more towards the domestic market so we wanted to enhance our commercial offering. We’ve always stocked Etesia machinery through our hire fleet and we wanted to be in a position where we could sell the products. I brought the subject up with other members of management and everyone was extremely keen to bring Etesia on-board. We know the value, the quality of the machines and we know how strong they are in the commercial market.”

Blakewell Services’ managing director Richard Tanton, started the business back in 1971 when he began servicing used tractors and machinery. He continued to build up the business over the years and soon out grew the premises at Blakewell Farm. Now recognised as a leading supplier of agricultural and garden machinery the company will be distributing Etesia products from its base in Barnstaple, North Devon.

All three dealerships will be on hand to offer professional support, sales and servicing on Etesia’s extensive product range.

For further information, please contact Etesia UK on 01295 680120 or visit www.etesia.co.uk

Inaugural Tacit Freshman Tournament

Tacit, the largest and most prestigious golf course equipment manufacturer in the UK and Ireland are hosting a series of golf days across the UK and Ireland specifically for Deputy Course Mangers and a Member of the Committee in a pair’s competition.

Tacit, always forward thinking in their outlook are encouraging the professional development of the future leaders in the green keeping industry by introduction of the “Freshman” tournament to foster a growing relationship between those people working on the coal face and the club management.

Each regional qualifier will include breakfast on arrival, 18 holes of great golf,nearest the pin challenges and other prizes followed by an informal dinner and presentation.

The winner and runners-up from each venue will qualify for the grand finale at the Belfry with 18 holes of golf on the Brabazon course, host to four Ryder Cups and countless other European Tour events. Following the final will be a drinks reception, gala dinner and one nights luxury accommodation at the Hotel. Prizes will include personal ones as well as those specifically for the club they represent.

Tim Webb, Managing Director at Tacit believes “This is a daring step to go beyond the predictable and find a way of bringing youthful exuberance together with experience to a tournament.” It is very easy, he explained “to go on academical courses and recite what has been taught, it is much more difficult to gain experience and to create associations and friendships that will set you in good stead for your future. We wanted to find a way of getting our younger professionals who are looking to get into management in the future, a way of learning life experiences that cannot be taught in the classroom and then can be built on with the friendships and experiences gained for the benefit of the club as well as their professional development. What better way than by playing golf together? ”

Qualifying events are to be held at;-

IRELAND: Headford Golf Club, 

Enniskerry, 

County Wicklow

Monday 12th June 

SCOTLAND: Dunblane Golf Club, Dunblane, 

Stirlingshire

Tuesday 8th  June

NORTH OF ENGLAND: Malton and Norton, Malton, 

Yorkshire

Monday 19th  June

MIDLANDS ENGLAND: Overstone Park Golf Club, 

Overstone 

Northampton

Thursday 29th June

WEST REGION (WALES & ENGLAND): The Kendleshire, 

Coalpit Heath,

 Bristol

Thursday 18th  May

EAST OF ENGLAND: Ely City

Ely, 

Cambridgeshire

Tuesday 18th  July

SOUTH OF ENGLAND: Lingfield Park Resort, Lingfield, 

Surrey

Thursday 22nd  June 

GRAND FINALE:

The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Monday 30th October 2017

In order to be a part of this fantastic event please register online at;-

www.golf-event.co.uk/tacit
Using password T4cit17 choosing one the locations above.

Kingsbarns Golf Links Set For New Season

As Kingsbarns Golf Links prepares to host this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open from the 3 – 6 August, the renowned European Tour venue has released details of a series of changes which have taken place both on and off the course. The North East Fife course, which co-hosts the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, will also start the 2017 season on a high following a string of accolades from the golf media.

The course improvements, which appear on two of the par five holes, have been introduced to optimise the relationship between the course and the rugged North Sea coastline. Under direction of course architect Kyle Phillips, new tees on the 3rd and 16th holes have been constructed on existing land immediately beside the rocky beach. Golfers will now enjoy even more views along Scotland’s east coast while retaining teeing options for players of all standards.

The on-course developments have been accompanied by a number of key appointments to bolster the Kingsbarns roster and its ongoing drive to deliver exceptional customer service. As Kingsbarns chief executive Alan Hogg noted, the developments have been carefully planned.

