Friday, July 30, 2010

USGA Mid-Atlantic: Turf Loss Advisory

United States Golf Association July 27, 2010
Mid-Atlantic Green Section
485 Baltimore Pike, Suite 203, Glen Mills, PA 19342
(610) 558-9066 Fax (610) 558-1135

Manor Oak One, Suite 410
1910 Cochran Road, Pittsburgh, Pa 15220
(412) 341-4922 Fax (412) 341-5954



Periodically, the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic region send letters to USGA member courses on extraordinary weather conditions and turf loss related matters. The weather experienced the summer of 2010 has prompted this letter.

Our goal is to alert golfers and turf managers alike that this extended period of heat and drought followed by heat, humidity and thunderstorms has caused and probably will continue to cause turf stress and turf loss problems throughout the region. No two golf courses are alike. They all have different grasses, soils and golfer expectations. It is important that golf course superintendents use, “defensive golf course maintenance and management programs.” That is, be conservative. Pamper the grass. The turfgrass is under intense weather stress compounded by an increase in disease pressure. Be more concerned about plant health than green speed!!! There is an old adage in our industry, “slow grass is better than no grass.” This is not a joke. It needs to be taken seriously.

Suggested “defensive” management programs include:

• Compress spray programs. With heat, humidity and thunderstorms, fungicides do not last as long and disease pressure is greater. There is no better money spent than to protect the grass from disease.
• Raise mowing heights and use sharp mowers. This can help the grass survive.
• Mow less/roll more. The goal is to reduce mechanical stress to the grass plant.
• Switch from grooved to solid rollers (and protect collars from the turning of mowers).
• Spoonfeed the grass. Weekly sprays are best when applying light rates of fertility, iron (to keep the grass green) and growth regulators. Excessive grass growth depletes carbohydrates.
• Air drainage. On pocketed greens, prune limbs, use fans and generally keep the air moving. When you are hot, you stand in front of a fan. When the grass is stressed, it needs good air movement as well. Drier turf is also less prone to disease.
• DO NOT OVER-WATER. Hand water. Lightly syringe the turf with the nozzle never going past horizontal. Any mid-day watering should be focused on cooling the canopy. If you are wetting the soil, you are not syringing! Remember, you can always add more water but wet, saturated soil damages roots, increases disease and contributes to turf loss via the Wet Wilt Syndrome. If corrective watering needs to be done for dry spots, the extra water should be applied in the early morning or late in the evening. Do not over-water the grass in mid-day heat.
• Surface aerate/vent the greens. This allows the soil to breath, excess moisture to escape and roots to regrow which helps the grass survive.

In summary, be careful. This may be one of our hottest summers in decades. We all share the responsibility of keeping the turf on our golf courses as healthy as possible during this period of extreme weather. Again, be careful and have realistic expectations for golf course playability.