The STRI recently hosted their popular STRI Research Open Days at their UK research trial grounds in Bingley. The events brought together several leading companies who have been carrying out some (R&D) projects for the sports turf industry. The companies attending and supporting this year’s event were Aquatrols, Bayer, Bernhard and Company Limited, Headland Amenity, ICL, MLR, Sherriff Amenity and Syngenta.
Over 250 delegates comprised of industry practitioners, managers, advisors and contractors attended the two-day event. This year there were seven separate demo areas to see.
STATION A - ICL & SYNGENTA
The use of mobile light rigs is now an integral part of sports turf management. Many facilities use supplementary light to maintain sward density and surface quality. The technology can reduce the impact of shade regions within stadia, along with assisting in overseeding and recovery of worn areas during the season. Alongside supplementary lighting, the use of tailored nutritional inputs and plant growth regulation can better prepare resilient turf and high quality playing surfaces.
This STRI trial, a partnership between Syngenta and ICL, will be run through autumn 2018. Its aim is to better understand turf activity in response to product application in shady conditions, and how supplementary lighting influences growth characteristics.
The trial area was a professional blend of 100% perennial ryegrass cultivars, growing on a sand-dominated rootzone at Bingley in Yorkshire. The trial uses a semi-permanent shade structure to reduce natural light to the whole trial, of which half has been supported with supplementary high pressure sodium light and half remains without supplementary lighting. The whole trial has received good background nutrition for establishment, based on controlled release fertilisers from ICL.
Applications of Primo Maxx II have been made at two rates and at two frequencies, to determine an optimum rate / frequency application. The existing nutritional programme has been supplemented with seaweed applications (WSF Seamax) and carbohydrate applications (Vitalnova Blade), at two rates and two frequencies to determine an optimum rate / frequency of application. All treatments will be compared for responses with light and without light.
Andy Owen, ICL EAME Technical Manager and Glenn Kirby Syngenta UK Turf Technical Manager were on hand to explain the trial, as with any research trial, it all about collecting data, this involved measuring many parameters, air temperatures, soil temperature, light intensity, grass growth, colour, density soil moisture, chlorophyll intake and depth of rooting.
Early indications of the testing completed to date shows that the combination of applying Primo Maxx with other bio stimulant products are very effective under lighting rigs, even in the early stages of the trial you could clearly see a difference between the various plots.
STATION B - AQUATROLS
Understanding the microbiology and biochemistry of the soil is an important part of understanding how plants grow. The microbiology of the soil deals with the microscopic living system within the soil. The biochemistry of the soil deals with both the products and by products of the living system within the soil.
Biochemical compounds produced by micro-organisms and by plant roots are the tools by which biochemical signals are created and transmitted. They are the tools that microbes need to function in the soil, and determine their ability to process nutrients (including the nutrients in fertilisers), stimulate root growth and perform other functions critical to plant health and nutrition.
Using AquaVita technology, the biochemical process within the soil can be directly stimulated to promote a healthier soil structure, enhance water utilisation, improve root development, and facilitate increased nutrient availability and enhanced nutrient uptake by turf grass. Aquatrols has incorporated this cutting-edge technology within the formulations of developmental products.
The aim of the 2018 trials is to determine the effects of the AquaVita-containing trial formulations from Aquatrols, on existing amenity turf managed as two types of golf green construction and on a football pitch situation. The trials were set up to complement the bentgrass and ryegrass pot trials which started in early spring 2018. Monthly applications of all formulations have been made throughout the growing season.
Paul Lowe from Aquatrols was keen to show us the results of the trial to date with significant improvement to colour and vigour has seen in the pot trials
STATION C - BAYER CROPSCIENCE
Dr Colin Mumford, Bayer technical manager, explained that the new research will build on results from last season’s set of trials, that showed preventative options outshone curatives and would be the best. best programme to tackle microdochium patch.
“This year’s research aim is to reinforce these findings and see how we can improve on current disease management programmes, with alternative and new products, as well as different application rates and timings,” Colin said.
