Causes of moss invasion – Sports Turf

Mosses are plants comparatively simple in structure and function and, with the Liverworts, comprise the Bryophyta family – one of the least complicated groups of the plant kingdom. Mosses are found in very many situations, for example, on stones, tree trunks and turf. If you have moss on your turf then it is primarily an indicator that you are not looking after the millions of individual grass plants that make up your turfed area.

moss, turf, grass,

About 12,000 species of moss live naturally on earth, but only a few are common on turf. Distinguishing the type of moss is helpful, as each of the three groups of turf-inhibiting mosses tends to occur under rather different conditions. Check out educational card #36 to learn more about the diffrent types of moss in turf.

Although it is generally assumed that moss infestation in turf is a direct result of acid, waterlogged and compacted soil conditions, some species favour chalky or alkaline soils. Others can be found on light, sandy soils. Where moss is a persistent problem, it often indicates some fundamental weakness in the turf and treatment with a moss killer is often only a short-term answer.

From the ‘Causes of Moss Invasion list’, it should be obvious that persistent moss problems are an indication of some fundamental weakness in a turf area. The presence of significant quantities of moss for long periods each year suggests that the turf may be excessively acid, lacking in fertilizer dressings or excessively wet with a small percentage of actual grass content.

Correcting these deficiencies will result in stronger grass growth and the moss then tends to disappear naturally because of the increased competition presented by healthy grasses.

Simple treatment with a moss-killing chemical is, therefore, often not the complete answer to moss trouble. Cultural control should always be considered first. Prevention is always better than cure.

A natural turf playing surface should have nothing in it except good dense healthy desirable grasses – neither weeds nor moss.

Possible causes of moss invasion in sports turf

– A moist turf – poor drainage encourages the fern-like and tufted mosses

– A soft, spongy sward with a thick fibre layer

– A very dry soil, e.g. over drains, on mounds and ridges.

– Inadequate watering or over-drainage encourages the upright type

– Bare areas remaining after weeds have died

– Cutting the grass too low

– Diseased turf

– Dry acid soil

– Low fertility, e.g. deficiencies of plant nutrients

– In appropriate maintenance

– Inadequate or poor grass cover and growth

– Low nutrient status

– Neglect

– Over-consolidation of the soil – compaction

– Poor surface levels which may lead to scalping

– Shade from trees, hedges and buildings and topography

– Weak and sparse turf

– Compaction & over consolidation

– Prolonged periods of wet weather

– Time of year – autumn, winter and spring –

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