Early 2013 Winter Season Conditions January 22, 2013 By John H. Foy

Sunny and clear skies have been a rarity this winter in Florida. Persistent cloud cover is resulting in very slow drying out of the turf canopy, and when combined with very mild temperatures, reoccurring outbreaks of disease has been a concern at many courses in the central to southern part of the state.

The late summer and fall of 2012 presented a number of challenges in preparing Florida golf courses for the winter play season. While highly variable throughout the region, frequent and at times very heavy rainfall events during this time had a negative impact on course conditions and turf health. Reduced sunlight due to the persistence of dense cloud cover limited photosynthesis and in turn carbohydrate production and storage. As noted in the November 14, 2012 regional update, Still Trying to Catch up from the Summer, a common concern at many courses was heading into the primary winter play season with thin and weak turf conditions on tees and fairways.

Fortunately during the latter half of November and through December, mild and above average temperatures prevailed. With aggressive fertilization it was possible to produce a good recovery response and reestablish improved course conditions heading into the time when peak seasonal play is hosted. At many courses it was even possible to recover from early winter season cart traffic wear and damage.

While the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season is the first of November, the transition to the dry season in Central to South Florida is typically gradual and not completed until mid to late December. As also discussed in earlier regional updates, leaf spot disease on bermudagrass putting greens tends to be a very common problem during this time. Based on experiences over the past few years, preventative fungicide treatment programs are being conducted on putting greens at most courses. Yet, even with preventative treatments on seven to 14 day intervals, completely preventing leaf spot disease is not always possible. On a positive note, bermudagrass leaf spot disease is not a devastating problem that causes major turf loss.

An increased incidence of Pythium disease has been being found in samples being submitted to university diagnosis labs in the southeast. This is much more of a concern as far as turf thinning and loss on putting greens. Thus, including a Pythium specific control material in the fungicide rotation program would be advised.

Normally by the first of January, the transition to the dry season has occurred and with this, fungal disease pressure is reduced. However, during the first couple of weeks of January, mild to warm temperatures and high humidity have persisted in Florida. Also, there have only been a few days without cloud cover, and thus environmental conditions have remained very conducive to disease activity. Continuing with preventative fungicide treatment programs on putting greens has been necessary.

The lack of any real cold weather so far this winter in South Florida has also favored continuation of other pest problems. During recent Turf Advisory Service visits, mole cricket tunneling damage has been observed on a frequent basis. Animals and birds foraging for these large overwintering adult mole crickets are causing additional damage in spot locations. Another concern is plant parasitic nematodes.  A lack of cold weather last winter resulted in nematode problems arriving much earlier (February to March) in South Florida and also contributed to overseeding transition difficulties at courses in the central and northern part of the state later in the spring. Based on environmental conditions so far this winter, implementation of nematode management treatments in the next couple of months would be advised.

During the week of March 11 – 15, 2013, the Florida USGA Green Section will once again host a series of workshops. These workshops provide educational sessions to golf course officials (general managers, golf professionals, green committee members, superintendents etc.) on golf course maintenance topics. The half-day workshop has been renamed this year to Green Committee University . Programs will be mailed in the next two weeks, but we ask that you make plans now to attend with all course officials. Workshops will be held on March 14 at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton and March 15 at Audubon Country Club in Naples. A third workshop will also be offered during this same week at a site in the Tampa area. The exact date and location has yet to be determined. Please check with our office for additional details.

Source: John Foy, or 772.546.2620