COURSE CARE
End of Summer Musings September 3, 2013 By Darin S. Bevard

The use of the finer-textured, cold-hardy bermudagrasses has increased rapidly in recent years in the Mid-Atlantic. While these are still niche grasses to some degree in this region, with quality like this (pictured is ‘Latitude 36’) their use should continue to expand.

In recent travels, fine turf areas are recovering rather quickly from the stress of the summer. Major agronomic problems have been minimal, which is a welcomed change. With Labor Day freshly in the rearview mirror and a forecast of high and low temperatures favorable for the grass in the foreseeable future, I think it is safe to say that the worst of summer is behind us. Nonetheless, there is still work to be completed to get ready for fall golf.

While turf conditions overall have been good, most golf facilities have some areas that suffered damage this summer. As you try to encourage recovery in these areas, do not forget the importance of site-specific nitrogen fertilizer treatments to speed turf growth and repair. Do not overdo it, but feed the grass to encourage recovery during favorable environmental conditions that are typical of September.

Evaluate turfgrass areas for weed populations, and implement postemergence control strategies where warranted. The first frost will kill annual weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass, but why let these weeds go to seed if you can control their populations now? There are good         postemergence grassy-weed control options available. Sedges and kyllinga are beginning to produce seed as well. Both weeds have become major problems for many golf courses. Again, they need to be controlled now to reduce population size. If not, yellow sedges and kyllinga will be back even stronger in the same areas next year because they are perennials.

Annual bluegrass weevil populations are still evident on many Turf Advisory Service visits. It seems we talk about these pests in just about every regional update in one form or another. Control measures should continue to stop adults from returning to overwintering sites. Any adults that are controlled now will not need to be controlled later and will not be available to produce the larvae that will damage grass next spring. We have learned that eradicating these insects is next to impossible without heavy expenditures on insecticides. Furthermore, populations of annual bluegrass weevils continue to spread west and south throughout the region. 

One great success story from this year is the emergence of the newer, cold-tolerant bermudagrasses, especially ‘Latitude 36’ and ‘Northbridge’ in the Mid-Atlantic region. ‘Riviera’ and ‘Patriot’ are also being widely used in the northern part of the transition zone. The good news is that these new bermudagrasses are driving more conversations about potential conversions of practice tees, heavily trafficked tees and fairway landing zones. Some golf facilities are even considering converting entire fairways to one of the newer, cold-tolerant bermudagrasses. Why you ask? The wet, hot conditions that occurred in July took their toll on cool-season fairways, but these bermudagrasses thrived with fewer inputs. It took several years for ultradwarf bermudagrass to really catch on for putting greens in the southeastern U.S., but they are now widely used. Perhaps improved bermudagrass varieties now available for fairways in the Mid-Atlantic region will eventually have a similar impact. If the weather keeps on the way it has in the last three years, bermudagrass makes a lot of sense for many golf facilities in much of the transition zone.

The USGA has long recognized the importance of improving cold tolerance in warm-season grasses and has funded research at numerous universities with this goal in mind. All four of the bermudagrass varieties discussed above are the result of research at Oklahoma State University (OSU) that was partially funded by the USGA. Since 1986, the USGA has provided $1.75 million to seven OSU scientists conducting 15 projects to improve bermudagrass for golf courses. To learn more about USGA funded research please visit the Turfgrass and Environmental Research area of our web site.

While fall doesn’t officially start for a couple of weeks, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief from golf course superintendents now that Labor Day is behind us. If the weather continues to cooperate, it should be a great fall golf season in the Mid-Atlantic. 

Source: Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org)

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