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What to do if you find Leatherjackets in your newly delivered turf

LeatherjacketsAre you planning to order turf over the internet this weekend? If you are then it would pay to study this photograph which has been sent in by one of our readers, who collected about two hundred Leatherjackets from rolls of turf that he had delivered recently.

The turf, about twenty square metres, had been ordered over the internet from what the customer had thought had been a reputable source.

Our Grass Clippings reader contacted us after the firm who supplied it (we know who but they shall remain anonymous) told their client 'that they did not feel that the level of Leatherjackets that had been collected, warranted a problem.' However, on seeing this photograph we were horrified that the client had been advised in such a manner.

After being contacted by the unhappy turf suppliers client, we advised, that in our opinion, the turf was not fit for the purpose.

Whilst Leatherjackets can be found in any turf and no turf manager is immune from infestation, they can be controlled (professionally) quite simply and effectively and we are of the opinion that a treatment should be carried out on turf at the first signs of infestation prior to being harvested. Any harvester operator, who is in charge of lifting, should have picked up on the presence of the grubs and reported it. Failing this the turf should have been assessed for quality such as disease and insect attacks on a weekly or daily basis before it went out the door to a client. A professional Turf Manager such as a Course Manager at a Golf Club or Grounds Manager at a private school or University would not accept such poor quality.

The subsequent reply was somewhat unhelpful and they have informed their client that they did not agree with our comments. They stated that 'the level of insect infestation was deemed to acceptable and that the Larvae would not harm the turf.' We strongly disagree. Leatherjackets eat the grass roots of the turf and it is not uncommon to find over 200 Larvae per single square metre of turf. We have seen lawns stripped bare by an infestation. They keep on eating the grass roots until they emerge as Crane Fly adults affectionately known as Daddy Long Legs. No roots, no grass, no question of them not damaging the turf in the short, medium or long term.

However, they have despatched a Leatherjacket treatment to their client as a gesture of goodwill although we are currently unaware whether this will be in the form of a biological lawn pest killer based on Nematode worms or a chemical product such as Provado.

So what can you expect when you order your turf? The turf supplier was a member of the Turf Grass Growers Association, where members agree to adhere to quality standards on product quality; grass content, overall health and customer care amongst other set standards. The TGA Standards may be viewed at http://www.turfgrass.co.uk/standards.php.

The response from the turf supplier is not uncommon. All too often we are called to inspect a recently delivery of turf from numerous suppliers that quite frankly should not have left the turf farm. TGA members or non members are all guilty at times of supplying diseased, weak, thin, damaged, irregular depth, insect ridden turf to name a few problems we have viewed on our travels. It cannot be difficult to check quality upon leaving the turf farm, nor hold up their hand and admit that the turf supplied may have a problem.

One classic example is an attack of Fusarium Disease (see Technical Leaflet). It is probable that your new lawn may get an attack of the deadly and damaging Fusarium Disease once it has been laid, certainly if prevailing environmental conditions are conducive to an outbreak of the disease. What callers are often told when they call the turf supplier seeking advice on the Fusarium outbreak is 'oh, do not worry, it will disappear when it becomes frosty'. What they should be told is to spray the turf with a contact or systemic fungicide to rapidly arrest the attack and prevent a further outbreak over the coming 6-8 weeks or so and repeat when it looks like an outbreak may happen again if the weather stays the same. True, a cold frost will halt spore production but the disease will kill the grass plants leaving hollows that will require repair in the spring months. If only they provided an educational leaflet with pictures with the turf order advising recipients, of the problems new turf can experience and problems that are not related to the quality of the turf at the time of delivery.

Welcome to real grass and real grass problems. Problems associated with turf and its care are not always the fault of the turf supplier but new lawn owners can sometimes be quick to point the finger where education of the consumer has been lacking. Landscapers and turf laying companies could go a long way to ensure that the client is educated too and help promote healthy lawns by fertilising the lawns once laid and again every three months thereafter.

This is why we are here - to help the lawn owner and professional reputation of the Turf Industry as a whole.


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