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Bowls green performance and organic matter

Bowls green performance and Organic Matter

Bowls green performance and organic matter are inextricably linked and today we will take our experiment to the next stage to show how organic matter management can influence green surface firmness.

Last time we proved by experiment that the second part of our hypothesis on bowls green surface performance was correct. This second part of the hypothesis put forward the argument that the firmness of the surface would be affected by the green’s moisture content. Here is the full, 4 part hypothesis again:

  1. Bowling Green Surface Trueness and Smoothness are correlated with green surface firmness (firmer greens are smoother and truer).
  2. Bowling Green surface firmness is correlated with soil moisture content (wetter greens are less firm).
  3. Soil Moisture Content is correlated with Soil Organic Matter Content
  4. Therefore the Performance of Bowling Green Surfaces is correlated with Soil Organic Matter Content.

What we’ve proved in our experimentation so far is something we, as greenkeepers know instinctively. Namely that wetter greens are slower, softer and generally less predictable in terms of surface smoothness and trueness, or put more directly; they just don’t play as well. The major leap forward here is that we can now prove this scientifically.

The problem we still have is that we are still dealing with symptoms at this stage. So what can we do to progress this argument to a stage where we can start dealing with the root causes of problematic, erratic and unpredictable bowls green performance?

We can continue to part three of the hypothesis and do some more experiments. Part three of our hypothesis argues that Organic Matter in the green is responsible for the excessive moisture that causes the green surface to be less firm than we would ideally have it.

Using samples from the same 3 greens as before, I set up an experiment with my Chinese students back in November 2015 to see if the moisture readings we were getting from the greens showed any correlation with the amount of organic matter in the green.

Now you will notice that I keep referring to the organic matter being in the green, rather than in the soil and that’s for a sound scientific reason. To understand that reason, we have to delve a bit deeper into what Organic Matter actually is.

Organic Matter vs Organic Material

A short time ago I published a reply I had sent to the owner of a website about golf where there was a good article dealing with the confusion in describing Organic Matter in greens. The fact is that Organic Matter exists in 3 main states in bowls greens and depending on which of the 3 we are talking about it will sometimes be referred to as Organic Matter and at other times Organic Material. So what are the 3 states:

  1. A small percentage of the Organic Matter in soil is made up of organisms that are still alive such as our grass plants, worms and the hopefully abundant micro-biology of the soil such as fungi, bacteria and nematodes. 

  2. Then there is fresh, but as yet un-decomposed material such as dead shoots, roots and leaves of plants, animal droppings and dead things. Our old adversary Thatch is in this category. We might commonly refer to this segment as Organic Material, as it is not decomposed and is therefore material awaiting processing.

  3. The third and largest segment is fully decomposed organic material or Humus, which is a critical component of healthy living soils and is referred to usually as Humus or Organic Matter, quite often just as OM.

Organic Matter

This is where the confusion comes in. You see

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