“The changes both on and off the course have been implemented wholly to enhance the customer experience,” he said. “With the Ricoh Women’s British Open being contested over the links here in August, 2017 will be an exciting and busy year at Kingsbarns. We were conscious of implementing these changes ahead of the tournament and formally unveiling them at the start of the season. This has been achieved through a lot of hard work by our highly skilled maintenance team supported by local contractors during the winter months.”

Released in December 2016, Golf Monthly’s Top 100 Courses of UK and Ireland registered a four-place climb for the Fife course which now holds 17th slot in the respected poll and was the third highest climber in the top 20. “The course is jam-packed with strong golf holes and wonderful views,” the magazine noted. “It is a very special course indeed, and one that should be on every keen golfer’s must-play list.”

The result followed an unprecedented leap earlier in the year when Kingsbarns jumped 10 places to enter Golf World’s top 10. “There has always been a great deal of fondness for the links,” explained Chris Bertram, Golf World’s Top 100 editor, “with plenty among the panel eager to see it rise into the top 10.”

As well as on-course changes at Kingsbarns, the practice facility has been enhanced with the short-game area being expanded and the grass-tee driving range extended. “The recent polls recognise our continuing commitment to develop Kingsbarns by fine-tuning our customer service and delivering a unique playing experience,” said Hogg. “This extends from making detailed improvements to the practice area and on the course to taking important decisions regarding our management team.”

As part of the ongoing programme of improvements, Kingsbarns is delighted to announce the appointment of PGA professional Garry Forrester as its new golf operations manager. With over 20 years’ experience in the golf industry, Forrester has amassed a wealth of experience in retail, tournaments and golf coaching after a number of appointments across Asia and operating his own golf school in St Andrews. He has also had success on the course recording a top 10 finish in the prestigious Scottish PGA Championship and is now looking forward to sharing his experience at Kingsbarns.

“Kingsbarns has been one of my favourite courses for a long time, so to come here to work alongside a fantastic team of professionals is extremely exciting,” said Forrester. “This year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open and everything else that goes on at a European Tour venue will make 2017 a fantastic season, and I am just thrilled to be a part of it.”

The Kingsbarns team has also been bolstered by the promotion of Josh Anderson to the post of caddie master; a key linchpin in the delivery of the Kingsbarns experience. A talented golfer, Anderson started at Kingsbarns in 2008 as a caddie. He played college golf in the US before returning to Fife to complete his PGA training. Anderson has also worked at The International in Amsterdam and is a fully qualified greenkeeper.

“I have a passion for providing great service and sharing my knowledge of golf,” he says. “Building lasting relationships with the customers and staff at Kingsbarns has been so enjoyable that to become caddie master has been a real honour. Our caddie team takes pride in everything we do.”

The changes at Kingsbarns have been led by the idea of creating unforgettable golfing experiences year after year. “The principle that has underpinned Kingsbarns since its launch in 2000 has been to realise the unquantifiable value of an exciting round of golf with good friends and colleagues,” said Art Dunkley, director of Kingsbarns Golf Links. “That has been our guiding philosophy and with the changes made over our closed season, I think we have raised our standard once again.”

John Moverley Reacts To The Trigger Of Article 50

The events about the triggering of Article 50 have been numerous and have kept and will keep the media busy. In both the run up to the vote, and indeed after it, there were and have been varying statements of optimism and doom and gloom. . However, as I write, Article 50 has been triggered and the task can begin in implementing the decision made at the ballot box. I have always been someone who sees challenges as opportunities. Yes, change naturally creates uncertainties and there will be real and significant impacts on business in many ways. However, it is important that, whatever our views on BREXIT, we now accept the position and adapt and manage accordingly.

In correspondence to me, many have sought clarification on how BREXIT might impact upon the area of weed, pest and disease control. The fact is that, certainly in terms of regulation and control, nothing changes and is very unlikely to do so at least until the UK negotiates its exit from the EU. The UK has adopted the Sustainable Use Directive in its National Action Plan. In that context, in the immediate term, it is business as usual. The UK has been a leader in promoting and adopting best practice and the Amenity Forum, acting on behalf of the sector, is ready to actively engage with UK government in the period ahead as our exit is achieved. Over the coming months, we will seek to keep all involved informed of developments and this will be very much an area of debate and discussion at our national conference being held on October 13th.

