Colin Callander - Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph
PROBIOTICS, a Dorset-based company run by the Smart family, are leading the return
to a more natural approach to golf-course care. They now advise and supply more
than 200 courses, including Sunningdale and The Berkshire.
Smart said: "By switching from an antibiotic to a probiotic approach the severity
and frequency of certain turf-related diseases can be drastically reduced.
"Most clubs would see a
marked improvement in as little as 12 months, but normally a greenkeeper switching
to a probiotic approach would present the club at the outset with a three to five-year
programme. It can take a while to wean a golf course off a chemical approach."
His father, David
Smart, emphasised the 'sponge-like' danger signs. He said: "Over-watering and
over-feeding greens inevitably leads to thatch which acts as a sponge, making
the grass susceptible to disease. Water is precluded from going through."
John Smart paints a gloomy
picture for those clubs who stick to the chemical cycle, likening stricken courses
to drug addicts. He said: "Eventually the course suffers from the equivalent of
a drug overdose. Infection - anthracnose and fusarium - sets in and mega-doses
of drugs - fungicides - are administered to the weak and dying patient. "The greenkeeper
then orders more chemicals. As the infection becomes critical, more fungicides
are prescribed. A skin carcinoma - dead, brown patches - quickly spreads. A transplant
is ordered, but too late; the patient dies of addiction and drug overdose."
Smart says that resuscitation
is possible in most situations. "With balanced nutrition for both plant and soil,
a lot of aeration, water control and good carbon-source most greens can be rescued,"
claims that an environmentally-friendly approach saves money. "If we can reduce
the amount of chemicals applied throughout the year, then a more natural approach
will lead to huge savings for clubs and their members."
Arthur, arguably Britain's leading golf course agronomist, who is now in semi-retirement,
said: "As far as I'm concerned the over-watering and over-use of chemicals is
by far the most serious problem facing British golf. And it's a problem getting
worse rather than better.
don't think I would be exaggerating to suggest that more than 50 per cent of British
golf courses are suffering from it. It's rampant and it's wrecking traditional
British golf as we used to know it. I'm not sure how you can justify throwing
more and more water and fertiliser on to a golf course.
has survived in its natural state for millions of years so why on earth should
we be attempting to change it just because some golfers don't like its colour.
Some people will tell you that we need to fertilise our courses in order for them
to withstand the increased traffic they get, but that's rubbish. In fact, the
opposite is the case."