Environmental concerns are leading many greenkeepers to cut back as much as possible on chemical use. This seems to make sense as some chemicals have been banned over the years – and the ones remaining often seem less effective. Mick Wood, head greenkeeper at Hadden Hill Golf Club, near Didcot in Oxfordshire, was as concerned as any.
“Once a month we were applying fungicides and had to use special masks and equipment to carry it out,” says Mick. “I wanted to get away from all that and follow a more environmental route.”
Two years ago he opted to use Biotal’s ‘Restore the Balance’ programme on his course.
“So far it has been very promising and there has been an improvement in the quality and health of the sward. Initially I was just going to trial but because of the amount I was spending on chemicals and the considerable reduction I would make in my costs, I went straight into using the micro-balance programme in April 2000,” he says. “If it did not work I was never going to use it again.
“We noticed a difference on the greens side quite quickly,” says Mick. “We used to have black layer, which I partly put down to the chemicals we used, but since adopting the programme it has reduced. The layer has gone down to Â½ to Â¼ inch from the previous level of 1 to 1Â½ inches. In some places it has been totally eradicated.”
As there are around 20 other courses within 20 miles of Hadden Hill, Mick has to keep-up high standards. “There is still anthracnose on the course,” he says, “so we put chemicals down once a year and I will be doing that now at the end of the season. On the long rough, which are set aside areas to encourage wildlife, we do not spray at all for weeds.”
“Biotal is straightforward to apply,” says Mick. “UK microbes are used, not American, so it is designed for all UK soil types, which was an important factor to me. If greenkeepers are nervous about using this biological system I suggest they trial two to three greens, their worst ones. It does not cost a fortune and they can evaluate the improvement for themselves.”
“We have good drainage on the greens but as we have a clay soil we aerate the course to open it up. On the fairways we verti-drain and slit once every six weeks through the winter period. Good maintenance practices are still vital,” says Mick, “and we now have a really good rooting system.”