Turf management is … STRESSFUL!

Hi, Daniel Lightfoot here. I hope Glenn doesn’t mind me gatecrashing his great blog, but I’ve been out on a few different sites this week and just thought it was worth chucking my two pennyworth out there 🙂

There was a post the other day of Facebook saying something like “… hands up that, if you could, would you jack in greenkeeping …” or something like that.

I thought … what a shame. Having done several jobs, including the obligatory McDonald stint during A-levels, personally I think working on a golf course, or turf for that matter is the best job in the world.

There is nothing better than getting out early in the morning on the course, mowing greens seeing the wildlife, setting up the course, hopefully seeing the golfers enjoy it and then planning what you are going to do the next day, week, month or year to make it better. Tournament times are great, the banter with the team is second to none and if you want you can go and play golf after work you can. Better still, thanks to BIGGA and the hospitality fellow greenkeepers show, you can play pretty much anywhere for free. The places we played were amazing and I still feel very lucky today.

However, it no secret that running a golf course is very stressful. Player demands are high, budgets are under scrutiny and recently the armoury of chemicals has been reduced – across all fungicides, herbicides and insecticides – which makes it even tougher for the turf manager to deliver the surfaces the players require ……

.. but in some ways I don’t think anything has changed.

The best agronomic strategy, be it today, 10 years ago or in the golden age of course design, has always been first and foremost to get all your agronomy programmes right.

Understand your soil type and environment, get your nutrition delivery accurate, get your topdressing program spot on, optimise your aeration and irrigation, manage your thatch and dial in your cutting height and rolling programmes to deliver the right surface for you customers and their expectations .

It has always been thus. Pesticides, and in particular fungicide applications, should always be the last resort …. but they do play a vitally important role. With the demand from today’s players being very high, its not always easy. This week is a very good example.

A cracking blog by my friend Mark Hunt, disease forecasts on the GreenCast website and listening to experiences of greenkeeepers and agronomists has highlighted the dangers of increased anthracnose pressure and the damage outbreaks can do.

Now I’m not going to talk about the weather, you will be pleased to know, as its not my specialist subject. But we all know anthracnose pressure can be reduced by adjusting several of the aforementioned parameters, such as making sure the N is not too low and raising up the cutting height.

Cutting height is a good one and some well known work by Bruce Clarke at Rutgers shows a near- linear relationship between anthracnose pressure and cutting height, which we can see below in the excerpt from GCM magazine. As cutting height comes up, the anthracnose severity reduces.

GCM magazine May 2009

But as I said, turf management is stressful and we have seen a lot of people on twitter with #clubchamps last weekend or this, and its not that easy to just back things off a little when the turf stress period comes at the same time as the biggest comp of the year.

Its very likely you have backed off your N to get the speeds up, put a bit of stress on the cutting height to push it that little extra that your customers are looking for …. and so its times like this you may need a little help from a fungicide, even if you have got everything right!

I’ve been there, its hard and explaining to a member that the greens are slow for club champs due to anthracnose pressure is not the easiest thing to do. And lets be honest, they don’t want to hear it!

Also with the fungicide availability landscape changing, and there being less active ingredients (AI) around at the moment, (although I’m sure we will see some new ones soon …) the focus of Syngenta is to look to how we can help turf managers reduce disease with well developed and researched non-AI products, to complement the existing technology and to build a fully integrated ITM program.

Ryder is a great example of this. Pigments have been used extensively in the US, as both stress mitigation and also as a replacement in some cases for a winter overseed. I don’t think we have seen them take off in the same way in the UK yet, but I personally think they will have a big part to play in the management of turf going forward. I spent some time with Karl in the video below understanding the history of pigments in the US.

Also few years ago, whilst in the US for GIS, I was lucky enough the week to go to a trials program at UCR and see the amazing performance of the pigment technology in a variety of drought resistance trials. I was staggered by the results and we really knew at that point that this was an area which we needed to concentrate on.

Since I have been at Syngenta we have worked on developing Ryder and my colleagues, Rod Burke and Glenn Kirby have been working very hard on a massive variety of trials looking at the benefits of pigments on turfgrass, to support the UK Course Manager

Now they have many benefits but, for me as a former turfgrass manager, I really see the benefit of using it now for mitigating light stress and protecting the plant in this period of really hot weather.

For me its two fold – the pigment can do a great job of protecting the plant from excessive damaging UV light and really mitigate some of the stress on the plant at a real critical time in the clubs calendar, like now. But also it can provide a green colour, separate from nutrition, which allows the turf manager to deliver great looking turf for the customer while keeping the N delivery at the right level to better help manage speed, thatch and disease.

We have also started to see some great results in other areas with regards our winter trials, but for now I think this is a great time to have a look at what pigment technology can really do for you on your course – and maybe reduce you own stress as well as the turfs 🙂

If you want to know more about pigment technology send me an email to daniel.lightfoot@syngenta.com

Also while I have the stage – Syngenta is running a further series of Turf Science Lite roadshows in partnership with ICL in the winter, so keep an eye out on social media if you want to come along.

And good luck with all the turf management this summer – I do miss it, although I’m sure my old staff at Bearwood Lakes were delighted with my change in career!

Leave a Reply