New Harrowden Turf initiative

New Harrowden Turf initiative: As Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are becoming more widespread and the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) have now upgraded this current outbreak to the status of pandemic, we are now having to think about how this affects all of us.

Let’s Build A Garden” is a social media and e-communications campaign initially aimed at our customers and followers but designed to encourage sharing of information and to engage with vulnerable groups, those with unexpected childminding responsibilities and those self-isolating because of covid-19.

Stuart Ridd-Jones, Managing Director:-

“Horticulture and gardening are “soul” activities and in these unprecedented times we are being encouraged to nurture mind, body and soul. “Let’s Build A Garden” will use social media platforms to provide step by step ideas, resources and “homework” to get these key groups and others starting a garden project. Each week a new step will be introduced – hopefully with ever-growing support.”

We have  also teamed up with the #keepcalmandgetreadytogarden initiated by Porters Fuchsias and #plantsmakepeoplehappy  to try to bring ideas together.

As well as utilising social media platforms “Let’s Build A Garden” will encourage people to send in plans, mood-boards, mind-maps, pictures and ideas to to be shared and used as inspiration for others.

For the latest industry news visit

Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun, fresh and engaging content.

You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matters.

Surf ‘n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf: A horse’s impact on a surface, whether a racecourse or eventing track, has been much debated in sporting circles. On a professional sports stage the horse, averaging around 500kg, makes a significant collision with any surface. STRI agronomy manager, Steve Gingell, puts on his farrier’s hat to study hoof interaction with grass.

There have been several publications on the action and stages of horse’s hoof interaction with a surface. However, most are related to artificial sand surfaces and less so to grass surfaces.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf

The key works are from the FEI Equestrian Surfaces Guide published through the Swedish Equestrian Foundation and Natural Turf for Sport and Amenity by Adams and Gibbs. ‘Science and Practice’ reviews the surface interactions at several racecourses in terms of firmness, penetration and resilience over time.

This is also a useful guide to how a hoof interacts with the surface.

There are a few testing devices simulating hoof interaction with different types of turf surface. The main equipment used on artificial surfaces is the Orano Biomechanical Surface Tester. This aims to mimic the phases of a hoof’s interaction with a surface.

Testing is also undertaken on turf using devices such as the TurfTrax Going Stick and the STRI Toro Precision Sense Testing, which gives data and maps indicating the surface performance. So how does a sports turf manager adapt their surfaces to ensure a safe and fast or competitive surface for a range of equestrian sports?


The majority of professionals accept that there are four stages of a hoof interaction with the surface.

Touch down

Where the hoof initially impacts the surface; this is a braking force. The hoof will receive a shock/feedback from the surface depending on whether it is hard or soft. Very hard surfaces will give injuries to the hoof and leg bones. Very soft surfaces give very little feedback as most of the energy of the initial shock is absorbed through the surface.


Where the full weight and impact of the horse focuses through the hoof. Typically, forces are vertical and therefore the surface firmness is much more important. Hard surfaces will injure tendons, ligaments and bones.

Soft ones give little feedback to the hoof and therefore energy of the motion is lost.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf

Roll over

Where the toe of the hoof starts to push into the surface. A firm, surface can give little grip as the hoof slides on the surface. A very soft surface could dig in and lead to significant divot removal and lack of pace.

Push off

The most important aspect of this stage is a strong turf as this is where the horse is gaining propulsion. The toe is at the maximum penetration and the flat of the hoof is pushing backwards. Traction is vital and therefore an over soft or damaged surface could give little traction.


Impact firmness

The surface needs to have impact firmness, ie absorb shock when the hoof hits the ground. This is most important in a profile upper layer hardness. As an example, a very soft surface will have low impact firmness and a tarmac or a bound surface have very high impact firmness. This is very important in avoiding horse injury.


A surface needs to dampen and reduce impact forces (cushioning) and is achieved in various layers within the surface. A well cushioned surface reduces stress, ie soft racecourse, whereas a firm surface is fast but could cause injury.


Grip is important because a very low grip surface means the hoof slides and therefore injury can occur, whereas a very high grip surface can often have high impact forces. A surface must be able to withstand push off. It is important that some slide occurs to reduce the forces on the hoof.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf


Responsiveness is a measure of how active or springy the surface is. A responsive surface gives energy back to the horse and this aspect is also related to the firmness and cushioning. A very compacted hard surface may rebound too quickly, whereas a very soft surface will give very little responsiveness.


