With LeatherJacket damage being reported and courses closed the question being asked is – should I aerate?
Why do it?
This is my first response to this question – what are you going to gain?
Do you need to:
- Increase infiltration rates?
- Decrease OM content?
- Keep surface open?
- Or are you just doing it because you have an opportunity?
What’s at risk?
This is the next question I ask? Aeration is great, as long as you can recover it. If your nervous about your LeatherJacket population then make sure you know how high the population is.
Here’s a blog showing you how I do this in trials.
If you have high levels of LeatherJackets in the sward then you need to think very carefully about the benefits of it against the downside of aeration holes not healing.
How many leatherJackets is too many?
I’m still trying to gauge a “safe number” but in trials where we have below 12 per meter generally I see good quality turf but 12 open core holes that won’t recover is probably beyond what most turf managers are prepared to tolerate.
Why do I worry about this?
Often, when I visit sites with problems I see this, LeatherJackets living in aeration holes and feeding at the surface. This makes creating a good putting surface almost impossible.
By reducing the aeration holes we reduce the opportunity for them to feed in this manner. I suspect we don’t change the number in the soil but we do make the damage manifest itself differently. It becomes easier to manage with fertilisers and wetting agents and whilst still awkward, a good putting surface can still be achieved.
If you have high population levels and you feel you have to do this then which aeration practices are higher risk?
The bigger the hole, the larger the risk from my experience. LeatherJackets use them as elevator shafts to move to warmer temperatures at lower levels quickly and then up to the surface to feed on the turf around the hole.
Small holes that close in quickly seem to offer lower risk. If hollow cores are used, the “closing in” effect is much slower. We rely on the turf to grow over the surface leaving an empty column underneath which is a perfect for a young leatherJacket to mature in.
If you can fill the holes fully with sand I think this will reduce the opportunity for LeatherJackets to hide in. I appreciate that isn’t easy during this period of the year though.
The best aeration practise if you have a real need and a LeatherJacket problem, during this period is probably Air injection as it gives maximum sub soil disturbance for minimum surface disruption.
I get it, the pressure is on from the golf clubs to get your aeration out of the way whilst the course is closed.
I appreciate that aeration in April, just after golfers return after months of closure will be as welcome as a national lockdown.
All the advice I can offer is –
- Monitor your population levels
- Decide if you need to do it
- Go for the aeration method that presents least risk
- Communicate with the club