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Bowls In Focus : November 2009
46 Bowls In Focus Machinery Used On Grass Greens Over the years many different types of machin- ery have been used on grass bowling greens and this equipment is constantly being improved and upgraded. Here is some information on the types currently available and their uses. Without doubt the most important machine is the greens mower, and it is very important to keep it in ex- cellent working order. It needs to be serviced annually to make sure the bearings, chains, belts and rollers are all working properly. Regular attention is required to keep the cutting bed-knife and cylinder sharp, so the grass is cut to its best efficiency. Back-lapping the cylinder helps to keep a sharp edge on both surfaces and produces the best results. It is a waste of time mowing a green with a blunt mower, as the grass is not cut properly, while a superior surface can be developed when the machine is maintained in a very sharp condition. Heavy walk-behind rollers were common years ago, but now the ride-on type is the preferred method, with the heavier type used mainly in the spring to help firm the surface and encourage a better early green speed. A comb fitted to the greens mower is sometimes still used to stand up the longer leaf, to present it for the mower to cut off on bent grass greens, while scarifiers are used both at renovation, and lightly during the sea- son, to mainly remove grass and thatch, which if left to build up will contribute to slow green speed. Grooming machines are used mostly on couch greens, as a part of on-going management, along with low mowing to develop a firm tight surface during the growing season. Cylindrical brooms can be fitted to greens mowers to help clean up the green after this type of work. Aeration during renovation is normally coring and some contractors provide this service with professional golf-type machines that core deeply and help remove the cores. Some greenkeepers still use the multicore type of machine that some clubs have as their own machines. Verti-drain machines are a fairly new system, with a small tractor driven implement that punches solid tynes into the soil and lifts the ground to help relieve compac- tion. This method is similar to a pitchfork pushing into the soil then the handle pushed back lifting the ground. It is sometimes done during the playing season because the green is easily rolled after completion can be played on straight away. Drilling the green is a very slow process, but a very efficient way of penetrating the surface and producing deep clean holes that help the air and water into the soil, without losing any of the surface hardness. Greens used to be top-dressed and levelled - with wires or rails stretched across the green - levelled then a screed dragged along to improve the greens levels. However, these days laser grader machines are exclusively used to level the soil when greens are reconstructed, and can also be used to laser level top-dress as well. The newest implement is the solid wire brush that is proving popular with greenkeepers. It is fitted into a greens mower and has the ability to remove grass from the surface that is normally hard to remove with stan- dard mowing. It is great for couch greens to help keep the grass sward down and stop the green growing a thick and thatchy surface that can develop with poor mowing practices. Some greenkeepers who maintain bent grass greens have had success using this in the spring when the green thicken up. For further information join the Victorian Greenkeep- ers Association or check out the website www.victga. com on the internet. - Doug Agnew VGA President Victorian Greenkeepers Association Looking Over The Fence - And Beyond The role of the RVBA Greens Committee is governed by Council and the Board of Manage- ment. Many years ago World Bowls and Bowls Australia approved the installation of synthetic playing surfaces and the major role and responsi- bility of this committee is to inspect new grass and synthetic greens for events that includes pennant for the RVBA and VLBA. Established greens are usually graded each year for pennant. Despite this situation there are still some people in the turf industry claiming that the Greens Committee is biased and pushing clubs to install synthetic greens. This is not true - we must realize that our playing surfaces and conditions are chang- ing whether we like it or not. This is still the great debate; is it climate change, a long drought or a weather cycle? In the meantime we must be able to adjust to change, as we don't know what the future holds for our playing surfaces. Current and future water availability means that for many years to come water restrictions will be the norm. The forecasted dramatic future popula- tion increase, and the belated water harvesting and storage program, will probably lead to possible further restrictions for industry and households in- cluding sporting venues. Even if we have a number of good rainfall years this will only be a temporary solution to the overall water shortage problem. Governments, Cities, Councils and Shires are currently encouraging not only bowling clubs, but other sports and recreational areas relying on grass playing surfaces, to change to synthetics whenever possible by making grants available for their construction. In the bowling sphere the decision by Clubs to install a synthetic green or greens is their choice and it is not the responsibility of the RVBA Greens Committee to become involved in the internal deliberations of Clubs. There have been many instances when Clubs have asked this Committee to recommend an installer, but are told that is not their function. In this situation they are sent a list of installers with a suggestion that each club inspect a number of different carpet types before making a formal decision. In many instances, despite informing Clubs to notify the Greens Committee when a synthetic green is being installed, urgent requests have been received for an inspection the day before they wish to play pennant. Notification forms of a synthetic green to be established and when completed can be found on the RVBA web site. These procedures help the Committee in planning for inspections throughout the State. However, because of my background with bent grasses, couch grasses and synthetic playing surfaces, I have been personally contacted on a number of occasions for advice whether to change from bent grass to couch, usually Tift Dwarf or to a synthetic surface. When a small country club with one green, a small membership, the high cost for them of maintaining a grass green and a limited number of volunteers, but with grants available, there is only one option left. And that is to obtain grants to se- cure their future as a community asset by installing a synthetic green. In this situation I have recom- mended they change to remain viable, but it is their final decision, not mine. On the other hand I have also recommended a number of Clubs in Southern Victoria, particularly in Melbourne, change from bent grass to couch grass, usually Tift Dwarf, as this selection is currently the most popular. I also stress that couch grasses need to be mown more frequently than bent grasses. They love regular light cultivations during summer, still need to be fertilised when growing and do not tolerate winter shade. We must be able to adjust to change and realise that even though our preferred playing surface is on natural grass, future circumstances are beyond our control and for our sport to survive we must accept the reality of playing on different surfaces. Just looking over the fence is not good enough. We should be looking further - beyond what we have been accustomed to since our sport originat- ed and it is up to Clubs to decide their own future. In my last article I mentioned that Boronia Bowls Club were considering sowing a couch green from seed, but have now decided to use scarified mate- rial possibly from an established Tift Dwarf green There are now a number of seeding type couch grasses available following breeding and selection programs in the USA and Queensland. To assess their potential as bowling surfaces, the Victorian Greenkeepers Association in co-operation with two bowling clubs and two firms associated with the turf industry, are trialling two seeding type couches for their possible suitability in Southern Victoria and particularly Melbourne. - Max Fielder RVBA Greens Committee • A bowls green being verti-drained as part of its yearly renovation.