A surface needs to be uniform so that the horse has confidence to reach its maximum performance. Variable surfaces, particularly in very short distances, can be significantly problematical.


In horse racing, the key aim is to provide a fast track that is both safe and fair. In flat racing typically, surfaces are maintained to a slightly firmer level with slightly shorter grass length than jump racing. The aim however must be to provide a reasonable level of cushioning and a medium to high level of impact firmness.

If a course becomes too firm, then the impact firmness becomes high and horses can suffer injury. Conversely, an over soft surface means speed and times are slower, therefore horses will tire more quickly. Grip is also important as horses will be using their maximum level of propulsion push off due to the high speeds of travel. There would be less grip issues as the hoof is not having to absorb any braking that would occur when using a jump.

In jump horse racing speeds are lower, and in between jumps over firm ground can create issues in a similar manner as flat racing. There is also a tendency to prefer a slightly softer going to ensure reasonable safety and moderate times. This is partially achieved through racing in winter months when soils are naturally wetter and therefore have less impact firmness, but also through a slightly longer height of cut at around 4-5 inches to give a little more cushioning.

When a horse jumps, grip in the initial stages is important, and then impact firmness and cushioning is vital on the landing phases.

Over a racecourse there will invariably be a degree of difference in uniformity as often different soils will occur, unless that track has been completely reconstructed. It is difficult sometimes to manage uniformity which is only achieved through varying aeration, irrigation cycles and fertility.

Surf 'n Turf

Surf ‘n Turf


Cross-country builds on the comments in horse racing. There will be sections of galloping between the sets of fences, coupled with explosive takeoffs, moderate impact landing forces and often turns a stride or two after.

It is important for horse safety that the track is of medium firmness to reduce the impact and has a good level of cushioning. This is usually achieved through a reasonable grass length, although grass height is much lower in eventing than would be in racecourses. So there needs to be appropriate irrigation strategies and grass health management through aeration and fertility to maximise the soil cushioning.

Grip is very important as a horse needs to feel confident to take on the various obstacles. Lack of grip means the horse may slide forward towards a jump or not have suitable footing on landing. As an event progresses the take-offs and landings will often become quite worn. Therefore, exceptional management with good levels of repair in these areas, running up to a meeting, is very important. Frequently woodchip or even gravels are put in and around a landing zone and these will tend to make surfaces very firm over time and should be avoided.

Aeration and an overseeding or returfing of poor areas immediately following an event is essential to maximise the turf condition.


Polo is interesting in that each horse will only be used for a very short period, but under a very intense level of activity. Due to polo being a ball sport the surface is also kept very short. The surface needs to have a moderate to elevated level of impact firmness, but not to a level that the horse becomes injured because of the shock impact with the ground. This high impact firmness gives good responsiveness, although it should be noted thatsometimes a very firm surface may not be as responsive as one would expect. It is moderately difficult to achieve a high level of cushioning on a very short sward, although the soil profile needs to be medium firm, well aerated and have deep rooting. A little organic matter is quite beneficial to ensure cushioning. However, elevated levels of organic matter can often lead to reduced grip and at significant levels give poor impact firmness.

Probably the most important factor is grip. Polo ponies turn very quickly, execute fast decelerations and accelerations. This means that the surface has to give confidence to the rider and the horse. A very dry soil profile may have less grip as the pony can slide on the dry top.

This is often relieved through sand dressings and through significant quantities of irrigation to create a slightly softer upper surface. Watering can be a problem as insufficient irrigation may only wet the surface and therefore create a shear layer.

Each site will have a different ideal moisture content for performance. It is not uncommon to find the centre sections of a polo field being firmer than the edges as this is where most of the play occurs and therefore targeted verti-draining through the middle of the ground is important.

Harrowden Turf makes delivery easy

Harrowden Turf makes delivery easy: Businesses and customers buying from Harrowden Turf and its online brand – Turfonline – can now book their exact delivery location using the latest location mapping technology – “what3words”

No longer will they need to know the exact address or a postcode but by using  “what3words” both customer and business will know exactly where to deliver to the closest three metres.

