Sustainability at Tipperary Golf Club

At Tipperary Golf Club we have been on a journey to reduce our chemical applications by using organic fertilisers. Our head greenkeeper Eddie Ryan has been brewing and applying “compost teas” since 2016 and this has reduced our application of fungicides by circa 70%.

 

We are proud that our organically maintained greens are up there with the best greens in the country – fast, pure and healthy.

Overview of soil biology processes at TipperaryGolf Club.

  • Historically, we managed our greens with both organic and inorganic fertilizers with higher salts levels damaging and limiting the range of biology within the greens profile. This reduced the fungi and bacteria and the natural processes that any healthy soil would have. Therefore, we had to lean on a more chemical system to manage pest and disease. We became interested in finding out more about biological systems that would help with many of our underlying problems. Could we manage thatch, control disease outbreaks and improve the sward? Increasingperennial grasses that are stronger to resist disease and reduce our reliance on chemicals by using microbes.

  • In 2016 we started working with an agronomic team, Hillery Murphy of Soil Biology and Andy Robinson from Whites Amenityto move forward with a biological systems approach for the greens. We discussed at length my short and long term objectives, year one; to reduce the amount of fungicides used and to improve plant and soil health and playability for the golfer.

  • Compost teas were implemented as part of our soil restoration program, compost tea is an organic process where the positive microbes are extracted from a highly active compost, this takes place on-site at Tipperary Golf Club. This is sprayed onto the greens with seaweeds and other bio stimulants to feed the microbes in the compost tea and within the soil system.

  • This would begin to increase the fungi and bacteria in the soil, helping to break down dead plant matter that naturally builds up and help convert it into food for the soil reducing the risk of disease later in the year.

  • The process of breaking down thatch using microbes is naturally taking place every day in the woodland conditions and in natural grasslands but this requires a little help in such an intensively managed environment like a golf green. This degradation of thatch by the fungi and bacteria naturally helps improve our soil organics. Improving soil organics is important as this is the back bone to a strong system. It’s this system that we are keen to improve for plant and soil health. For every one point we improve the soil organics, the soil has the ability to hold an extra 150,000 litres water. This doesn’t give us softer greens, this is stored deeper in the profile where it can be accessed by the plant and microbes to help assist our water management requirements and buffer any weather stress. Importantly soils with higher organics recover from stress and can buffer the effects of the high Ph sands we use to maintain ball speed & true roll.

  • Long term as we improve soil health we increase our tolerance to many sorts of plant stresses, be this drought or heat stress, or extreme rainfall, a healthier soil allows faster recovery and we can endure weather extremes without so much intervention. The greens are mainly sand based with many limiting factors, nutrients need to be applied regularly to keep the plant healthy and strong to resist disease, like you and I, we have to keep the correct balance of minerals and nutrients to keep out infection and colds, we feed with a range of products that don’t impact on soil health and stimulate the plant to induce its own defence mechanisms. This is tailored to our needs after chemical and biological analysis.

  • Greens management is a constant daily and sometimes hourly challenge working with the weather to produce the standard we all require, together as a club we have seen subtle changes in the greens over time to deliver what we have today. Our new approach to plant and soil health is a work in progress, it has helped reduce our fungicides by around 70% making savings but these need to be reinvested into plant and soil health to keep us moving forward to improve the system.

  • The overall approach is healthier to implement for us as people and you on the course, and working towards healthier soils and a healthier planet is good for everyone.

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