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TECHNICAL


The problem we have


now is that the antibiotics have gone, so we have to think differently.


Preventative fungicides are very different to the curatives we used to have


for the nutrients being applied to get in to the plant more directly. This means that as well as offering faster results, we also bypass the soil profile and reduce the risk of locking up some of the ley nutrients we are attempting to get in to the turf. As part of our longer term approach, we are investing a lot of time and effort in to researching what is actually in our soil profile and how we can alter it beneficially, however as we’re sure readers will be aware this is not something that is a quick fix. In order to create a base line for the chemicals and elements within our soil profiles, we have started carrying out annual broad spectrum soil chemical analysis. From this, our aim is to amend the make-up of our soil profile in order to further reduce our reliance on synthetic inputs through methods such as spraying and applications of granular products. This, of course, will take time so for now we’ve settled on a programme of foliar products as a means to keep our courts in good health.


To allow for this approach though, we’ve had to develop an aeration plan to ensure that, during the wetter months of the year,


Mowing and sarel rolling


the courts drain as freely as possible. Our starting point with aeration is the use of solid tines during our end of season renovations. This not only helps with alleviating some of the consolidation that has built up through the playing season, but also aids the amelioration of new top dressing in to the profile during those works.


On top of this, we also make use of an Air2G2 air injector during the autumn (normally late October or early November) in order to open the profile up at greater depths. Currently, we alternate between 7 and 11 inch tines annually as we only have the means to hire in the machine once a year. However, the results from the Air2G2 have been so impressive that we have added the machine to our capital expenditure wish list. We’ve no doubt if we had greater access to a machine, we’d be carrying out the process several times each winter, as a minimum.


The major advantage of the Air2G2 is the depth at which it can reach, with very little surface damage or displacement. It’s a little bit like putting a drainage down pipe through the profile, as the machine is able to blast


right through the soil profile and in to the drainage layers below. 2018/19 was the fifth winter that we’ve utilised the machine on our courts. In the first few years we only worked on off court areas, and as we began to see the positive results we were having, as well as no evidence of any adverse effects, we extended our work to include the in-court playing areas.


Of course, as well as improving drainage through the profile, the Air2G2 also benefits the health of the overall soil profile. The strap-line ‘Air is anything to everything that lives’ sums the machine up fairly well. Getting more air in to the profile promotes increased beneficial microbial activity, for example, which also ties in to our aim to reduce our use of synthetic inputs to maintain turf health.


The final part of our winter aeration plan is regular sarel rolling, which is a very simple process but has also proved extremely effective. We’ve moved to a point now where, after any mechanical works during the winter months, such as mowing for example, we always follow up with a sarel pass. Obviously, this does not open the


Centre Court - Autumn 2018 132 PC April/May 2019





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