Change does provide real opportunity for the sector to influence new approaches and to be fully engaged in seeking out solutions to existing problems. Weed, pest and disease control is both important and essential. It ensures our trains keep running, our parks and pavements are safe, our sports fields are fit for purpose, our transport networks remain operational, our environment is sustainable and so much more. A key campaign led by the Amenity Forum is focused on this and seeking to increase awareness of the public and all involved. We should be proud of what we do at whatever level. The quality of UK sports surfaces is well known and respected across the world. We need to step up our voice and present this with pride. Weed, pest and disease control is not a nice to have but is both important and essential.

The problem with progress

Article written by Henry Bechelet

When we conducted a survey of golf greenkeepers from the North of England on the subject of getting the greens ready in the spring, it became clear that there is a big difference between what the greenkeepers thought was reasonable and what the golfers were actually expecting. The greenkeepers said that they generally manage to get their greens to their “summer condition” by late May. The problem was that these same greenkeepers then said that their members were expecting the greens to be ready by mid-April! We have to deal with “Augusta Syndrome” every year.

Having worked in our industry for the last 25 years, I have never failed to marvel at the incredible pace of evolution with course maintenance and the methods that are used to achieve the incredible playing surfaces that we routinely see these days. This progress has been driven in no small part by the desire of modern greenkeepers to keep pace with the expectations of the golfers and your willingness to adopt new techniques and ways of working to bring about an improvement in standards. If we looked at the current management practice of even the most staunchly “traditional” greenkeepers we would see techniques and methods that would have been considered new and even revolutionary 10-15 years ago but have now seeped into common use.

It is clear to me that all aspects of our greens maintenance programmes have evolved radically in recent years. Mowing regimes have become more precise and regular grinding to keep the blades sharp is more and more common. Powered brushing has come to the fore, along with more regular top dressings and turf ironing to polish the surfaces fast, smooth and true. Pure sand top dressings are commonplace and regular aeration/deep scarification are being used to manage the upper the soil profile with air-injection being deployed more and more to manage the soil lower down. These were all radical innovations when introduced but they have become accepted methods in a relatively short period of time. Not to mention the use of moisture probes, Clegg hammers and other objective measurement tools to guide decision making. But even with all this progress, the spring still remains a problem.

The problem with spring is that there is usually a significant amount of pre-season preparation work required to get the greens in shape. The greens need to recover from winter play and possibly disease activity and then get through hollow tine/aeration and top dressing work. We will certainly need to refine the surfaces with repeated top dressings, brushing/verticutting/grooming to create smooth surfaces for play. The problem is that we will need to get through all this work before the turf has even started growing if we are to satisfy the golfers. So, a key requirement for successfully preparing the greens in the spring is to establish growth as early as possible.

Over the last 4 years we have invested in trial work in order to understand what fertiliser type and analysis is the most effective at initiating early spring growth. The initial trial work carried out at STRI in 2013 and found that the best fertiliser (of those tested from our portfolio) for stimulating good early turf colour and quality responses (coupled with the least Microdochium patch disease activity) was the Greenmaster Prolite “Cold Start” 11-5-5 +8Fe formulation. This was certainly not a usual analysis for use in early spring in the UK. Rather than being received as progressive and helpful these findings were generally viewed skeptically by greenkeepers and agronomists as being an example of a fertiliser supplier giving irresponsible and cynical advice – mainly due to the perceived high Nitrogen (N) inputs for this time of year.

Undeterred, we carried on with the work and in spring 2015 we set up a rigorous on-course field trial. This work also confirmed the superiority of “Cold Start” compared to more “traditional” early spring feeds and it also cast doubt on potassium nitrate as being an effective way of generating strong growth at this time. We communicated these results in early 2016 with written articles and seminars (see “Getting Greens Going” from Greenkeeper International, March 2016). At this time those greenkeepers who really wanted to take on the challenge of getting through the spring earlier and with a greater level of top dressing to come out in better shape pricked up their ears and adopted the advice. Feedback from those who had used the “Cold Start” analysis was that they were impressed and they felt like it was a real step forward for the spring schedule.

