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Bowls In Focus : Bowls In Focus May 2010
38 Bowls In Focus Thoughts on couch greens There have been some more couch greens go in this summer, and it’s a steep learning curve for Green- keepers going from bent to couch. I thought I’d make a few random discussion points from my own observations over the years. • Establishment: planting a new surface and bringing it into play is a very visible process, and everyone can see your progress and any setbacks that occur. So it can be a very stressful time, especially if the weather is not conducive. My best advice is to control what you can, so that you’re not relying too much on good luck (although you still need a bit of that). Normally you can control the timing of planting (most agree that early December is best). You can take steps to ensure effective irrigation of the new surface. Watering should have full coverage in any wind, avoid excessively heavy droplets, and be able to be applied at any time of day or night. And you can buy planting cloth, if you feel it necessary as insurance. They might be expensive, but these covers can minimise the chance of losing the grass if you get a scorching northerly two days after planting. And you can take steps to ensure you have enough planting material that’s in good condition. You probably lear ned all these things from your own or other’s mistakes in the past, so my simple point is ‘control what you can’, think it through, and don’t take it lightly or casually. • Couch variety: to my mind there are two main factors to consider. First, the variety needs to be a good ‘greens type’, and second, the variety has to want to grow in your climate. There’s a theory called the ‘Centre of Origin’ concept, which is relevant here. The first part of the concept says that in a climate similar to that in which a species originated, pretty well all varieties of that species will be happy to grow. Couch grass evolved in a sub-tropical to tropical climate, so in a location like Brisbane you can success- fully grow any variety you want. All you have to consider is which variety is the best ‘greens type’, to give the best surface. Do you want Tiftdwarf, Tiftgreen, TiftEagle, Santa Ana etc? They’ll all grow extremely happily; it’s just a mat- ter of which type gives the best bowls surface. The second part of the concept, however, says that the further away (climatically) from the Centre of Origin conditions you get, the more sorting or separation you get of varieties, with some of them becoming unviable (they just don’t want to grow). In a climate like Melbour ne’s the sorting of couch vari- eties is very evident. Some varieties like Greenlees Park, Windsor Green, CT2 (or GN1) and Plateau simply don’t grow down here. If you plant them they might hang around for a few years, but slowly they’ll disappear. Other varieties, like TiftEagle, seem to persist ok but probably aren’t all that happy about being here. Tiftdwarf is possibly in that category (I’m talking south of the Dividing Range). So it can be hard to handle, and you certainly can’t treat it too mean like perhaps a Santa Ana or even a bent green. That’s where the learning curve comes in, what you can and can’t get away with. Note that Santa Ana in Brisbane is a better plant than Santa Ana in Melbourne, but at least it is willing to grow down here, where a lot of other varieties simply won’t. So am I saying that Santa Ana is a better choice than Tiftdwarf for a bowling green in Melbourne? Neither is ide- al - Santa Ana is happy to grow here, but is not as fine and fast a surface as the best Tiftdwarfs. But Tiftdwarf has its growth problems (long dormancy, susceptibility to Spring Dead Spot and mites) that potentially stop a Greenkeeper getting the best out of that surface. It’s a tough one - we need a couch with the surface quality of Tiftdwarf and the willingness to grow of Santa Ana. • Root Growth: couch grass roots are annual, and are replaced in one hit each spring, ready for the coming summer. The old root system dies off (called Spring Root Decline or Spring Root Dieback) and is replaced in the months of late spring and through the summer. In fact the new root system doesn’t reach its peak growth until Jan-Feb, which is when you can really put some stress on the plant. But you can also see that any stress in spring can be a problem, because the old roots have died off, and the new system isn’t yet fully operational. Stresses in October or November such as dropping the height of cut, lots of traffic, droughting, high N applica- tions, scarifying or coring, soil-residual herbicides or even broadleaf herbicides can set the plant back, so the ap- proach should be hands-off (as much as possible) until at least December to allow the plant to go through this phase without any ‘help’ from you. It’s a ver y different growth cycle to bent grass. • Dor mancy: although a dormant couch green provides an excellent bowls surface, there are good reasons to reduce dormancy as much as possible in Victoria. The main factor to reduce dormancy is the variety, with Santa Ana having a dormancy period perhaps two months less than Tiftdwarf. But there are various cultural