Irrigating During Heat

Irrigating During Heat: Reesink Turfcare’s Robert Jackson discusses irrigating during warm weather.

2018 was certainly the year irrigation systems across the country had their work cut out. It delivered the hottest weather the UK had experienced since 1976 and in some parts of the country months passed without rainfall.

Irrigating During Heat

Many clubs react to extreme weather by seemingly panicking that their irrigation system isn’t up to scratch, and then as soon as the weather’s back to normal quickly forgetting the frustration. My advice would be, don’t! Have an extreme weather programme in place and invest now to ensure that if the same happens again, you’re prepared.

An irrigation system is designed to supplement rainfall, not replace it. Even the most advanced and expensive irrigation systems may have dry and wet areas, particularly during prolonged dry spells. The proper irrigation management goal is to provide water based on the wetter not drier areas. When the system has completed its cycle, and if needed, dry areas can be supplemented with spot or hand watering, typical, for example, with greens and surrounds.

It’s long been recognised that a blanket application of water is not only wasteful, but during a heatwave sometimes not possible, and tackling this in practice is now made easier with improved sensor technology, control software and advanced sprinkler designs. The ability to accurately tailor water application to precise conditions and requirements can help ensure turf will respond as expected in relation to its localised environment.

Measuring changes in moisture, temperature and other variables such as salinity is not new. What modern technology can do is make this monitoring not only easier but integrate it into how the irrigation system is controlled. Take the wireless Toro Turf Guard soil monitoring system. The system employs self-contained sensor units that can be positioned without the need for wiring. Each sensor sends signals to monitoring software, repeaters and a powerful base station allowing large areas to be covered.

Data is recorded and enables more informed adjustments to irrigation schedules to be made. As well as water-saving benefits, accurate monitoring can help alert users to the conditions that can lead to other problems, drainage issues and turf stress. As the wireless sensors are not static, they can be moved around to easily optimise their positioning, taking into account changes in shading on a pitch through to moving to a different position on a green.

Irrigating During Heat

It follows that soil monitoring systems were primarily developed to prevent over- and under-watering. Equally important, information recorded by soil monitoring provides valuable data over extended periods. Using this information can help ensure an irrigation system can be adapted over time to make the best use of applied water, with the potential to decrease consumption and help maintain sward health.

Computer-based software, such as the Toro Lynx system, can be employed to deliver not just irrigation control, but detailed information when it’s in use. With portable tech, it allows the irrigation system to be ‘interrogated’ while other tasks are carried out.

For example, those systems programmed to set off the sprinklers late at night can be monitored remotely, with the software detailing which sprinklers are running and for how long. The system can be set up to work with soil sensors, to include Turf Guard wireless units, providing an alert when the sensor picks up a change in moisture that may need attention. This provides the information to support the decisions required to programme the irrigation control system.

The problem with an outline like this is that it can over simplify what’s on offer. The Toro Lynx programme is advanced enough to provide full mapping of a golf course, but equally at home looking after a single stadium football or rugby pitch. It is designed to fit user needs and be upgraded to take advantages in developing technology.

In conclusion, a modern irrigation system can deliver not just the correct volume of irrigation water to specific areas of turf, but also provide detailed information that can be of great help in monitoring overall turf health. The best irrigation systems optimise available irrigation water to reduce costs and will deliver reliable and upgradeable performance over its lifetime, no matter what the weather!

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Golf Club Feels The Heat

Golf Club Feels The Heat: The impact of the UK’s current heatwave can be seen at Oxford Golf Club.

Just a month ago Oxfordshire’s oldest golf course resembled a lush green oasis, but after the driest June on record, the fairways have frazzled.

Golf Club Feels The Heat

Now the most verdant parts of the course on Hill Top Road, Headington, are the greens and tees, which are watered via an irrigation system.

Doug MacGregor, the club’s head greenkeeper, said: “I’ve been a greenkeeper for 25 years in Oxford and Scotland and these are some of the most extreme weather conditions I’ve experienced.”

Meanwhile in Oxford University Parks, walkers are likely to have blamed falling water levels in the pond on the scorching weather.

It is thought hundreds of fish died last week after levels plummeted rapidly, but the water loss was not the result of evaporation – the university suspects river gates on the Cherwell were opened to increase depth of water downstream, without realising the implications.

Golf club worker Mr MacGregor took a photo of the course one month ago and again this week from the 10th hole, to demonstrate the impact the weather can have.

The experienced greenkeeper and his team of five are working to keep the course in good shape amid sizzling temperatures of up to 30 degrees C, with the hot spell set to continue this week.

Mr MacGregor added: “We had a tough winter but came through it and then had a very wet period and a lot of grass growth before the heatwave.

“The course has looked magnificent in recent months and now the weather has changed the fairways and rough have really struggled to maintain moisture levels.

“This, coupled with the lack of a mains irrigation system at the club, has meant that they have suffered in terms of grass density and colour but they are still playable.

“The weather has a massive impact on the course and we have to adapt daily -we live by weather reports.”

The team’s day starts at 6am with an analysis of data from the club’s weather station.

The information informs them which areas of the course have lost moisture and enables them to establish where to focus their efforts.

“With the heatwave we have adjusted our tactics significantly,” said Doug.

“We also have a high-tech moisture meter which we use by hand to take readings on different spots of the greens.

“Wind is a big factor and different parts of the green will need more water than others.

“The readings enable us to focus on areas which require attention and apply the necessary levels of water accordingly.

“The soil is very warm and dry, and we continually aerate it. We have reduced the amount of grass cutting we do.

“I love looking after the course and it’s great when people comment on the quality.”

Met Office forecasters said today’s temperatures would be cooler than yesterday.

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Wimbledon Can Cope With Heat

Wimbledon Can Cope With Heat: Wimbledon’s head groundsman Neil Stubley has denied the grass is longer at the All England Club this year and is confident the courts can handle the heat.

Rafael Nadal said on Saturday he thought the grass was longer than in previous years but Stubley, the head of courts and horticulture, said: “Still 8mm, that’s the height we’ve played for many years now and it’s exactly the same this year.”

Wimbledon Can Cope With Heat

Last year the state of the courts during a hot first week of play was criticised by a number of players, with France’s Kristina Mladenovic branding them dangerous.

With temperatures again soaring into the high 20s and potentially above, Stubley knows there could be complaints again, but is not unduly worried.

He said: “It’s always in the back of your mind. If we have a spike in temperature then the potential risk that may come with that.

“This year compared to last year we’re about three or four degrees lower. With perennial rye grass, the upper ceiling is 28, 29 degrees, once you go above that the plant naturally will start to stress because it’s a living surface.

“At the moment we’re at that top level but because we can afford to get the irrigation on in the evenings because we’ve got nice weather, at the moment we’re nicely in control.

“We’re constantly monitoring the forecasts and the forecasts are looking like this for next week. We’re very happy with where we are.”

Stubley refuted allegations last year that the courts were not in as good condition and continues to insist the issue was purely cosmetic.

He said: “The courts were still wearing the same, it’s just that the plant was under stress and it just looked slightly different.

“But all of the data we were getting back during the championships was telling us they were exactly where they needed to be.

“We’ve stuck with the same grasses, we’re doing the same processes. This year we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had no disruptions at all in the practice week, we’ve had nine full days of practice, which for the tournament and the players is really good.”

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