Harrowden Turf has followed the emergency services, the RAC and hundreds of other businesses in adopting “what3words” as the definitive location finder.

Stuart Ridd-Jones – Harrowden Turf Managing Director:-

Turf deliveries can go anywhere – particularly when we are talking about new housing developments. Sometimes the roads are all new and obviously the houses are all new. Adopting “what3words” means much less confusion and much more clarity with delivery instructions

We think we are the first horticulture business to adopt this technology. It’s all about adding value for the customer and making our order process just a little simpler

Harrowden Turf and Turfonline make thousands of deliveries in a year and they all need to know where to go and sometimes that’s not so easy. How do you describe where you are when the road is brand new and the house is brand new? Or it’s a rural location with no clear signposts or landmarks?

“what3words” has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and given each one a unique “what3words” address – made up of three words from the dictionary. Instead of having to give approximate descriptions of where their home or delivery location is Harrowden customers can now give Customer Service their exact “what3words” address or Harrowden Turf can give it to them so we’re all using the same information.

For the latest industry news visit

Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun, fresh and engaging content.

You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matters.

Revolution in professional turf care

Revolution in professional turf care: Strained sports turf surfaces are particularly stressed by the influence of walking on, playing on or driving on, which can lead to a change in the physical or chemical properties of the soil due to compaction. 

Compaction has negative effects on the vital growth of a healthy and durable grass population as well as on the functional safety due to the often highly reduced air and water permeability of the soil, a lack of water and nutrients available to plants, poor regeneration growth and changes in soil organic structure.

Revolution in professional turf care

The remedy can be found with the airter light 14160 – pneumatic soil aeration device for professionals, which loosens the lawn root zone homogeneously into a depth of 22 cm and supplies it with fresh oxygen.

This is done by steplessly adjustable compressed air in a continuous process. A football field can be completely processed in seven hours.

A total of 14 specially developed compressed air injection lances with triple jets push up to one million litres of air per pitch into the ground in an efficient working process.

The airter aerates the root zone homogeneously and with full coverage without any significant visible damage to the top surface. The penetration depth can be selected to match local soil conditions by using different lances so the soil compaction can be reduced up to 30% (verifiably tested). As a result, water flow and air circulation improve remarkably. Novokraft’s airsoftroll roller technology guarantees low ground pressure during sustainable aeration of the root zone with oxygen! Unique and unrivalled!

Advantages at a glance

• Effective and sustainable aeration of hybrid, sports and golf surfaces.
• Reduction of pesticide use and prevention of black layer through active ventilation. Efficient and biological pest control (e.g. larvae & grubs).
• Improved water absorption/storage within the root zone enabling shorter irrigation cycles and reduced water consumption, especially during the vegetation and heat periods.
• A measurable, homogeneous de-compaction of about 30% in the treated root zone layer.
• Reduction of downtime (no need for post-processing work, play areas can be walked on and played on directly, less waterlogging due to improved separating effect).
• Reduction of maintenance time (reduction of traditional aeration intervals and top-dressing needs, lower patch work and over-seeding requirements).
• Low maintenance cost (simple pneumatic/hydraulic system).
• Scientifically validated system (STRI in the UK and University of Hohenheim in Germany).
• Efficient operation (continuous operation, simple machine operation, high productivity).

The airter can demonstrably loosen the hardened hybrid turf systems. In all hybrid turf systems, the root zone cannot be optimally and professionally ventilated using conventional mechanical loosening methods (e.g. deep loosening with solid chisels).

Over time, these procedures inevitably lead to vertical compaction of the lawn base layer.

Novokraft has developed the airter to solve this problem and to professionally loosen the root zone. This prevents the formation of decomposition gases, which are toxic for lawn roots.

Practical tests on new hybrid turf fields have shown that with the loosening effect of the airter, the players subsequently felt the fields to be much softer.

Likewise, this homogeneous pneumatic loosening method massively improves all bioactivity in the soil. The airter is also ideally suited for the reliable maintenance of water permeability.

Turf Maintenance Live a success

Turf Maintenance Live a success: Although the second day was plagued with heavy rain, this did not deter visitors to Turf Maintenance Live, held at St Albans School’s Woollam Playing Fields, on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

Over 130 delegates visited the event to see an eclectic mix of equipment that the 10 manufacturers and distributors had assembled at the superb venue, immaculately prepared by head groundman Ian Smith and his team.

