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Bowls In Focus : October 2009
46 Bowls In Focus Seeking The Best Surfaces With the ever-changing climate in Melbourne we are seeing hotter, drier summers and milder winters, which has changed the direction of bowling clubs when it comes to choosing a new surface for their greens. There are rapidly increasing number of clubs con- verting their greens to couch grass, mainly Tift Dwarf, but there are a lot of other varieties of grass out there that we just don’t know enough about. Some of these grasses may be better suited to southern Victorian conditions for play over the whole year. Over the past couple of years the VGA has under- taken a number of turf trials on bowling greens. These trials were done at Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE, Coatesville, Alphington and most recently, Brunswick Bowling Club. Many warm season grasses were first trialed at NMIT in Fairfield and the grasses were evaluated on their performance. SeaIsle 2000 was selected to be grown as a bowls surface on a two-rink green at Coatesville in 2005. SeaIsle 2000, a Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum), is a warm season grass that has gener- ated a lot of interest because of its tolerance of more saline, low quality irrigation water. With the continuing reduction in available quality irrigation water in some areas, this grass needed to be trialed to discover if it is suitable as a bowls surface in Victoria. The grass was found to be too course for a quality bowling green surface. In November 2006 the Alphington Bowls Club plant- ed one of their greens with Yamba Tiff, instead of going down the synthetic surface path. With a lot of hard work from greenkeeper Brett Haintz, VGA president Doug Agnew, then VGA treasurer David Sharp, and the NMIT, the project turned out to be a great success with the members loving their new surface. In December 2008 Alphington planted their other green with Yamba Tiff and is looking forward to playing on it in the future. Following up on the April’s Turf Talk column, the Brunswick turf trial has also come up well. Adrian Mar- ston, along with other VGA members, planted South- ern Cross Couch in December 2008 on the small, unused three-rink green. The club’s volunteer green- keeper Eddie Connell is delighted with the surface, and it now having a good cover of grass and social bowls is being played on it. This summer the green will need a good renovation and it will be interesting to see how it performs during its first season This year the VGA will kick off its next round of Turf Trials on a couple of sites. Our focus this season will be seeded couch. There are many varieties of seeded couch out there, but none that we know that have been trialed on bowling greens in our climate. Greenkeepers Dyson Appleyard and James Hood, along with Fawkner’s Phil Grant, will organise a trial at Fawkner. They will trail the seeded couch called Veracruz. Likewise, Adrian Marston and Warren Maynard, with the help of Rosamond greenkeeper Dave Zitter, will organise a trial at Rosamond. Sovereign Couch will be the variety used on this trial. With these two trials there are a few things that we will be looking out for. These seeded couches on golf courses have been known to be in play within 4-6 weeks in the right conditions. We will monitor the growth and find out whether a seeded couch can be played on quicker than a green sprigged with a hybrid couch. The fineness of the leaf will be important as to whether the grass will be suitable for lawn bowls. On the Fawkner green we will also divide the plot into sections to trial various techniques and different spraying applications. It will be interesting to see how these American grasses hold up in Melbourne condi- tions on a bowling surface. These two projects will kick off in November and December this year. We are also looking at trialing a seeded couch next March, as soon as pennant finishes, to see if we can get a couch green up without disrupting the bowls program too much. All the development work done by VGA members is voluntary. Like all greenkeepers our aim is to try and provide the best possible playing surface for bowlers to enjoy. We will keep you regularly updated on our VGA forum, and reports and photos will be on our website (www.victga.com). - Warren Maynard VGA Committee Turf Talk Turf Talk Victorian Greenkeepers Association Facts and Figures In my last article I briefly touched on testing new grasses, par ticularly new couches. This is a long process sometimes starting with single grass plants, but most times using small plots to compare new varieties or selections with a known and tested grass. For example with new couches the now common Tift Dwarf would be used for comparisons. In the initial testing phase visual observations are conducted at regular inter vals and the total experimental area receives the same fer tiliser and watering programmes. Some of the factors being assessed are colour, plant density, growth rates, disease resistance or susceptibility, whether the plants are erect or prostrate, thatch and root mat development, soil and air temperatures and finally persistence. This stage can continue for at least five years and possibly longer depending on the results needed or obtained. The final testing is by using machines adapted to simulate wear, for example from footballers or golfers, depending on the pos- sible future use of the selections. Mowing heights are also included in the final assessments, as they will deter mine which sport best adapts to a particular grass. At present there are no tests being conducted specifically for bowling greens and we have to rely on unproven new grass types being established in bowling greens by co-operative bowling clubs. This is not a satisfactory situation but I cannot see any changes in the future and we will continue to rely on these progressive clubs. On a different note members of the RVBA Greens Committee have approved the eight and four rink indoor greens at the new Brighton Bowling Club complex for RVBA and VLBA events including pennant. There is currently one original outdoor grass green with provision for an extra grass green in the future. The continued increase in our population, coupled with our low water reser ves, does not look hopeful for our future bowling green requirements. Couch grasses still need water but about 20%-30% less than for bent grass. Many clubs now realise that having tanks with a total capacity of 50,000 litres will only maintain two bent grass greens for two to three weeks or two couch greens for four to five weeks during hot weather, if we cannot use mains water and it does not rain during this period. Beaumaris Bowls Club has installed two 45,000- litre tanks with an existing 20,000-litre and two 9,000-litre tanks. Water is currently harvested from the clubhouse roof with future plans to utilise water from either the two greens or the car park or both. This will be supplemented by bore water providing 20,000 litres per week. Water harvested from stor m water drains or car parks could contain contaminants such as engine oil, and when this type of water is used, a sample should be tested for suitability once or twice each year This is just a safeguard as many golf courses have been using this type of water for a number of years with no apparent harm to the grasses used, but they still have random checks. For those clubs with couch greens, if we revert back to the old spring weather patter n of wet and cold, interspersed with warm periods, this grass will be spending it’s time coming and going out of dor mancy and this is when it is at its weakest. Care must be exercised to prevent turf damage at this time of the year. If the surface is damp, mats should be used until weather conditions and growth improves. I cannot resist the chance to again jump on my hobbyhorse and wonder why the Gover nment is still refusing to capture the large volumes of water spilling into the sea from the two major metropolitan sewage plants. Is it because they might lose votes at the next election or do vested interests have some influence? The technology has been successfully used for many years, in many countries, to produce water that complies with world standards, so what is the problem? - Max Fielder RVBA Greens Committee • VGA greenkeepers at the Brunswick trial, Adrian Marston, Dyson Appleyard, Warren Maynard, James Hood and Doug Agnew.
August September 2009