The Groundsman

October 2014

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TECHNICAL UPDATE 37 the Groundsman October 2014 Visit for more information and digital editions • Review and check to see if it was successful and whether the treatment has worked. There is no such thing as the 'wonder aerator', a tool that deals with all aeration problems. Different tools address different problems to different extents and it is really important to match the tool to the problem - and this starts with identifying the problem. Predicting when aeration will benefit is difficult, which is why it is important to measure whether the aeration treatment is having a benefit. The aim of aeration is to improve grass growth and reduce thatch accumulation by loosening the soil to increase total porosity and the connectivity of pores in the soil. A range of machinery is used to manufacture artificial porosity that is intended to move air and water freely and to breakdown the mechanical resistance to rooting in high- strength compacted clay soils. After four years of research, it can be said that in cricket pitches: • Aeration might slow the rate of thatch accumulation but it is not thatch removal – removing thatch requires different machinery and techniques. • Some aeration techniques achieve these objectives of gas and water movement and decompaction, some of the time. • Aeration treatments can be effective but they are costly in terms of machinery, wear parts, fuel and time – if they are not working, they might not be necessary; it could be that natural soil shrink and swell is as effective. • It is important to stress the importance of the pre-management of square moisture in line with weather conditions as a prerequisite to the successful use of equipment, particularly where deeper penetration is required such as the Vertidrain. The trials also showed that there was no benefit from repeat applications in the same year because soils became too wet later into the winter. A single operation in the right soil conditions is more effective. It is important to vary the depth each time you aerate between a minimum of 50 mm and the maximum depth achievable with the machine/tine combination. Using a single tine depth could result in a compaction 'pan' being formed at that depth if used continuously at the same depth year after year. l These guidelines (Parts 1, 2 & 3 appeared in the Groundsman July, August, September) are based on the result of four years' of research at Cranfield University funded by the Institute of Groundsmanship and the England and Wales Cricket Board. Although the guidelines look at the effect of aeration on the square and pitch performance, the guidelines for outfields can be applied to other sports such as football and rugby. The guidelines have been written by Dr Iain James, technical director at TGMS and formerly senior lecturer and head of the Centre for Sports Surface Technology at Cranfield University. He is also co-author author of the 'ECB-Cranfield Rolling Guidelines'. About the Author Shrinkage of a cricket loam as it dries. These images are from a method developed at Cranfield University to measure shrinkage rates in cricket soils. All water contents are on a mass basis, shrinkage is on an area basis (a) (b) (c) Water content: 49% Shrinkage: 0% Water content: 28% Shrinkage: 2.25% Water content: 8% Shrinkage: 10.5%

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