How to catch the thatch

By Alistair February 16, 2024 07:59

Origin Amenity Solutions (OAS) explains how to reduce thatch for a truer, firmer and consistent playing surface.

The maintenance of sports turf poses many challenges, and one of the most common issues faced by turf managers is the build-up of thatch, and the negative impact it has on surface performance.

Microbes play a crucial role in turf maintenance, and their activity can have a significant impact on the health and quality of playing surfaces. In this article, Polly Gearing from the microbial arm of Origin Amenity Solutions explains the impact of microbial activity and how it affects turf health including the breakdown of thatch.

Decomposition of organic material saves money

Excessive thatch build-up is a major barrier to achieving true, firm and consistent putting surfaces. Microbes, in particular beneficial bacteria and fungi, are responsible for the decomposition of dead and decaying organic matter such as thatch that accumulates in sports turf. This decomposition process breaks down organic material into simpler compounds to release nutrients essential for plant growth. Without microbial activity, turf would experience nutrient deficiencies and organic material would build up, leading to the development of thatch.

Nutrient cycling

Microbes are instrumental in nutrient cycling within the soil. They convert complex organic compounds into simple forms that plants can readily absorb. By cycling nutrients, microbes help to maintain a healthy nutrient balance in the soil, supporting vigorous and healthy growth.

Improving plant tolerance to stress

Certain beneficial microbes help to suppress the growth of harmful turf pathogens. These microbes compete with pathogenic organisms for resources, produce antimicrobial compounds, or stimulate the plant’s immune response, thereby reducing the likelihood of disease outbreaks. Incorporating these beneficial microbes into turf management practices can promote more sustainable disease management strategies.

Before treatment

Soil structure and aeration

Microbes play a vital role in aiding air and water movement within the soil profile. Some microbes, such as bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi, produce substances that function as binding agents, helping to aggregate soil particles and create larger pore spaces. This improves soil drainage, aeration and root penetration, which contribute to healthier turf growth.

Plant growth promotion

Certain microbial species promote plant growth by producing hormones, such as auxins, gibberellins and cytokinins, which stimulate root development and increase nutrient uptake. Additionally, microbes can solubilise minerals making them more available to plants. These microbes contribute to enhanced turf vigour, increased sward density and improved stress tolerance.

To summarise, microbial activity is a critical component of turf maintenance, affecting various aspects of turf health, including the decomposition of organic material, nutrient cycling, disease management, improvement of soil structure, plant growth promotion and detoxification of chemicals. Incorporating practices that support and enhance microbial activity, such as the use of OAS Symbio ThatchEater, can lead to healthier and more sustainable sports turf.

After treatment

Reduce disruption

Working with soil biology can reduce physical practices. While aeration is an essential part of sports turf maintenance, with the microbes hard at work in the soil decomposing thatch, disruption on the surface in the form of more onerous, expensive and disruptive maintenance can be decreased.

ThatchEater is a recognised solution designed to reduce thatch build-up and improve overall turf health. It utilises a carefully selected blend of beneficial soil fungi and bacteria known for their ability to rapidly degrade thatch and organic material. ThatchEater uses biofixation technology. During the process of biofixation, selected strains of beneficial bacteria and fungi are fixed into carefully selected mineral carriers. The unique combination of microbes and mineral support, together with a biostimulant, enhances bacterial and fungal metabolism and protects the microbes from ultraviolet light, chemicals and toxins, also shielding them from other predatory species. This results in a reproductive capacity that is greater than that found in free-living microbes, allowing for the rapid establishment of a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms. This unique product is specifically designed to convert thatch into humus, a valuable soil component.

ThatchEater aids in the promotion of root growth which leads to increased nutrient and water uptake, crucial for the health and sustainability of sports turf. Stronger and deeper root systems result in better overall sward density, contributing to a more aesthetically pleasing and durable playing surface. Thatcheater releases food for fungi which promotes the growth of desirable fine grasses and leads to high-quality playing surfaces with improved aesthetics. Additionally, the conversion of thatch to humus through microbial activity helps to release locked-up nutrients into the soil.

By degrading thatch, promoting nutrient availability, enhancing surface drainage and improving overall turf health, OAS Symbio Thatcheater benefits groundsmen and turf managers. Its use provides numerous benefits in the form of cost savings, a firm and true playing surface and, most importantly, a contribution to the long-term sustainability of turf.

Wath Golf Club and, below, Mark Hudson

Mark Hudson from Wath Golf Club

“From the first walk around at Wath Golf Club it was clear to see the greens were suffering from problems in the ground. After an in-depth look under the surface, high levels of thatch were the obvious reason for poor turf health. I had used some of OAS Symbio’s products in a previous club and I was keen to get the biology doing its thing to break down the thatch issues. After our first season of using ThatchEater and Compost Teas, the difference was amazing. We went from high levels of tight thatch to a reduced amount, with it being a lot easier to pull apart and less dense.

The condition of our greens improved massively in the first year and the surfaces already looked better health-wise. We continued using ThatchEater in the second year and again visible results were there to be seen with improved turf health and our bent grasses are starting to thrive in better environments, this means our playing surfaces are getting better all the time. We will be applying it again this year to improve things even further and used alongside the Compost Teas and the DegrAID we will be in a great position come the end of the year as we are creating a much more hospitable environment for our finer grasses to flourish in, allowing us a better all year-round surface.”

Stuart Mason from Padeswood and Buckley Golf Club

“When I took over, the greens had over 50mm of dense yellow thatch with black layer below and were rarely in play during winter. We trialled ThatchEater on one green and saw such positive results in one season that we rolled it out to all greens the following year. It has played a huge part in improving our surfaces to allow for year-round play and, along with Compost Tea, has increased bent grass composition whilst lowering fertiliser inputs.”

For further advice or to speak to a OAS representative call 0800 137 7222 or email


By Alistair February 16, 2024 07:59

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