Turf Maintenance Live a success

Visitors were able to visit each of the exhibitors – Agria UK, Ernest Doe & Sons, GKB Machines, Husqvarna UK, Iseki UK, Martin Lishman, Price Turfcare (Ventrac), Rigby Taylor, Wessex International and Wiedenmann UK – to see their equipment offering and in some cases ride and drive the machines on display.

“Considering the weather on the second day we were pleased,” said Val Graham from the TML team. “Some attendees came from as far away as south Wales, which proves the value of the event. With minimal opportunity to demo equipment at other industry events, this was a great occasion for our groundscare colleagues to see a wide range of equipment and, for some, the opportunity to ride and drive the machines.

“We are indebted to St Albans School, and Ian Smith in particular, for allowing us the use of their superb facilities, which were in pristine condition and looked fantastic.”

For the latest industry news visit

Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun, fresh and engaging content.

You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matters.

Getting turf through winter

Getting turf through winter: Geoff Fenn, of Advanced Grass Solutions, helps you navigate the trials and tribulations of the winter months.

Autumn and winter are tough for turf. Low light, cold temperatures, poor weather and regular play mean plants can become stressed, weakened and susceptible to disease. What can we do as Turf Managers to maintain quality through a long winter?

Getting turf through winter

With the reduction in availability (and lower curative abilities) of amenity fungicides, putting together an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan can help reduce disease outbreaks on your site.

Firstly, do not underestimate the importance of correct nutrition. Understand the growth requirements of your surface and make sure nitrogen inputs will produce the exact level of growth you require. In winter sports with high wear you need a higher level of growth for recovery from divots and scars – monitor your growth rate by measuring clipping yield and change inputs to match the growth your site requires. Do not overfeed, do not underfeed – easier said than done but it’s crucial to get the plant in a healthy state with good carbohydrate reserves going into cold weather.

Pay close attention to the source of nitrogen you use – colder weather requires nitrogen with an ammoniacal or nitrate source as these are instantly available. Urea/methylene urea requires some warmth for bacteria to convert it into a plant-available form.

Everything nutritionally should be balanced – beware of the consequences of over-applying anything – excess nutrition can cause plant stresses that reduce health and bring on disease. Soil health can also be adversely affected by too much iron, sulphur and many other compounds used to the detriment of beneficial soil biology. Try to use products that declare exactly what’s in them so you know what effects these can have both short and long-term.

Try to set aside small trial areas to test if products and practices are genuinely having a beneficial effect on your site. Don’t believe all the hype or claims of products until you have seen good research or proved to yourself they have a benefit to you.

There are times when disease pressure simply overwhelms all the good factors we encourage in our turf and outbreaks happen anyway, but by getting as many things as ‘correct’ as we can, disease can be limited to a level that you may find ‘acceptable’.

What are some of the factors we can use/influence to reduce disease?

• Thatch Control – Reduce the home of pathi
• Nutrition – Get the balance right
• Airflow – Increase airflow around each plant
• Shade – Reduce shade and increase light
• pH – slightly acidic soil and leaf surface will reduce disease
• Dew/Moisture – reduce leaf wetness to prevent infection
• Drainage – keep surfaces firm and dry
• Grass Species – the right species for the right site
• Soil biological management – control thatch and diseases and improve health
• Fungicides – understand active ingredients and when they work best.

Each individual control method may not add up to a significant difference in disease levels but getting many of the pieces in the puzzle lined up correctly, we can reduce fungicide use and reduce disease activity.

Disease spores can live in thatch layers and when conditions are suitable, they will spread and attack the plant. Reduce thatch to minimal levels and you reduce the amount of disease spores. Try to encourage a healthy, balanced microbial population in your soil by adding high quality carbon-rich organic fertilisers and reducing chemical inputs to as low as possible.

This will then ensure natural thatch breakdown by soil microbes is maximised, leading to less invasive thatch removal practices to achieve the desired results.

