With the introduction of every new type or category of turfgrass comes the need for research to fine-tune the culture and pest control strategies of each. Such is the case with newer cultivars of creeping bentgrass. These new cultivars produce high shoot densities resulting in more uniform, upright turf accompanied by a more rapid development of excessive thatch. Researchers at Clemson University attempted to get the ball rolling for redefining cultural practices in new stands of creeping bentgrass. Their two-year study looked at a variety of cultural techniques, specifically topdressing, core cultivation, vertical mowing, grooming and Thatch X biodegradation product. The study also looked at combinations: core aerating + grooming; core aerating + vertical mowing; and core aeration + grooming + vertical mowing. They measured thatch depth and mat development, percent organic matter, infiltration rate, surface hardness, visual quality and ball roll distance.

The results were varied, but a few items stand out. Topdressing alone did not reduce thatch but did increase water infiltration. Vertical mowing also did not reduce thatch, but it did reduce turf quality and ball roll distance. Further studies to determine appropriate spacing and depth of blades may improve effectiveness. Grooming alone and the biological thatch control product, Thatch X, were both ineffective. So what did work? A combination of core aeration + vertical mowing and core aeration + grooming + vertical mowing reduced organic matter 23 percent and 31 percent, respectively, compared to the untreated plot. These combinations also reduced surface hardness and improved infiltration rates. The downside of core aeration treatments was a lower turf quality during the June through October ratings. No treatment completely prevented thatch accumulation, but aggressive management can help slow the development.
Source: Crop Science, 45:1529-1535 (2005).

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