Week 6 – Low intensity suffers as cut height reduces
With golf courses, for the most part, open again in England and Wales, with Scotland set to follow suit this week, the low-intensity manangement 'Lockdown' trial at STRI has moved into week Six.
There are some inevitable playing restrictions, but with the good weather, a Bank Holiday weekend and large numbers of people furloughed or working from home, golf courses are reported to have been extremely busy.
That, along with changes in greenkeeping practice to meet safe working practice guidelines, has created additional challenges for management, as greenkeeping teams get back up to strength. As the process moves further out of low intensity management programmes, the trial has continued to evolve.
Mowing height, originally set at 5 mm to reflect the need to maintain good plant health, was reduced to 4 mm last week, in response to the resumption of play. This week, the mowing height has been further reduced to 3.5 mm.
This reduction in mowing height has affected turf colour (see image at top of page - showing colour and quality at one cut per week, compared to five cuts). Turf under the once a week mowing programme has lost some colour, due to the removal of vegetation. The reduction from 5 mm to 4 mm did not initially affect colour, however, the drop to 3.5 mm quickly afterwards has perhaps had a cumulative effect on the turf.
We have also seen plant health in plots mown once per week has suffered due to the cutting height reduction.
Assessments of evenness demonstrate that playing quality is not where it should be in these ultra-low management plots. However, mowing three times per week is still striking a good balance between plant health and playing quality, to show what is achievable within a low intensity management programme.
The weather has turned warm again and the forecast for the end of May and start of June is for continued warm and sunny conditions. This means that growing degree days (GDD) will be moving on quickly; by the end of the week the trial is likely to need another 50 GDD Primo Maxx application.
Despite the dry weather, the use of Qualibra wetting agent has ensured that moisture content within the rootzone has remained above 20% from only one application of irrigation per week. It has demonstrated that effective use of water management products can reduce the amount of irrigation required.
Results continue to demonstrate efficacy of Primo Maxx in regulating growth and, based on assessments using a prism gauge, a positive effect on evenness of turf.
The trial is located at STRI in Bingley, West Yorkshire, and is being run on behalf of Syngenta with support from ICL.
The trial is designed to initially examine lower intensity management strategies during lockdown, then the return to management intensity as golf courses open, potentially still with reduced staff numbers
The trial is split into 3 mowing programmes - 5 days a week, 3 days a week and 1 day a week. Within that, there are four levels of PGR treatment: No Primo Maxx; Primo Maxx at 7-day interval; Primo Maxx at 50 GDD intervals and Primo Maxx at 100 GDD intervals.
The results have already provided a fascinating insight into reduced intensity management practices, with lessons now for immediate action, along with new learns for future ideas. Watch this space for further updates.