Greenkeeping - challenges and opportunities facing the sector

Talking to us at Bigga Turf Management Exhibition (BTME) earlier this year, James McKenzie – Director of Estates from Celtic Manor, highlights the current problems the industry is facing.

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The stakes are high when it comes to greenkeeping. There is an expectation for exacting standards and producing consistently perfect results across pitches, courses and outdoor spaces, whatever the weather. As the unsung heroes of the turf industry, greenkeepers work tirelessly behind the scenes, with early starts and long days in all weathers in constant pursuit of perfect turf; which for golf in particular, has extended with the expectation for play 365 days a year!      

In this blog we look at the current issues turf managers are facing and the opportunities that can be embraced… 

Alongside the challenge of recruitment and retention of qualified staff within the industry, greenkeepers are also facing issues with the reduction of chemistry available. Over the years we have lost a plethora of pesticide products, mainly due to government legislation and a withdrawal of active ingredients that have now been banned. This, coupled with the desire to be more environmentally friendly, has reduced the number of pesticides available for use.

Ultimately, the aim is for turf managers to be working in a more sustainable way, reducing the incidence of pest and diseases by using a well thought out Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy that combines relevant and available products, like biocides and organics, together with tried and tested agronomic methods.

One of the primary functions of IPM being is to ensure playing surfaces are free of pests, weeds, and disease; if left untreated, these can become detrimental to the condition and playability of the surfaces themselves. There is the need to explore alternative solutions to manage these threats, such as cultural practices, biological control, or new pesticide products that may have different modes of action. Success is primarily achieved by ensuring the fine turf grasses are managed in a way to increase overall plant health and the ability to fight off an attack by specific pests and diseases.

While the loss of pesticide products can present significant challenges for greenkeepers, their scarcity also provides valuable opportunities to explore new and innovative approaches to turf management. An IPM strategy that includes the use of approved pesticides, alongside new management strategies, can collectively result in more sustainable and effective solutions in the years to come.