Soil Biology conference

Added on January 18th, 2014 by
Posted in General, Greenkeeping

Report on Soil Biology conference/workshop. Dec 2013.

proffessor alan gange, royal holloway university of london, sports turf microbial management,

Professor Alan Gange of Royal Holloway

“I was invited in December 2013 to attend a Soil Biology Conference/workshop in the impressive Royal Holloway (University of London) picture gallery, an event organised by Professor Alan Gange as an attempt to raise funds to support research into the subject of ‘Sports Turf Microbial Management’ with some 60 people attending.

‘Yes, OK, very boring’, one might say! but stay with me a moment, there is some valuable insight into soil strategy to be discovered here.

These good people are trying to organise an activity to support the reduction in the use of pesticides, fertilisers and water in golf course maintenance that will not only reduce costs but help what is usually called ‘sustainability’ and which I prefer to call ‘traditional, natural, austere greenkeeping’.

It was fascinating that along with many academics attending, there was also a sprinkling of those who somebody there called “the snake oil salesmen”; I think referring to those who make their living selling the inputs that sustain weed-grass ‘target style’ golf courses.

Perhaps the presence of this element embarrassed people and stopped them openly talking about what was clearly the elephant in the room ie the fight to promote fine grasses (fescues and bents) in the place of weed grasses (annual meadow grass – Poa annua)!

Steve Isaac RandA, Christian Spring STRI, John Moverley Amenity forum, Su Hodgson Symbio

Steve Isaac R&A, Christian Spring STRI, John Moverley Amenity Forum, Su Hodgson Symbio.

This conference was attended by a number of football and cricket ‘groundsmen’ and those sports, with perhaps more money focussed in just a few relevant hands, may be useful funders of wider soil biology research.

However, when it comes to golf courses, the only worthwhile research is into processes and products to convince golf club secretaries and course managers that the outcome of using these products will:

a) improve the objectively measured (CLICK HERE to read about the Greenstester) performance of greens all the year round

b) reduce inputs and costs in at least the medium and longer term.

Those twin objectives will be denied and contested by many interests, including those who prefer playing ‘target golf’ rather than the ‘running game’.

But the interest in ‘target golf’ is on the wane. Instead, a ‘Modern Retro-Trend’ of returning to the ‘running game’ has been gathering pace since the millennium.

The big money spent in modern GB & I golf course creation has been at the ‘running game’ courses like Castle Stuart, The Renaissance, Kingsbarns, Dundonald Links, Spey Valley, Macrihanish Dunes.

Overseas golf tourism overwhelmingly wants to play the ‘running game’ courses (apart from perhaps the PGA Centenary at Gleneagles on which the enjoyable Ryder Cup will be played in the autumn and which will receive a somewhat misleading and artificial’ TV boost). CLICK HERE to read FineGolf’s review of Gleneagles.

A major problem the European PGA Tour has (and it recognises it) is that its players endure a noticeable difference in putting performance on the ‘target’ courses on which they play, between the morning and afternoon rounds. Fescue/bent greens, on the other hand, give a consistency of performance across the day.

Even the home of ‘target golf’ America is staging the US Open in 2015 at Chambers Bay, a fescues dominated course in cool climate, west coast Oregan.

Many of the golf courses I attend (ie those in the FineGolf GB&I finest 200), try to pretend they have more bents and fescues in their greens than they actually do and that includes some of The Open Championship venues. That’s fine, as at least they acknowledge the direction they should be heading and they would fully support methods that help towards that transition.

Is not the best way forward by tracking and publicising in vivo results at clubs across as broad a geographical spread as possible?

Temple GC, for example, and others have been at this for four years or more – one wonders why it has not been publicised? That is the only way to defeat the cynics who always claim “it won’t work in my climate/town/country” etc etc. It is perhaps not what researchers want to hear – they want laboratory time for in vitro work. Whether the data is generated from good research at Royal Holloway or half way up a hillside at Bingley, golf clubs will not buy into a concept unless it’s seen to work practically next door to them. Mind you, even then, they’ll argue that their soil is different!!

FineGolf urges that the focus of this excellent initiative be put into field trials at a good spread of varying club sites.

The communication of their successes and the education of greenkeepers and golf administrators would then be an optimistic prospect.”

 

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