COURSE CARE
Ladies And Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! May 13, 2010 By Todd Lowe

Left: Common bermudagrass off-types produce an abundance of seedheads and disrupt the aesthetic quality of golf courses.  Right: Mole crickets injure turf as they tunnel in search of food.

This past winter saw nearly an absolute shutdown of bermudagrass in our region as the extended cold temperatures caused prolonged dormancy on many golf courses. However, the past several weeks have been a complete opposite of winter conditions, and the turf growth seems to be exploding. Few leaves or stems were produced this past winter as the turf stored underground carbohydrates. With the resumption of warm weather, this stored energy is now being quickly converted, and the turf is producing an abundance of leaf biomass or clippings.

Mowers that sat unused for much of the winter play season are now running non-stop to keep pace with the turf. In addition, plant growth regulators are being applied to reduce the growth surge and maintain decent playing conditions. Maintaining fast putting speeds has become a more difficult task at this time, and many of the golf courses I visit are incorporating double mowing, rolling, or both. Resist the urge to reduce mowing heights on putting greens at this time, as the summertime stress season will soon be upon us.

Off-type Bermudagrasses

A topic of great concern lately has been the degree of off-type or common bermudagrass contamination, as the resumption of growth of these grasses has occurred more quickly than Tifway bermudagrass growth. The result is conspicuous, undesirable patches, especially with the abundance of seedheads they produce. Increased mowing frequency and plant growth regulators will help in the short-term, and their appearance will subside over the upcoming weeks as seedhead production decreases and cultivation practices like vertical mowing and core aeration are implemented. Rotary mowers are beneficial for golf course roughs, as they remove seedheads more effectively than reel units.

If there is a large degree of contamination throughout the golf course, then long range plans for complete regrassing should be developed. Many golf courses in South Florida are considering an innovative regrassing technique called no-till. Celebration bermudagrass is quickly becoming the preferred turfgrass for many South Florida golf courses, and no-till regrassing saves money, provides quicker turfgrass establishment, and offers improved playing conditions compared to traditional renovation.

Mole Crickets

Surface tunneling of over-wintering adult mole crickets has been evident on visits over the past few weeks. Mole crickets are the most damaging insect on Florida golf courses, as they tunnel through the turf in search of food. Also, several animals like armadillos, skunks, and sandhill cranes prey on mole crickets and damage golf courses as they search for these insects. Over-wintered adult mole crickets are more of a nuisance than a major pest, but still require regular scouting to reduce turf injury. Large scale mole cricket treatments will be under way over the next few weeks to kill mole cricket nymphs that will soon emerge from the egg hatch that occurs each year.

Turf Advisory Service

Another important event occurs at this time of year, as the deadline for the $500 savings on the Turfgrass Advisory Service ends on May 15th. Don’t miss out on this important savings for your club.

Source: Todd Lowe, tlowe@usga.org or 941-828-2625