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Natrium and Aeration

Posted by mynormas on November 16, 2016


Lifelong learning sounds philosophical doesn’t it? Makes me feel clever. Gives me visions of being the old guy in tight school uniform among the young kids. There’s just so many things to learn! The more I know the more I realise that there’s a lot more that I don’t know. I attended a seminar recently organised and hosted by Sports Turf Solutions. I learned many things but best of all, I had that running-naked-through-the-street-shouting-Eureka moment when I realised the problem of the greens’ edges, the high slopes and the sods when I replant those areas that keeps dying? They weren’t caused by localised dry spot or the mowers’ compaction from circling the green for the clean-up pass. It was caused by something more sinister: Gas.

perimeter-damage

See this again carefully, what makes you think this is caused by compaction? Picture only for example.

Let’s start at the beginning of the seminar. Not that I want (or am qualified) to regurgitate back the seminar’s contents, but the subject matter was so interesting and the way it was presented so different that I took a lot of notes and well, sharing them will help me remember plus those that attended may correct me if I’m wrong or the speakers themselves, when they finished laughing (or crying) can add or subtract these notes. If nobody corrects me, I’ll assume everything I wrote is right – ignoring the possibility that nobody reads this of course.

The first topic was by this guy called Pat McHugh CGCS, a former superintendent and now staff at Floratine. He talks about controlling sodium which we – or rather, the rest of the world – call natrium.

Excess natrium affects turfgrass because it hogs the CEC sites in the soil colloid and also at the roots. Some of the effects are:

  • Plants will prefer to take up the natrium rather than kalium (which the Americans call Potassium, by the way)
  • High natrium causes the plants to have weak stomates
  • Na will replace Calcium on the surface of the roots.
  • The plants will actually go into repair injury mode
  • The plants will act like they were applied plant growth regulator on.
  • When the Na attach themselves to the CEC sites, they dominate it, so the nutrients from your regular granular fertiliser won’t have space in the soil.

Where does the Na come from? It is usually from the irrigation system, the tidal water which may swamp low lying areas or inundate the irrigation pond, applied products, sodic soil and a few others.

To make a long lecture short, lets go directly to how to get rid of this excess natrium. Oh wait, someone is asking, “How do you diagnose excess natrium?”. Well, we use an EC meter or we take soil samples and send to a lab, taking the risk that more grass will die by the time the results come back.

We get rid of excess natrium by flushing it out with water, preferably we remove the salts (that’s what natrium is: salt) from the soil colloid and from the roots’ surface by a applying an adequate amount of Calcium. Now don’t go applying the agriculture CaCo3  that we buy by the truckloads, it takes too long to take effect. I suggest you get the Calcium you need from the foliar kind. where it will act faster. Use the best Calcium from STS, it’s designed to be better than the others.

Hey, think about it, do you have turf that looks like it hasn’t been fertilised? Even as I am writing this I can think of a few clubs that has grass that looks like it hasn’t been fertilised in a while. Then you need to check for excess natrium and do something about it. When was the last time you did a soil test? A water test? How do you know the problem you are having is not related to excess natrium?

Question: can we use the same irrigation water that causes the excess natrium to flush out the excess natrium? Yes we can, on condition that accumulated natrium in the soil is more than the natrium in the water. Of course, a lot of rain will help too.

The next topic is about aeration, which is my favourite topic. Most golfers hate playing on a green that has just been aerated but many understand that it is a necessary evil

Many superintendents understand the importance of it in turf health but avoid it because of the disturbance to the surface of perfectly good green. Some dislike the hassle and some say they can’t afford it in terms of manpower, machinery, extra sand or even the time.

Especially the fairways, tees and rough. We equate aeration only on greens while actually aeration should be done on fairways, tees and rough too.

I grew up on golf courses (okay, not literally ‘grew up’) that uses certain brands of machinery for aeration only, so to listen to some guy talk about the Wiedenmann, or was it Weidenmann? Perhaps Wiedenman? Anyway these are the strongest and straighest aerators around. It can also be adjusted to do hollow-tining at different depths, which gives us two advantage; we avoid ‘pan compaction’ and we can use one set of hollow-tine tines for a longer time. I use to buy one set for the first six holes, then another new set for hole 7 to 12. The third set can be the longest of all two sets combined or a new third set anyway. With Wiedenmann, we can just buy one set and adjust the depth accordingly when the tines becomes shorter.

The talk about aeration was given by a gentleman called Mr. Weidenmann (I kd you not and he is supposed to not be related to Weidenmann senior too).

I seem to have run out of space and time.

If you do have problems of greens dying at the edges, or high spots and if you resod the sod will die again; I’m afraid you’ll have to continue reading the next article. Or you can call any of STS staff for more information.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Samples of hollow tine; the leftmost is what I’m told is called a ‘ninja tine’.

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