The Groundsman

December 2013

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the Groundsman December 2013 IOG ADVICE 21 Ask The Expert The IOG's panel of experts answers your questions regarding groundsmanship issues, turf care advice, careers guidance or training matters Can you provide some timely advice on cultural practices to help prevent Fusarium patch disease on our bowling green? Fusarium patch (Microdochium nivale) is a particularly destructive disease of fine turf grass situations and regular turf maintenance operations must be carried out to keep the turf in a condition which is able to reduce the potential for disease attack. Many turf grass species can be susceptible to the disease, however, the one which is most prone to attack is annual meadow grass (Poa annua). Other species which can be attacked are creeping bent, browntop bent and perennial ryegrass cultivars, although the use of this species on strips around the edge of a bowling green is debatable. Red fescue may also succumb at times. Turf grass breeders are continually looking at increasing disease resistance in cultivars, so being aware of appropriate cultivars can also help reduce the potential for disease attack by overseeding with more resistant cultivars. Cultural operations will focus on the conditions in which Fusarium can thrive: surface moisture, poor drainage and aeration, high nitrogen availability as well as nitrogen availability over low growth months, annual meadow grass dominated swards and undesirable thatch content. Good groundsmanship will ensure that correct maintenance practices are carried out with a high level of skill, at the right time and under the right ground conditions. Diseases will only strike when the environmental conditions are right and will only be able to attack grass species which are susceptible to the disease. Reducing annual meadow grass content on a bowling green is a primary aim in this constant battle against disease. Effective cultural practices include: regular removal of dew; scarification; aeration; boxing off clippings; reducing the intensity of mowing frequency; not cutting too short; applying an appropriate fertiliser and not encouraging soft tissue growth, especially when the grass would naturally be reducing its growth in response to weather conditions. Ensure topdressing is not applied at too heavy a rate and work it in well to the surface. Focus on fertilisers and topdressings which create an acidic surface layer. If possible, keep air flow moving around a bowling green and reduce shade wherever possible; trim hedges and trees as required. In an ideal situation the prevention of any disease attack will be through the use of cultural means. However, in practice this is unlikely to occur due to the vagaries of the weather in the UK and changing climate patterns. If everything reasonable has been done to keep Fusarium at bay, then the use of appropriate fungicides would then be considered as an important part of the groundsman's arsenal. Please contact membership@iog.org if you have a personal query or would like to share your views with our readers – we'd love to hear from you

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