Encouraging beneficial biology helps create a ‘suppressive soil’ that reduces pathogen populations leading to lessaggressive disease outbreaks. Biology alone cannot stop disease, but it can massively help reduce its impact. An unhealthy anaerobic soil with black layer


Trees, buildings or spectator stands surrounding your turf cast shade and limit the energy a plant can produce for itself. Plants convert light energy into ‘plant-available’ energy such as sugars and carbohydrates. By cutting off sunlight you are cutting off the potential energy available for each plant and weakening it.

Think of grass plant leaves like mini solar panels – without sufficient sunlight they cannot produce enough energy to keep a healthy plant alive.

Removal of trees you will often also allow better airflow around the plant. This can be just enough to keep the leaf a little bit drier which can reduce disease. Leaf moisture is a key element for Microdochium development.

Apps such as Sun Seeker show the path of the sun and just how little sunlight turf often receives.

The public perception is planting trees is a great idea and removing trees is some form of ‘environmental vandalism’. The truth is sportsturf and trees really are not happy bedfellows. Grass is naturally adapted to open spaces with plenty of light, not shady areas under trees.

There are so many ways of managing turf and no one single correct method. Manage all the elements as best you can on your site is all you can do. You may still get stress and disease – but it will be much less than it could have been.

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline Approaching: Over 130 delegates have already registered for Turf Maintenance Live, the annual showcase of turf maintenance equipment from leading manufacturers and distributors, which is being held at the Woollam Playing Fields, Harpenden Rd in St. Albans on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

Delegates who have already registered and are headed for St Albans represent an eclectic mix from across our industry including prestigious football clubs and stadia, tennis, horse racing, rugby and golf plus landscape contractors and local authorities.

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline Approaching

Entrance to the event, now in its fifth year, is free but pre-registration is essential with BIGGA and IOG members able claim CPD points for their attendance. There’s still time to sign-up, but with registration closing on Monday 21st October, you need to hurry to secure your place.

If you’re interested in attending the event and seeing the latest innovations and equipment in action, register by completing a registration form online at: or email

ISEKI have supported Turf Maintenance Live since its conception and commenting on the event David Withers said, “Turf Maintenance Live is an excellent opportunity for many groundscare manufacturers to showcase their machinery, allowing visitors the opportunity to see a wide range of products being demonstrated all in one place.  ISEKI will have large selection of machinery available for visitors to ride and drive.  From the top spec TG tractors suitable for all aeration and groundscare needs, to the compact TM range ideal for sports pitches where a lightweight footprint is required but lift capacity and power cannot be compromised.

Turf Maintenance Live Registration Deadline Approaching

“Alongside the tractors will be the highly renowned ISEKI mowers, designed to leave a professional finish whether cut and collected or mulched.  ISEKI machines cannot be beaten on quality and reliability.  So why not see for yourself at the Turf Maintenance Live event, we look forward to seeing you there.”

For the latest industry news visit

Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun, fresh and engaging content.

You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matters.

Wildflower Turf To Debut Products

Wildflower Turf To Debut Products: Two innovative new products have just been released by leading UK wild flower specialists, Wildflower Turf Ltd; Meadowscape Pro™ and Wildflower Turf® Finisher.

After several years of research and product testing the Hampshire-based business has announced the launch of Meadowscape Pro™, an enhanced growing medium used by landscape professionals for effective wild flower establishment which has also been used and approved by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Wildflower Turf To Debut Products

Meadowscape Pro™ allows for the creation of dynamic and biodiverse wild flower spaces in a range of settings with minimal ground preparation, saving time and money.

Extensively tested and enriched with Hydropor™, this specially developed formula supports good water percolation and retention, stabilising the growing medium for much better seed germination compared to more conventional seeding methods.

Meadowscape Pro™ is suitable for a number of different sites and the product delivers optimal seed germination leading to quick, healthy seedling growth.

The Meadowscape Pro™ range will consist of Meadowscape Pro™ Landscape, Meadowscape Pro™ Shade Tolerant, Meadowscape Pro™ Native Enriched, Meadowscape Pro™ Annuals, and Meadowscape Pro™ Species Rich Lawn.

A tailored, bespoke version of Meadowscape Pro™ can also be made available to a more specified brief, in line with individual customer needs.

In conjunction with the launch of Meadowscape Pro™, Wildflower Turf Ltd has also released Wildflower Turf® Finisher after consultation with established landscape contractors.

