Golf courses in our region continue to report increased rounds. Superintendents are starting to report signs of wear and tear on high traffic areas of the golf course, but increased golfer traffic is a good problem to have. Our burst of summer in the last week of May was short-lived, but created a number of challenges for golf course superintendents. High heat and heavy rain are not a good combination at any time during our growing season. Cooler weather has returned for now, but we were reminded of how quickly the wrong weather conditions can create problems.
Dollar spot pressure was incredibly high in the last week of May. We received many reports of fungicide programs breaking down, and significant dollar spot damage occurred on some golf courses. This damage will recover, but it is an important reminder. When disease pressure is high for dollar spot or any other disease, spray intervals must be compressed or disease control will break down. When diseases are active, curative rates of fungicides should be applied. There is a reason why the fungicide label has preventative and curative rates. Remember, all products cannot be delivered the same! Examine the product label to ensure that spray volumes are adequate to deliver the fungicide to the target. Materials vary in their movement in the plant. Contact fungicides should not be applied to wet grass. The goal is to keep the product on the leaf.
Mind your nitrogen fertility. Maintain spoonfeeding inputs on a regular basis to keep the grass growing. Application rates should be low (1/10 of a pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.), but it is necessary to feed the grass.
In addition to dollar spot, etiolation (rapid, yellow growth of tillers above the canopy) was noted in those areas where heavy rainfall occurred in conjunction with heat. The exact causes of this rapid growth are not known, but turfgrass thinning in collars in conjunction with this condition occurred. More frequent mowing to control the visual impact of this condition can also help. Avoid sand topdressing in collar height turf. The mechanical abrasion of the sand may have a negative impact under high humidity conditions.
With more frequent heat, water management practices must be closely monitored. Too much or too little water can create major problems under high heat. While hand watering of putting greens is labor intensive, it can be the difference between keeping the grass alive or seeing a decline in quality. Even the best overhead irrigation systems need to be supplemented with hand watering.
In summary, disease pressure and water management are just two issues to consider. The most important thing to realize is that as the weather creates more stress for the grass, the margin for error within turfgrass management programs becomes much less. There must be a heightened awareness of superintendents to monitor conditions on the ground for potential problems. Golfers need to be aware that maintenance intensity may have to be dialed back in the interest of turfgrass health under certain conditions. We still have a long growing season ahead of us, so preserving the health of the grass at this point just makes good sense.
The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an email. You can reach Stan Zontek (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Darin Bevard (email@example.com) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 412/ 341-5922.