“A variety of different fungicides were put to the test, including Exteris®,Stressgard® and Dedicate®, alongside a number of plant health promoting products, from two of our main distributors, Headland Amenity and Rigby Taylor.
“The results to date clearly showed the benefits of using preventative regimes where the best methods of reducing the outbreak of disease with even the most bullet proof curative programme was significantly out performed by preventative options.”
STATION D - STRI
This station enabled delegates to have a better understanding of recent improvements being made in the conservation and management of wildlife species in our environments.
Understanding what species are present within the area of the golf course, football grounds or bowling green and how to help them thrive is going to be vital for keeping up with environmental legislation and attracting the new generation of environmentally aware members.
This combined with having a better knowledge of treatments of water now available will also improve the sustainability of this precious resource.
Therefore, it is a legal requirement for golf clubs to have a water collection and cleansing system in place and clubs throughout the UK are seeking a cost-effective solution.
Reedbed systems offer a simple, robust and prudential means of wastewater treatment for both industrial and domestic effluents. They fit sympathetically within local landscapes and add ecological value by providing habitats for wildlife.
They work by cleansing the water through a variety of processes including absorption, adsorption, microbial metabolism, sedimentation and filtration. The systems can also act as a closed loop, returning the cleansed water to be used again during washdown.
We were then shown one of the latest innovations an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a process in which micro-organisms break down grass, leafy material and food waste in the absence of oxygen, into biogas (a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane) and digestate (a nitrogenrich fertiliser).
The biogas can be used directly in engines for Combined Heat and Power (CHP), burned to produce heat, or can be cleaned and used in the same way as natural gas or as a vehicle fuel. The digestate can be utilised as a sustainably sourced fertiliser, allowing the club to make economic savings on their energy, waste and chemical consumption all with one piece of equipment. However, these new systems are not cheap to install, but over time may pay for themselves in the long term.
STATION E - MLR & BERNHARD AND CO
On show was the first dedicated designed MLR / Bernhard lighting rig for golf.
These days more and more golf clubs have been looking into acquiring lighting rigs to deal with problematic areas. These can be caused by shade issues from trees which may not be viable to remove, or from high traffic areas such as green walk-offs. In addition, some courses may have issues with rapid re-establishment of high use tee areas. The use of supplementary lighting can solve all of these problems if managed correctly.
However, all current supplementary lighting rigs are made for use in stadia which have flat and even surfaces with easy access to and from the pitch, as well as being larger and hard to manoeuvre around small spaces. Therefore, current lighting rig technology is not appropriate for use on most golf greens.
In the stadia grow light industry MLR has been a well-known brand for almost two decades. Recently MLR has made Bernhard & Company their new global distributor and STRI their agronomic partners. The shared knowledge of these three companies combined and strong input from the golf industry has resulted in a new type of lighting rig, customised to meet the demands and challenges for the greenkeepers around the world.
The net result is the lighting rig we see today, a very portable system, that can be powered by a small generator and easily moveable and stable in windy conditions, the intensity of the lighting can be adjusted to meet different requirements, a well thought out product that will no doubt be of interest to the golfing industry.
STATION F - SHERRIFF AMENITY
Sherriff Amenity has a clear vision of continuing to provide new products, ideas and solutions for their customers. Ongoing trials at the STRI enables Sherriff to deliver innovations such as their preventative disease control strategies and integrated turf management programmes.
This recent trial has seen the effect of surface amendment on golf green turf using Enriched Biochar Turf Improver from Carbon Gold. The trial plots also examine the supplementary effects of GoGreen Energy and Goemar Turf seaweed biostimulants when used in combination with Biochar.
The name ‘Biochar’ is derived from ‘biomass’ (bio) and ‘charcoal’ (char) and its main focus is to enhance soil productivity. Biochar is produced using untreated waste woody biomass through pyrolysis, a process that heats biomass in reduced or absent oxygen conditions. This practice has been applied over many centuries.
