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Thatch is the mat of fibre between the grass and soil on your green. Although some thatch (5-6mm) is desirable too much can have  a devastating affect on the  playing surface.

When thatch builds up beyond the optimum level it can quickly cause problems with surface drainage, which in turn can encourage fungal diseases like fusarium patch and this can kill off huge areas of turf if left unchecked. Recovery from such attacks can also be troublesome and expensive.

This tendency to encourage disease is related to thatch’s ability to Read more

Bowls Green Turf Disease

There is a lot of confusion about fungal turf diseases.

The main issues that worry many people are as follows:

  • Accurate disease identification; not sure what we have so don’t know what to use.
  • Contamination being brought onto a clean green from a diseased green via bowlers’ feet and/or contractors machinery.
  • Fungicide rotation to prevent immunity
  • Repeat infection of greens
  • Disease Forecasts and what to do about them.

Let’s have a look at these in order:

Accurate Disease Identification.

Although it is always prudent to make sure you know exactly what fungal disease you have, the fact remains is that you have a fungal disease on your green and regardless of what it is, it is merely a symptom of other factors. So the urgent requirement is to stop it spreading any further. Broad spectrum fungicides do exactly as you would imagine, they kill most fungal pathogens so if you are using an up to date contact fungicide, you will more than likely be successful in stopping the disease with an application.

However, this is analogous with continually taking pain killers, but never going to the doctor to find out what is causing the pain. There are some more in-depth articles on symptoms and causes on bowling greens here.

Contamination by feet or machinery.

This crops up several times a year in my travels. I even see trays of disinfectant being left out for bowlers to walk through before going onto the green…and unfortunately the green is more likely to be adversely affected by the disinfectant than anything that could possibly come in on a machine or shoe.

The fact is that many of the common fungal disease pathogens like fusarium, red-thread, anthracnose etc are already present in your green, but they only cause problems when we make the conditions favourable for them, by allowing the green to become excessively thatchy and/or weak and waterlogged.

Fungicide rotation/ repeat Infection

Last year I visited a golf course to give advice. They were looking for an expert witness to prove that a manager had made the wrong decision in using the same fungicide two years in a row and now the greens were riddled with fusarium.

The greens were truly awful but the club had missed the point completely. The issue wasn’t the incorrect selection of chemical; it was the blind reliance on treating symptoms instead of working towards a healthy sward/soil relationship.

There was in excess of 3 inches of smelly, waterlogged, yellow, anaerobic thatch on every green. There isn’t a fungicide in the world that could keep disease at bay in such conditions.

Disease Forecasting

I know this scare-mongering tactic has caught on in recent years as a fungicide selling tool, but come on! This is absolute nonsense for all of the reasons noted above. Regardless of what the disease forecast says; if your green is in healthy condition as per our performance green standard, disease will not get a hold to any detrimental degree.

There are more in depth articles on turf disease, its causes and cures here.

Performance Bowls Green Maintenance Schedule

A few readers have asked for guidance on what work they should be carrying out on the green on a month to month basis.

Now of course conditions across the UK are widely varied at the moment; some areas in the south are free from frost, whilst here in Perthshire we can have very hard ground and many days of minus temperatures, in the southern parts of the country things can be and often are a lot milder.

When there is frost or snow cover its simply a waiting game; it really is best not to try to remove snow or ice from the green for two reasons:

  1. the damage that could be caused to the turf and soil by actually doing this work.
  2. the snow is affording the turf some protection from the worst of the cold weather; see my article on winter green protection here.

However, after the snow has gone and you start to see a prolonged period of thaw there are a few things you need to look out for as follows: Read more

Fungal Pathogens-Myths dispelled

You don’t have to be involved with bowling greens for very long before you encounter the infamous Disinfectant Tray at the gate or at the side of the green.

No, there hasn’t been a new foot and mouth epidemic, just a mild outbreak of paranoia.

To accompany this you will hear a series of myths banded about as follows:

  1. the green keeper brought in disease on his boots
  2. the visiting team last week brought disease in on their feet from their disease addled green.
  3. the contractor brought disease in on his mower

While it is perfectly possible that some or all of the above can import disease spores, these won’t result in a disease attack on your green unless conditions are optimal for this to happen.

A recent article covered this and other “fungal myths” in more detail.

Preventative fungicide

The agronomic advice received by many clubs with regard to winter maintenance is just wrong and no where is this more prevalent than in the advice given about fungal disease prevention.

A healthy, living soil contains many different types of fungi and only a few of them are potentially harmful to the green.

If the green and soil are maintained in a healthy condition, even the potentially harmful fungal pathogens like fusarium, take all patch, dollar spot, anthracnose etc, although probably still present, pose no real threat to the turf.

The soil under your green when in its natural state is a little eco-system all of its own and the balance of this eco-system is easily destroyed by clumsy maintenance practices.

Soil micro-organisms and all manner of beneficial fungi need to thrive under there to make your green work the way it should i.e. to a high standard with the minimum of chemical intervention. Beneficial soil fungi actually work with grass plants to help them take up essential nutrition from the soil.

For this reason, even a green that is knackered and at the very beginning of the Performance Greens turnaround process should not be subjected to blanket applications of any fungicide.

This is because broad spectrum fungicides are pretty blunt instruments and don’t differentiate between good and bad fungi, meaning that every blanket application is essentially turning your green away from the door at the Performance Greens Annual Dance!

The whole process of decline in greens due to “traditional” maintenance is detailed here.

The recovery process is outlined here.

One reader told me of his recent bill for fungicide totalling over £800; for a tiny fracftion of that money you can get yourself a map out of this madness here.

Ice Age… Free!

18012010(002)We have received a lot of enquiries over the past few days asking for advice on dealing with the snow and ice fusariumon bowling greens and the aftermath:

The main concern during and after snow cover is the potential for the outbreak of snow mould which is caused by the same fungal pathogen as fusarium patch; and indeed, fusarium might well be encountered after the snow has melted. Although many clubs will have applied a preventative fungicide in the Autumn, this might not have provided total protection, but should have minimised the risk of attack.

When the snow has gone you might well find active areas of Fusarium and this should be treated with a curative fungicide containing the active ingredients iprodione  or chlorothalonil applied as per the manufacturer’s advice.

Many of the enquiries we have received have been related to the actual snow cover and Read more