Wildflower Turf® Finisher is designed to fill joins, edges and small gaps for Wildflower Turf® projects and will eradicate the need for wastage of the Wildflower Turf® product when laying complex areas.

Suitable for application during or after the installation of Wildflower Turf®, this complementary product can be used to dress small bare patches that may have been created within a wild flower meadow design.

Perfect for use around trees, plants and around areas of defined shapes where cutting the Wildflower Turf® becomes more complicated and could create expensive wastage, Wildflower Turf® Finisher will be supplied in convenient 20kg bags that will ensure the highest possible standard of finish to an area of Wildflower Turf®.

Managing Director of Wildflower Turf Ltd, James Hewetson-Brown said, “We are committed to continually improving and widening our product and service offering and supplying our customers with innovative, research-led wildflower solutions. Investment in our on-site Research & Development facility ensures that all our products are rigorously tested and we will continue to pioneer new products that provide guaranteed results.”

For the latest industry news visit

Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun, fresh and engaging content.

You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matters.

Register For Turf Maintenance Live

Register For Turf Maintenance Live: Registration continues for Turf Maintenance Live, the annual showcase of turf maintenance equipment from leading manufacturers and distributors, which is being held at the Woollam Playing Fields, Harpenden Rd in St. Albans on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October.

Entrance to the event, now in its fifth year, is free but pre-registration is essential with BIGGA and IOG members able claim CPD points for their attendance.

Register For Turf Maintenance Live

Visitors interested in attending the event and seeing the latest innovations and equipment in action can register by completing a registration form online at: or email .

Having been a founder member of the Turf Maintenance LIVE team, Richard Fry of Rigby Taylor commented,

“Having the opportunity to demonstrate ‘LIVE’ some the products that we distribute is very valuable. In particular, the company’s award winning range of line marking paints and applicators, as well as fertilizer spreaders benefit from being showcased in a practical use situation. At this TML event, there will be demonstrations of the latest advances in robotic line marking, allowing visitors to see how new technology is being introduced to the groundscare industry. In addition, visitors will be able to see the POGO, a major advance in water management in use, in particular, moisture measurement and recording and talk to company specialist on seed selection, nutrition and plant health.

Emma Wilson of Husqvarna added,

“We are once again pleased to be part of the TML team. This event is a fantastic opportunity to meet turf professionals face to face in a hands-on environment. In recent times we’ve seen a surge in demand from commercial businesses for battery product and new, environmentally-friendly technology. This is now becoming the choice of many businesses and at this year’s event we will be showing our latest solutions in turf maintenance, demonstrating our latest technology which covers the maintenance of all areas that complement open green spaces.

Attendees will also be able to see the latest in world leading robotics with the Husqvarna Automower® range, including the new AWD Automower®, capable of 70% slopes. Speak to the Husqvarna Commercial team for solutions and not just a product at this year’s Turf Maintenance LIVE!

For the latest industry news visit

Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for fun, fresh and engaging content.

You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matte

Tackling Summer Turf Stress

Tackling Summer Turf Stress: Last summer saw the highest level of drought stress the UK has seen for years, and many courses are still feeling the effects of this damage in 2019.

Heat and drought stress can often be hard to manage but by looking at above and below ground factors it is possible to mitigate the effects and maintain playability. Dr Colin Mumford, left, Technical Support Manager at Bayer, explains the management practices that can be implemented to protect courses this summer.

Tackling Summer Turf Stress

Above Ground – Heat Stress

Above ground, heat stress is a big issue during the summer months. Heat can cause scorch, wilt and eventually die back of the grass plant which can severely interfere with ball roll and the aesthetic appearance of the course.

“There are a number of management practices that can help to reduce the effects of heat stress,” explained Colin.

“In the US and other hot countries, they use a technique called syringing. This involves spraying a fine jet of water droplets into the air above the green.

“These fine droplets land on the turf and evaporate almost instantly. This rapid evaporation cools the canopy of the grass plant, removing a lot of heat.

“If this is done properly you can do a whole green in 30 to 45 seconds and it will be dry before the next group of golfers arrive,” said Colin.

“There is an argument that this will need to be used more in the UK as we seem to be getting hotter summers. But it’s a very labour-intensive process and just doing it once isn’t enough,” he warned.

