I say to myself every month to try and start the report with something other than the weather but the truth is climatic conditions play such an important role in the surfaces we produce that it really is essential that I feed this back every month…
In the first 4 months of this year (Jan-Apr) we received 19 days of rain out of a possible 120 – the rainfall in this period totalled 139mm which is well below the winter average. In the last 4 months (May-Aug) we have received 47 days of rain with a total of 333mm of rain which is almost double the historical average for Montrose. You could say things in this respect are a little back to front!!
What does this mean for grass?
Well, basically we go from chasing and encouraging growth to try to control and minimise growth. Since the last week in June the grass plant growth potential (GP) has almost constantly been maxed out meaning that it cannot possibly grow at a faster rate. This is useful from the perspective that it has aided the healing on some of our fairways from last year’s drought and has certainly assisted our approaches in gaining coverage; however, such a high GP combined with excessive rainfall is not so helpful on our greens as this can negatively affect the speed. We have various tools in our armoury which can off-set the lush conditions and help us maintain a consistent pace throughout the day such as:
- Our diligent aeration program allowing excess water to drain as quickly as possible.
- Top-dressing to dilute thatch and reduce the water holding capacity.
- Application of products such as plant growth regulators which regulate gibberellic acid and slow growth or wetting agents which again assist in the movement of water.
Obviously the grass starts to grow immediately after being mown/rolled in the morning. By implementing these measures however we are able to produce a more consistent putt from morning till night and this is one area we are improving all the time. By continuing on our path striving to produce a sustainable grass sward which drains well and plays firm I am confident we will be in a better position to deal with the changing climate more than most.
Some STH may have noticed ugly irregular pare patches on our greens in the months of June and July (see figure 1). This has long been an issue here at Montrose for over ten years, so in order to deal with the issue effectively, we sent soil samples into European Turfgrass Laboratories (ETL). These results have shown we have higher than desirable populations of plant-parasitic nematodes.
First of all, nematodes are tiny microscopic ringworms which are impossible to see with the naked eye, essentially there are two kinds non-parasitic and plant-parasitic. Plant-parasitic nematodes will attack the grass plant in times of stress; this stress can take many forms such as nutrient deficiency, drought or a general imbalance in the food web which leaves the grass plant in a vulnerable state. In the short term, we have treated these areas with the only registered nematicide in the U.K. This has the effect of driving the nematodes back allowing the affected areas (which we have plugged out with cores from the putting green) to recover. Long-term we are looking at providing a more robust nutritional program to our greens which we are hopeful will correct any imbalance which exists in the soil. This situation will, of course, be monitored and our results logged for future reference.
Regards for now