techniques that can be used as well. Most of these are tied up with Gibberel- lic Acid (GA), with higher GA levels stalling dormancy in autumn, or speeding up recovery from dor mancy in spring. Any practice that enhances shoot growth will also enhance GA levels for some period afterwards. Nitrogen applications stimulate shoot growth, as does scarifying over the summer, and both of these increase GA into the autumn. Low light intensity also stimulates GA (eg: if you use covers over the ends in autumn). Or you can simply go and buy some synthetic GA (eg: Pro-Gibb is commercially available, and would cost around $20 per green per application). Too much GA will result in leggy grass, so you need to muck around with frequency and rates of around 80-120g/ ha. Another product creating excitement is carbon (eg: Carbon Trader), which seems able to stimulate growth and reduce dormancy. It contains a small nitrogen component, but there seems to be some other factor in it that reduces dormancy. In my view winter dormancy should be reduced as much as possible, and there are various tools available to do this. • Despite the previous paragraph, the use of Banner in the autumn to manage Spring Dead Spot is essential. Banner has a growth regulator effect similar (but not exactly the same) as a GA inhibitor, and would seem to counter your attempt to increase GA in autumn, but a Ban- ner application (or two if needed) in March needn’t undo your attempts to reduce dormancy using N or carbon or GA or cultural methods. - Phil Ford University of Ballarat Turf Talk Turf Talk Victorian Greenkeepers Association The Value Of Volunteers In late February five groups of bowlers set out, possibly for the last time, cer tainly as RVBA representatives, on what has been known as Goodwill Tours to Country Associations. The aim has been to visit each Association every five or six years, which has been an opportunity for many country clubs to meet fellow bowlers from Melbour ne and other country areas to find out what is happening at the top level. Each touring group aims to have 24 members and despite many bowlers claiming that these tours are a junket at their expense, all touring party members pay their own way which is an indication of their dedication to our sport and a willingness to spread goodwill on and off the green. It is interesting to note that in many affiliated clubs there has been a reluctance to volunteer for the many activities needed to maintain these essential community assets. However, this trend is not seen within the Ovens and Murray East Bowls Association where eight of the 11 clubs in the association rely on volunteers to maintain their grass greens. I was fortunate to be included as a member of this particular touring party and as this was my first visit to these clubs for 13 years I was interested to see the changes in that time. The first was that all clubs except for Beechworth with a synthetic surface, now have Tiftdwarf (couch) greens and second but not least was the influence or necessity to rely on volunteers in all aspects to maintain viable clubs. Hospitality at all clubs visited had to be seen and enjoyed to realise that without the dedication of members these sporting facilities would not exist. Even the Wodonga Club, that can afford to employ a Greenkeeper, renowned for it’s excellent greens, hospitality and club facilities relies on volunteers to effectively function as a facility for the community. I am going to mention some of the volunteers responsible for maintaining grass greens, because they are some of the dedicated people spending many hours each week making sure that bowlers have first of all greens to play on, and secondly in many instances greens manicured to their satisfaction! At each of these clubs there was one person in charge with other volunteers working under direction and they are recognised at their own clubs for the work they are doing. Many within the bowling fraternity do not realise what this means for small country clubs. On the tour we unfortunately missed out on visiting Dederang and the SS&A Wodonga Country Club in Albury. Dederang has a small membership and totally relies on volunteers to stay viable. Those responsible for green maintenance are: Corryong, Colin Smedley; Dederang, Norm Scott; Kiewa Valley, George Kelly; Mitta Valley, Wally Prior, Mt Beauty, Bob Joiner; Tallangatta, Ray Crispin; Tawonga, David McDonough; and Yackandandah, Ray Melbour ne. The greenkeeper at Wodonga is David Swasbrick who is doing a great job, following on from his father David, who had a reputation for consistent good greens. I am probably biased as I had a good mor ning playing on the back green and as we all know, when we win the green is usually praised, but in this instance the green surface was indeed excellent. During our luncheon break at Tallangatta I noticed on the wall the following notice. When selected to play bowls please remember: Club first, Team second, Self third, and happy bowling. This to me summed up the attitude at the clubs in this association. - Max Fielder RVBA Greens Committee • Preparation for a new Tiftdwarf green at the picturesque Eildon Bowls Club.
March April 2010
June July 2010