COURSE CARE
What A Year! The Challenges Continue September 26, 2010 By Keith Happ

Drought stress has a firm grasp on much of the Mid-Atlantic Region.  Although dry weather is good for the golfer, it makes it very difficult for the turf manager to establish new sod, germinate new seed, and, most of all, prepare the turf for winter.   Recovery of damaged areas is very slow for this time of year, due to lack of rain.  As of this update, many turf managers are faced with making difficult decisions about the care of the course due to water shortages!  

All of Pennsylvania is either under a drought warning or drought watch.  This involves either a mandatory or voluntary reduction in water usage.  This can have an effect on golf course fall renovations.  Only renovate what you can support with irrigation!

Drought-stressed grass should be cut less, fertilized less (a real problem if turf must recover from the summer), raise mowing heights, and restrict cart traffic from drought-sensitive grasses like fairway bentgrass.  When will this year’s weather problems be over?

Though many turf managers can buy water, doing so will affect the bottom line.  Many courses had to make adjustments to their budgets as the year began, and it was not uncommon to hear from superintendents that the line item for water was slashed.  The last two years were somewhat benign compared to this season.  Monies not spent for water last year were viewed as potential savings this season rather than a real estimate of need during a tough year.  The decision to purchase water should be based on agronomics rather than economics.  It will cost far more over the long term to reestablish playing surfaces from seed or sod compared to the cost of water needed to sustain the current stand of turf this fall. 

The critical issue this fall is to prepare the turf for cold temperature stress.  Properly hydrating the turf is the first step towards maximizing cold temperature tolerance.  During the fall, sugars are produced and act as an anti-freeze within the plant.  This is referred to as hardening.  Without water (irrigation/or precipitation), it is very difficult to fertilize the turf, maintain surface density, maximize regionalUpdateContent mass, recover from disease or mechanical damage, or even implement basic grass growing techniques such as aeration.  And, if faced with a choice, a turf manager would always prefer rainfall to irrigation in order to stimulate the grass.  We can’t duplicate what Mother Nature can do. 

For more information specific to your area (current and forecast) go to http://drought.unl.edu/dm

Many courses continue on the road to recovery, but turf mangers are still battling turf diseases.  Summer Patch (Magnaporthepoae) for example, has been a persistent problem in most of the region.   Summer patch has affected Poa annua on greens and in bluegrass rough.  Although pest control measures can be enacted, it is essential that fertilizers be used to grow grass this fall.  Using holistic practices continues to provide the best results. 

Give us a call; we are here to help.  The Mid-Atlantic Regional agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail to Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) or Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at (610) 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at (412) 341-5922.