Unlock and Play starts new trial to manage summer stress

Growing Day Degrees to help better time turf management decisions

The new Syngenta Unlock and Play trial at STRI looks to investigate and report in season results on the effects of novel integrated turf management techniques on summer stress, under simulated playing conditions.

Lockdown restrictions have been eased and golf courses have become extremely busy, reports Dr Christian Spring, STRI Research Operations Manager. Golf is one of the few sports that can easily be played within social distancing guidelines.

Dr Christian Spring

The Unlock and Play trial aims to continue the pioneering research and information dissemination of the hugely successful Lockdown Trial, run earlier this year - which investigated how innovative low intensity turf management regimes could be instigated, to reflect essential new maintenance practices  during the coronavirus restriction times.

However, the trial has now evolved into a new initiative, examining integrated turf management techniques and their impact on summer stresses many turf surfaces are now experiencing. These will include simulated golf wear, drought, heat, and light stress. The trial work has been commissioned by Syngenta, with support from ICL.

The new trial is aptly named ‘Unlock and Play’. It will run throughout the summer months, to reflect turf management when play on golf courses will be at its peak. It will provide information and advice to help make management decisions as the season progresses and stresses occur.

STRI Unlock and Play trial area

The Primo Maxx II programme instigated in the Lockdown Trial, to assess the most appropriate application intervals, will continue in this trial:

  1. No Primo
  2. Primo applied @ 0.4 l/ha every 7 days
  3. Primo applied @ 0.4 l/ha every 50 Growing Degree Days
  4. Primo applied @ 0.4 l/ha every 100 Growing Degree Days

Then, in addition, a summer stress management programme incorporating new approaches and products will be applied to trial plots, in combination with standard management and compared to the standard management alone.

Wear machine on Unlock and Play trial
Wear imposed on Unlock and Play trial
  • Standard management: Qualibra applied monthly @ 20 l/ha and ICL Greenmaster Liquid 25.0.0 applied at low rates 19 l/ha every fortnight.
  • Summer stress management programme: As above, plus Syngenta bio-stimulant @10 l/ha, ICL Sportsmaster WSF Seamax @ 1 kg/ha and Ryder @ 0.5 l/ha.

These products have been chosen because they are able to improve turf health and wear tolerance, without applying an excess of nutrient to turf.

No irrigation will be applied to the trial area, but it will be left uncovered to the elements. Simulated golf wear will be applied weekly to reflect a busy golf course.

Visual assessments of turf quality, colour, live grass cover and evenness will be made weekly, along with measurements of sward height, NDVI and light intensity. Video updates will be made every two weeks and will focus specifically on a type of turf stress.

This first week’s focus has been on light intensity. Already this season we have seen lots of sunshine, including the sunniest month on record in May and the longest day of the year - ironically followed by a wet weekend!

This was an opportune moment to highlight the potential stress to turf caused by high light intensity. In the UK we have very long days in the summer, exposing turf to a significant amount of UV and light radiation. In the same way that we can be burned by sunshine, turf can also be damaged.

Ryder light saturation

The inclusion of Ryder in the stress management programme is designed to mitigate damage caused by light intensity. Ryder is a new pigment formulation and acts almost like a sunblock for turf. It protects the grass plant and the pigment technology improves turf colour and vigour.

Th trial is in its infancy, but early signs are that the stress management programme has increased turf colour. Watch this space, along with Twitter - @syngentaturfuk - and your email inbox, for further updates on the Syngenta ‘Unlock and Play’ trial.

Follow Glenn Kirby on the GreenCast Advisory Blog for regular updates on putting the findings of the trial into practice.

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