Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber, and land reclamation. Agronomy encompasses work in the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. Agronomy is the application of a combination of sciences like biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, earth science, and genetics. Agronomists today are involved with many issues including producing food, creating healthier food, managing environmental impact of agriculture, and extracting energy from plants. Agronomists often specialize in areas such as crop rotation, irrigation and drainage, plant breeding, plant physiology, soil classification, soil fertility, weed control, and insect and pest control.

Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsman/Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.

For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.

The Performance Quality Standard (PQS) provides a recommended minimum quality standard for the finished standard of pitches. Specifically, it sets the basic standard recommended for natural grass pitches, which may be located at a variety of locations including a Club site, within a park or recreational ground.

For example the PQS for a football pitch recommends that a natural grass pitch must:

* Have the ability to drain water

* Have adequate grass cover

* Low level of weed coverage

* Be flat

It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities. With modern technologies, we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies. These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.

In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels. Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.

Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface, and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.

Ideally in May, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile. This enables you to get them back in time to start your new year’s maintenance

Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil Ph. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.

Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis service that enables you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.