Last year we continued the trial programme to gain further insight. This time we set up our trial on a working green at Harrogate Golf Club using a sand-based green with the sward comprising predominantly annual meadow grass (Poa annua). The trial this time tested various fertiliser treatments under different top dressing regimes. This time we were looking to get the greens “good” through a spring preparation schedule rather than just getting growth going. Easier said than done as it turned out!

The fertiliser treatments in this latest trial deployed different Nitrogen sources and applied them in different forms to review their relative impacts. They all applied the same amount Nitrogen over an 8 week period from the start of April with some requiring a couple of applications to even out the N inputs. At this time the soil temperatures were at 6-7oC and so we wouldn’t necessarily have expected a growth response. There was a micro granular fertiliser with the N coming solely from sulphate of ammonia (“Invigorator”), there was also a micro granular formulation with sulphate of ammonia and urea (“Cold Start”) and there was liquid applied urea and also potassium nitrate. Top dressing was applied 6 days later at the equivalent of 10 tonnes/ha and 20 tonnes/ha to see how each of the fertiliser treatments generated recovery.

In terms of the strength of response (growth, colour and turf quality) the results were entirely consistent with the previous trials. The assessments showed that all the fertilisers produced a growth response within a couple of weeks of application, but it was the “Cold Start” that was clearly the best at generating the strongest recovery through the top dressings (soil temperatures still in single figures). The Cold start plots also reached the NDVI target for “healthy growth” 2 weeks before any of the other fertilisers. The unfertilised areas sat beneath the dressing and didn’t move at all and so weren’t in any fit state to consider further applications any time soon. The “Cold Start” was streets ahead.

A second top dressing was then applied 3 weeks later (at a rate of 17 tonnes/ha) and the same results were borne out. The granular feeds packed a bigger punch than the liquid urea and potassium nitrate even though they were delivering the same amount of N. This would bear out our contention that properly formulated products perform better than “straights”.

The passage of progression through the trial was constantly being hampered by the cold spring weather with only short-lived warmer snaps occurring (daytime temperatures were still only 12-14 oC at the end of May!). Disease pressure (Microdochium nivale) was high during April and May (as a result) and its development certainly affected the progression of the surface preparations. Annual meadow grass particularly susceptible to Microdochium. Interestingly, it was the untreated control plots that were affected by the disease first but all were affected to some degree after 3 weeks from the start of the original outbreak. Where sulphate of iron was applied with the second application of “Invigorator”, the severity of attack was notably less.

The Poa seedheads then came with a vengeance to set the surfaces back even more. After making good early progress the nature of the surfaces started setting them back. The Poa seedheads had a shattering affect on the visual quality of the surfaces and also on the quality of the ball roll. Despite getting through 2 top dressings (along with verticutting, grooming and more intensive mowing) the seedheads destroyed the playing qualities – and right at the time when the golfers are becoming impatient for “summer best”. The true nature of the Poa had revealed itself at its devastating worst and it was then that I remembered why we wrote so many articles on sward species composition all those years ago. It also reconfirmed why I wanted to get all those “Phase 1” top dressings done and set the foundations in place for an agronomic change. I absolutely believe that effective spring nutrition is a key part of a transitional plan because it widens the maintenance window and allows a far greater amount of top dressing to be applied.

So, it has become clear that early spring nutrition is essential to help us get the greens through an early spring maintenance schedule and in particular recovery through top dressings. We have also established that some fertilisers are better than others. It is interesting that the “best” fertiliser for stimulating strong early season growth is not the analysis that anyone would have considered credible even 5 years ago. The Cold Start formulation certainly won’t be for everyone but if you need to get through some significant work in the spring then it might help you. The greens won’t magically become like Augusta but they will get moving.

The problem with progress is that we sometimes have to change our beliefs to make it happen. But if we base our new beliefs on solid evidence and we keep monitoring, then I really don’t see the problem.

To read the original article from ICL click here