EFFECTIVE aeration improves drainage, reduces turf compaction, thatch build up and boosts the health of golf course greens and fairways. In our latest advice piece, lan Waddington, Area Sales Manager for Dennis and SISIS explains what aeration is and which machinery you should look at.
Q; What is aeration?
IW: Put simply aeration is a mechanical operation that creates more air space within the soil. This increases oxygen levels allowing for better percolation of water and nutrients thus promoting a healthier plant.
Q: When should I use different methods of aeration?
IW: All Greenkeepers will have or should have an aeration programme in place. These will differ from club to club depending on soil structure, budgets, staffing levels, amount of traffic, climate etc, An example of a greens programme is as follows:
Spring/late summer and early autumn - deep tine to 350/400mm
Hollow tine late summer and early autumn to 100mm
March - October solid tine every 3-4 weeks up to 100mm
Slit tine when weather allows during autumn & winter months to 100mm-200mm.
Varying the depths at which you aerate is important to avoid "panning", with the top 100mm being the most important. Hollow tine aerating used for the removal of thatch and soil exchange purposes is generally undertaken from late summer through early autumn when recovery will be greater. However, using a small diameter hollow or solid tine to a depth of 50mm throughout the growing season will cause little disruption to play and will increase airflow and water/nutrient ingress during the drier months.
Q; What type of machines should I look at?
IW: There are many different types of aerator currently available and, if budgets allow, all are viable.
Hollow/solid/chisel aerator, pedestrian or tractor mounted
Slitters, pedestrian or tractor mounted
Combination of air and solid tine aerator, tractor mounted
Deep tining aerators, tractor mounted
Linear action aerators, tractor mounted
Water injection aerator pedestrian In these tougher economic times
we have seen a noticeable upturn in clubs returning to our Multitiner tractor mounted aerator. The SISIS Multitiner is available in 1.2m and 1.8m widths and is a drum-type aerator which is ideally suited to a range of applications. It has three drums with independent rotation and interchangeable tines (hollow/solid and chisel) with a maximum depth of 100mm. It’s not only cost effective but also simple to use & maintain and is extremely reliable. Pedestrian slitters such as our Autoslit are also proving popular when poor drainage becomes problematic and compaction issues prevent the use of tractor mounted equipment. They can be used right throughout the winter months with little or no disruption. The Autoslit produces excellent underground cultivation, with minimal surface disruption, due to the angle of the tines, aiding aeration. it’s simple design requires little maintenance for the operator.
Q: Why is aeration in golf important and what are the benefits t0 the Green keeper?
IW: Low cut heights particularly on greens mean that regular aeration is vital. With cut heights as low as 3mm; the plant needs a good well established root structure to supply the oxygen and nutrients needed to survive. Regular aeration will allow the plant to flourish. Obviously, a golf course that is well aerated and has a proven aeration programme will be a delight to manage. Golfers should be appreciative and more will want to play. This will increase revenue within the club which is beneficial to all.
Q; What are the advantages of mechanical aerating and air combined?
IW: Using compressed air at relatively low pressures has two main benefits — The first being the fracturing of the soil causing many fissures within the soil structure and the second being a large increase in oxygen levels over conventional aerating. This allows a better flow of water and nutrients throughout so a green with traditionally poor drainage will improve with immediate effect. Surface disruption is kept to a minimum as the action is gentle allowing play to proceed without delay. One such machine which is proving very popular in the UK and also USA is our Javelin Aer-Aid i500. This machine is a tractor mounted aerator that not only aerates with a vertical action, but also injects air into the root zone at a fast working rate, creating thousands of fissures. The cam trigger mechanism ensures that the air is always expelled at the bottom of the tine penetration, enabling treatment t0 be targeted precisely and consistently. The overall result is reduced compaction, healthier growth and the reduction in the need for fertilisers and pesticides. The 10mm diameter ’tipped’ tines are spaced at 75mm (3ins) with depth of penetration infinitely variable to a maximum of 127mm (Sins). These air injection times are specially designed to use the maximum air available from the compressor and produce clean, fresh air at a constant rate of 88 litres or 3cu ft. per minute. Surface disturbance is kept to the minimum after operation.
Q: Why is minimal surface disruption important in selecting the right equipment?
IW: Minimal surface disruption is vitally important when selecting the right equipment. Getting your greens, tees & fairways back into play ASAP should be one of the first considerations on any Greenkeepers mind. Timing is paramount as is choice and size of time for example. Hollow timing in late August will recover far quicker than hollow tining in late October. The golfers may complain more but they will have superior greens in the longer term. The simple rule is the larger the time the more disruption. When aerating, ask yourself is the machine fitted with a light pressure roller? This will not only help maintain levels but you are doing two jobs in one pass.
Q: What depth should I aerate to?
IW: Varying the depth is important to avoid panning. This is when a compacted layer forms below where aeration has been carried out at the same depth for a number of years. Aeration is possible anywhere from 10mm to 400mm if conditions allow. For example, a large slitter such as the SISIS Megaslit, used on a fairway would have a maximum depth of 300mm or when hollow time aerating a green maximum depth would, in normal circumstances, be no more than I25mm.
Q; In your opinion, what are the 4 most important topics/aspects of aeration?
IW: 1. Maintaining or improving the circulation of oxygen within the soil structure. 2. Remove or controlling thatch build-up. 3. Relieve compaction. 4. Improve drainage.