“Greens need to be syringed at least seven times a day to keep the canopy temperature down. Most golf courses that do this have one or two people who carry out this process throughout the whole day.”

Colin adds that raising the height of cut as much as possible can help to take the stress off grass plants.

“By raising the cutting height, the plant will be able to tolerate stresses because the added growth will make it more resilient. However, by raising the cut height, ball speed on putting greens will be reduced,” he says.

“Therefore, if you decide to go down this route you may want to roll the greens afterwards to counteract the effects of the extra height.”

Colin explained that there are products that can be applied to help alleviate the effects of heat stress.

“UVA and UVB rays from the sun radiate heat on the grass plant causing heat stress. Bayer’s Stressgard formulated range can provide a protective barrier against this.

“Stressgard contains a pigment that coats the surface of the leaf, and significantly reduces the amount of UVA and UVB reaching the grass plant.

“It will also reduce Photosynthetically Active Radiation but allows sufficient PAR through for the plant to photosynthesise effectively,” said Colin.

Eoghan Buckley, Course Superintendent at Birr Golf Club, County Offaly, had problems with summer turf stress last year and used preventative applications of a Stressgard formulated fungicide, as part of his management programme, to prevent disease taking hold of his greens.

“At the end of June our greens endured a prolonged period of heat and drought stress. After taking advice from Greg Collins at Bayer and Aine Daly from Cropcare, I decided to apply a preventative fungicide to help with recovery and minimise any further stress on the plants.

“The results were positive, with the turf looking much healthier. Having witnessed these impressive results, I have integrated this into my turf management programme this year.

“So far, this year hasn’t been as hot as 2018, so my greens are looking in good condition. However, from what I learnt last year, taking a preventative approach to both turf stress and disease control can be vital,” says Eoghan.

Below Ground – Drought Stress

“Below ground it is all about water management. To make informed decisions it’s important to know what you are working with and understanding evapotranspiration is the best way to achieve this.

“ET is the combined effect of water loss through transpiration from the plant, and evaporation from the soil. It is calculated from weather data, and some weather data providers, such as Bayer’s TurfXpert app, provide a calculation of ET.

“Measurements with moisture metres around your course, to assess localised areas of your turf, are also important. When these are combined with ET data, you can calculate how much supplemental irrigation is required,” added Colin.

While there are lots of schools of thought around irrigation techniques, Colin recommends deficit irrigation as the best solution.

“It works by replacing between 60% to 80% of water loss, which means the soil is able to take in additional water during a rainfall event and none of it is lost through drainage,” he explained.

“This way you can make the most of rainwater and save costs on irrigation.”

He warns drainage is not only costly in terms of water loss but also because of nutrient loss.

“If drainage occurs it can leech away nitrogen and other inputs, potentially causing environmental damage and cost to the greenkeeper.”

To combat this, Colin recommends carrying out an audit of irrigation systems to ensure they are running efficiently and used wisely.

“Irrigation is a beneficial tool but if it’s overused, problems with thatch build up and annual meadow grass can occur. This is why getting management techniques and calculations right is vital,” he said.

Below Ground – Pests

Another below ground factor is the damage caused by chafer grubs and leather jackets.

“These pests can have a huge impact on the health of grass plants at this time of year,” said Colin.

“Chafer grubs and leather jackets damage the roots of grass plants meaning the grass plant can’t take up water and nutrition, leading to drought stress effects.

“There may be plenty of water and nutrition present in the soil, but because the roots are damaged, they can’t take it up. The grass plants will then show signs of drought stress, scorching and ultimately will die back.

“In this case, the only short-term answer is irrigation. However, in the long term you can tackle the pest with cultural, biological and chemical controls to prevent damage from happening.

“Introducing new grass species that have rhizomes, fescues for example, into these areas can help with this.

“The rhizomes act as a tube of stored energy below ground which helps the grass plant to cope with a degree of attack from pests.

“Aeration can also be used to create channels for the roots to grow though, allowing them to descend quickly and easily to scavenge more water and nutrients,” adds Colin.

“As greenkeepers you strive to maintain the health and playability of your course. So, doing everything that you can both culturally and chemically is paramount, especially during the hot summer months,” concluded Colin.