During the week of Aug. 15, Todd Lowe, USGA Summer Intern Jerry Dewberry, and I made a combination of eleven TAS and stop-by visits on the West Coast of Florida. The USGA Green Section annually awards summer internships to upper-class or graduate students who spend a week traveling with USGA agronomists across the country. Jerry Dewberry is attending the University of Florida and is working on a Doctorate of Plant Medicine (DPM) degree. As with two previous interns, Jerry has been working for Dr. Phil Harmon in the Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Lab.
Hot and humid summertime weather that is favorable to turf growth will continue for at least another six to eights weeks in Florida. It was found, however, that all of the courses visited were wrapping up summertime renovation project work, and routine cultural management programs had become important. The next couple of months are essential in preparing for the next winter play season.
Relative to just a few years ago, new golf course construction projects are non-existent, and renovation and updating project work has been greatly curtailed on courses throughout Florida. However, during the summer of 2011, a handful of total course renovation projects have been underway, and with Celebration bermudagrass continuing to gain popularity, no-till fairway turf conversion projects have been undertaken on at least a dozen or more courses around the state.
This is still a very small percentage of the total number of Florida golf courses, but there are also a number of courses where repair and replanting work has been necessary to fully recover from the impacts of the severe and prolonged drought that was plaguing the region earlier in the year. Ideally, all planting work should be wrapped up by the first of September so that adequate time is available for full establishment and development of appropriate conditioning prior to the onset of the winter play season. I stress once again that one to two full summer growing seasons may be required to develop a truly mature and stable performance. Thus, additional care will need to be exercised throughout the upcoming winter season to avoid a pronounced deterioration in turf quality due to traffic and wear damage.
Core aeration of putting greens, tees, fairways and roughs is one of the most disliked but also absolutely necessary basic turfgrass management practices. Accomplishment of a final rotation during the latter part of August to mid-September is a routine practice and plays a key role in preparations for the winter season. Yet, adequate time needs to be allowed for full recovery. Even though active turf growth is occurring, the rate of recovery can be slower at this time of year because of the additional stresses associated with constant high temperatures, humidity and reduced sunlight intensity. Especially as we get into September, the use of smaller diameter coring tines on putting greens is generally advised to avoid a prolonged recovery.
Furthermore, and also because of the intense environmental stress conditions that are prevailing, additional care needs to be exercised with regard to verticutting so as not to cause a setback in turf health and increase the potential for disease activity. Jerry Dewberry reported that just prior to starting his summer internship an increased number of samples had started to arrive at the Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Service Lab. Along with Rhizoctonia zeaeleaf and sheath blight, Bermudagrass Decline and Pythium were the most common disease problems being diagnosed. Thus, if not already in place, initiation of a preventative fungicide treatment program that is maintained for the next six to eight weeks would be a good idea with respect for wrapping up things for the summer.
As always if we can be of assistance in wrapping things up for the summer and preparing for the winter play season, do not hesitate to contact Todd Lowe (941) 828-2625 or me (772) 546-2620.