As a soil amendment its very porous nature means it has the potential to offer many key benefits such as fungi and rhizosphere bacteria, but will also have the potential to support those found growing on Biochar. Carbohydrates are compounds produced during photosynthesis that provide energy for plant growth and structural components, such as cellulose. This trial utilises naturally derived products with the objective of improving the physical nature of the soil whilst supporting microbial populations in the pursuit of optimum turf health and performance.
Effectively its structure allows it to improve aeration and enhance the availability of water and soluble nutrients. A microscopic honeycomb-like structure also provides the perfect habitat for beneficial soil micro-organisms (such as mycorrhizal fungi and actinomycetes bacteria) to flourish, encouraging increased root growth and plant vitality.
The trails have indicated many benefits of applying this product to enhance turf quality with several key benefits being concluded:- improved root growth, increases nutrient retention, improves vitality and appearance of turf, facilitates establishment of microbial populations.
STATION G - HEADLAND AMENITY
Mark Hunt, Mark De’ath and Andy Russell gave an interesting talk on the results of their ongoing trials at STRI on the control of diseases using an integrated approach using both cultural and applications of nutrients/ bio stimulants and preventative control fungicides.
A strategy to manage Fusarium should not be based on fungicide alone as the severity and impact of this disease is also affected by the health of the grass plant, its level of nutrition, cultural practices and the presence of plant leaf moisture (Dew and Guttation Fluid). In addition, legislation has resulted in fewer and fewer choices in fungicide active ingredients and in particular contact fungicide chemistry, so it makes sense to look at a holistic approach to autumn disease management.
Headland Amenity has pioneered a multi-layered, straightforward and above all, cost-effective approach to Microdochium nivale management using targeted applications of preventative fungicide in combination with plant elicitors and hardeners. This approach is based on successful end-user feedback, backed up by independent data from trials conducted at STRI since 2007.
Headland Amenity’s strategy relies on a two-tiered approach to autumn disease management. Firstly, a preventative fungicide program is put in place. The aim is to prevent a high population from establishing during October and November because end-user experience and STRI trials have confirmed that if a high population establishes then, it is very difficult to control for the remainder of the winter. As we typically nowadays experience mild spells of weather in December, January and February.
The second tier of the approach is based on non-fungicidal product technologies, namely plant protectants, elicitors and biostimulants.
Plant protectants: Formulated to ‘modify’ the surface leaf environment and thereby make it more difficult for pathogenic fungi to colonise and enter the grass plant. Headland products in this category, trialled at the STRI, include Seamac® ProTurf Fe, Liquid Turf Hardener, the high potassium liquid fertiliser - Protec® K and our recently introduced new product, Mantle.
Plant elicitors: Formulated to trigger the natural defence mechanism of the plant, (SAR – Systemic Acquired Resistance) and thereby encourage the plant to grow better in the presence of a pathogen. Headland products, trialled at STRI, in this category include TeMag™ Elite featuring the Harpin protein.
Biostimulants: Lastly, to stimulate the plant to grow away from the disease and thereby enhance recovery, Headland use a unique phosphite formulation called Turfite®. Recent research has identified a plant physiological process linked to the application of phosphite which could enhance the ability of a plant to grow under the effects of abiotic and biotic stress.
The above approach is combined in the successful 20-20-30 tankmix of Turfite®, Liquid Turf Hardener and Seamac® ProTurf Fe.
It would seem from there results that this effective strategy is working and able to reduce the risk of disease during the autumn months when weather and ground conditions enhance the potential of diseases attacks.
All in all, a very busy day for all the delegates. I personally think these days are very important as they give the end users a chance to see the latest sports turf research and innovations from leading companies who are at the forefront of bringing out new products and methods of managing our diverse turf requirements.
For me it is also about the chance for delegates to meet up with likeminded professionals and share common issues and keep updated on the latest research and practices being used to manage sport turf. There were a wide range of delegates representing all of our national sports, with several premiership, championship and Scottish football groundsmen, horse racing, schools, universities and golf clubs.
I would like to personally thank the STRI for their invitation to the event and to all the companies that continue to support our ever challenging sports turf industry.