Aeration - Who needs it?

During August and September, all I hear about from course managers/superintendents is the size tines they have used to hollow core their greens, or the size of their Graden blades. But this has made me think. Are these guys aerating their greens because they discovered that they need too through scientific tests, or are they doing it because they have always done and the course up the road always does too?

Like many turf managers, over the years I have always believed that to produce good greens, aeration is a crucial tool. It provides oxygen for the soil and roots, degrades organic matter build up and improves drainage capabilities. But my eyes were opened several years ago by an American agronomist. At a seminar, he said that if you built a new green, had no golfers play on it and diluted any OM build up thorough dressings, then you would not have to aerate that green at all. Now the golfers would love that (not that they would be allowed on it of course!).

Some data tools available today.
Now this is an unrealistic situation as of course golfers will always play on the greens, but the fact is still there, no golfers potentially means no aeration! If we think of aeration like this then we can start to see that greenkeepers may have over-aerated in the past. I'm starting to believe that as much as certain greenkeepers have under-aerated their greens through the years, some may have over-aerated as well. But how do we know when and how much aeration we should apply?

So, when you plan your next aeration schedule, will you know why you are doing it? Will you be going with a hollow tine set at 75mm (3 inches) because your latest OM results said that around this level there is a high OM percentage? Or, will you be going with a tine that is deeper than the 200mm (8 inch) pan that you have just found in your green with the help of the petrometer? Decisions, decisions. But that's why we are employed, to make the right calls at the right time.

Good luck, I'm off to order my next set of tines!