COURSE CARE
Prepping For The Winter Season September 17, 2013 By John H. Foy

Cleaning up existing infestations of weeds and especially tropical signalgrass is a primary concern at many courses in central and south Florida.

College and professional football is back on television, major league baseball is heading into the playoffs and the official beginning of fall will be here in a few more days. At golf courses throughout the Florida region, this is a very important and busy time for completing final preparations for the quickly approaching winter play season. The weather, and in particular the occurrence of frequent and at times heavy rainfall has negatively impacted being able to keep up with routine course maintenance practices and accomplishment of summertime cultural management programs, along with renovation and updating projects. There are also a lot of frustrated golfers around the state because courses have had to enforce cart path only restrictions or remain closed because of saturated conditions. Unfortunately, weather conditions are continuing to be a major challenge in completing preparations for the winter. 

A dense and healthy turf cover is essential for being able to survive the winter and early spring months when peak seasonal play is being hosted. Warm to hot temperatures favorable to the continuation of bermudagrass and seashore paspalum growth will no doubt persist for another six to eight weeks. Yet, with sunlight intensity being reduced by moderate to heavy cloud cover and a progressively shorter day length, photosynthesis, carbohydrate production and storage can be limited at this time. Thus, extra care needs to be exercised with regard to heights of cut and employment of practices such as verticutting of putting greens to avoid exerting additional mechanical stress on the turf and causing a setback in health and quality. Furthermore, regular and adequate fertilization is a key consideration in maintaining sufficient levels of available nutrients in the soil to support sustained and balanced growth. 

On TAS visits to courses in south, central and north Florida, reestablishing and maintaining an acceptable level of pest control has been a primary topic of discussion. Prolific weed growth and reduced residual control activity from earlier applied pre-emergence herbicides are both consequences of a very wet, rainy season in Florida. There are a number of effective post-emergence herbicide treatment options that provide control of goosegrass, crabgrass, sedges and kyllinga weeds that plague Florida golf courses. Yet with all of these materials, timely repeat applications are required and staying on schedule has been especially difficult with rainfall events occurring on a frequent basis. Many of these herbicides are characterized as having lower per acre application rates, but even with employment of spot treatment programs, costs have dramatically increased relative to five to ten years ago. 

At courses throughout the central and southern part of the state, tropical signalgrass has been a concern for a number of years and has literally exploded into a major problem this year. This is a direct result of the loss of the post-emergence herbicide MSMA in Florida. Several different herbicide combinations have been tried, but to date a truly cost effective tropical signalgrass control has yet to be identified. Further complicating matters is the fact that we are quickly running out of time for reestablishing a dense and healthy bermudagrass turf cover in spot locations where heavy infestations of signalgrass are removed, or at least reduced. 

The other big concern for courses throughout the state is mole crickets. Late season mole cricket activity and damage is much heavier than anything that has been experienced for the past several years. For the next couple of months, an aggressive “chase and treat” control program will have to be employed with contact type insecticides to control mole cricket outbreaks and in turn turf damage. Following up with spot supplemental applications of fertilizer is also advised to accelerate the recovery process. Otherwise, sod repair work could be necessary and this might be a problem because some producers are reporting difficulties with being able to get into production fields and harvest acceptable quality material. 

Source: John Foy (jfoy@usga.org)

Information on the  USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the  Green Section Staff

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