Experts advise on turf management over autumn and winter period

Experts advise on turf management over autumn and winter period
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The threat of winter disease will be starting to creep increasingly into the thoughts of greenkeepers as the seasons start to change, and many are keen to employ an integrated turf management approach to minimise the risk of disease attacks.

To achieve this requires a thorough working knowledge of a targeted nutrition programme, building up carbohydrate reserves and proactive fungicide treatments according to Dr Simon Watson of Syngenta, who is championing a ‘go in green, to come out clean’approach for turf managers to adopt in order to stave off the threats the cold season can bring.

Speaking at the BIGGA Golf Education Day turf management seminar at the Sports Amenities Landscaping Trade Exhibition (Saltex), Dr Watson said: “Strong, healthy turf going into the winter is paramount to maintain the best possible playing conditions through the winter, and produce more consistent surfaces for the spring. There is immense value in preparations through the autumn and early winter, to help protect turf through more severe months.”

An interactive voting system was used at the seminar, and found that 95 per cent of attendees’ courses were affected by autumn or winter disease on greens, and over 50 per cent confirmed that the problem was an annually recurring one.

Dr Watson highlighted recent research indicating that an autumn Primo Maxx programme can provide a welcome boost to over-winter water soluble carbohydrates. The Primo Maxx programme also boosted sucrose, fructose and glucose levels, which can be easily used by plants, were still over 16 per cent higher in the spring after the programme, compared to untreated. Primo Maxx treatment can also bring about a 30 per cent increased in chloroplast numbers in the turf leaf, giving the turf a greener appearance as well as increasing its ability to absorb light.

“Crucially, promoting healthy turf through the autumn also reduced winter disease susceptibility,” said Watson. “Independent trials under severe Microdochium Patch (Fusarium) disease risk conditions showed up to 70 per cent reduction in infection over the winter on greens treated with a Primo Maxx programme.”

Everris’ Michael Fance, also speaking at the Saltex event, advised that carbohydrate reserves need to be carefully matched with nutritional inputs throughout the autumn period.

“Carbohydrate reserves do respond to increased nitrogen inputs, to a point. But, over feeding leads to excessive top growth that needs to be mown off; soft growth that is more susceptible to disease and poor rooting,” said Fance. “The net effect is reduced carbohydrate storage. It is crucial to get nitrogen levels right and in a form that will support building plant reserves, without triggering lush growth. Greenmaster Liquid High K has low levels of N and P, but supplies the N from three sources to maintain extremely consistent results. Furthermore, previously locked-up iron in the soil is released, to enhance colour and turf health, along with a full trace element package to enhance turf health and aid recovery from stress.”

Watson also outlined his belief that by promoting healthy turf in the autumn provides greenkeepers with the best opportunity to prevent outbreaks across the colder period. The survey carried out at the Saltex seminar found many greenkeepers still wait till there is evidence of disease before applying the necessary preventative fungicides, which can have a detrimental affect on playing surface speed and consistency.

“STRI trials have repeatedly shown that carefully-timed preventative strategies can achieve more effective and longer lasting disease control, compared to curative approach,” Watson advised. “That means less surface scarring and reduced stress on the turf. It can also reduce the number of fungicide applications required over the course of the season.”