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Common Turf Problems-Thatch

by TurfCareBlog

The cricket season is fast approaching and close to hand and with that in mind, l thought l would put out some information on thatch/litter/fibre, you may ask why now as renovations are over. In my mind even if we have thatch present, the key thing in the coming months is to find ways of preventing further build up, so when you do finally remove it, it’s less likely to come back. Why not start now!

This small three-part series, goes into the basics of thatch etc and how we can prevent it.

In August l will release the full article to help you plan for renovations and removal of any thatch you may have.

 What is Thatch?

Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots which accumulates between the layers of actively growing grass and the soil underneath. Thatch accumulates when the production of dead organic matter exceeds the rate at which it decomposes

Lignin is the biggest cause of thatch.

Lignin is a tough, ‘woody’ type material which abounds in the older, tougher parts of the grass plant. It is also the main component of straw.

Leaf tips have low levels of lignin.

What are the effects of thatch?

Ball can ‘tear’ the surface or scar the surface leading to unpredictable bounce and ball direction

-Acts like a sponge, meaning a wetter square.

-Can hold water and fertiliser at surface, meaning shallow rooting.

-More prone to disease.

-More prone to pest invasion.

-Annual Meadowgrass (Poa annua) thrives in thatch.

-Thatch = Poa and Poa = Thatch.

root breaks
Layers of buried thatch,under soil

More facts on thatch

Topdressing over thatch leads to buried thatch and fibrous profile = even more spongy surface.

-Buried thatch causes a weak point or organic layers in the soil profile, leading to the surface detaching from below when the prepared wickets dries and the soil shrinks, causing soil fracture in future years.

– Some grasses cause more thatch than others: annual meadow grass is the number one culprit, ryegrass is comparatively good.

– Unfortunately, on a square, there is a conflict between the needs of cricket and good turf management .The heavy, compact soil does not encourage thatch decomposition.

– Therefore, cricket groundsmen rely heavily on mechanical removal (during renovations only)unless verticutting.

Andy Mackay (Sussex Cricket Head Groundsman)

Hope you enjoyed part one of my series on the defects that hold back pitches from playing to there full potential.

In part two ,we shall be looking at litter,thatch and fibre the differences and preventives.

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dave harrison February 25, 2020 - 7:52 pm

Good article. A must for clubs that do not invest in renovations and ongoing work through the season .

groundsman620467822 February 25, 2020 - 8:01 pm

Great comment Dave and too right ,clubs often not aware the performance of the pitch comes from within the profile .

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