Greenkeepers are bombarded with turf problems in the form of disease, weeds, pests and disorders. Now, with many pesticides being banned and unavailable it's time for us to take back control of our turf. The good news is that it is actually easier without chemicals, because we are forced to learn more about the underlying causes of problems and become more familiar with the ecology of our greens.
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.
The English language has a habit of dressing things up to make them more palatable.
I wonder if meat would be so popular if we called beef, lamb and pork “dead cow”, “baby sheep” or “pig carcass”.
Sometimes of course if something is particularly hard to swallow we have to resort to French; I don’t think even the big 4 banks could sell many “death pledges” regardless of how desperate we were to get on the property ladder!
However, I have decided not to play along when it comes to producing Performance Bowling Greens and I now lump herbicides, insecticides and fungicides (pesticides) into my newly coined phrase “noxious chemicals”.
So it might come as some surprise that I am now going to advocate the continued use of these products.
The long term plan for any bowling green should be to wean it off of these products, but I still come across clubs who jump in with both feet too early and make their green even worse than it was.
Although done with the best of intentions, this can torpedo the whole program as members rebel against the new program.
If you have a thatchy, compacted, sour smelling green, you will need pesticides for the foreseeable future. However, the plan should be to move to spot treatment only whilst you undertake the real work of aeration and soil improvement.
Eventually, you can become smug like me and call them noxious chemicals, the use of which will never be entertained again.
Maybe we will eventually promote the opening day BBQ with a poster covered in dead baby animals!
Much more info on weaning your green off pesticides here.