The Groundsman

October 2013

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26 TECHNICAL UPDATE the Groundsman October 2013 Thatch management for bowling greens After his popular presentation at SALTEX, IOG regional advisor Ian Norman shares his expertise on an effective, year-round management programme to control thatch in bowling greens By: Ian Norman National Championships at Leamington Spa T he autumn renovations are completed, so is that it for controlling thatch in the green for another year? Unfortunately not, it is only just the beginning. To reduce the build-up of thatch in the green is a year round operation. Not just a few hectic hours of hard work each autumn, therefore an effective management programme needs to be in place. Why worry about thatch? Many greenkeepers are more concerned with the actual quality appearance of a green, which although is important in creating that first impression, is less important than the health of the rootzone (soil). If the root-zone is unhealthy, then the production of a high-quality, sustainable playing surface will become increasingly difficult. Effect of thatch upon play A thatch layer will, especially when wet, demonstrate the consistency of a sponge, resulting in a soft playing surface, which affords considerable resistance to the roll of the wood (Holmes et al 1986) thus resulting in a slow heavy green. This reduces the green speed from an ideal 12-13 seconds, for a three quarter Jack, to a slow 10 seconds or less; this type of greens does not attract new players or encourage existing ones. Scientist Barnes Wallace attributed the idea of his Bouncing Bomb invention to Horatio Nelson's technique for extending the range of his cannon shot in the Napoleonic wars; there is now some question as to whether Nelson did actually use this technique. However, 'Lord Nelson' style bowlers who release the wood from nearer hip-height rather than just a few millimetres above the Visit for more information and digital editions green cause considerable damage to the green. This is especially so if there is a thatch layer because when the wood hits the green the thatch shears apart resulting in a divot. This will affect the roll of the wood around the Jack on the return end. Effect of thatch on the health of the green Thatch provides an ideal environment for the growth of fungi, not all of which will be beneficial, resulting in an increased incidence of turf fungal diseases. Thatch also has the ability to hold both nutrients and water, which the grass roots will use to grow into the open water and nutrient rich structure of the thatch rather than down into the more compact root-zone material. A thatch layer also provides an environment in which weed grasses such as Poa annua (Annual Meadow Grass) can easily establish.

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