COURSE CARE
Make The Decision To Cut Now While The Pain Is Fresh March 31, 2014 By Todd Lowe

Despite aggressive pruning, these trees still caused considerable turf damage this winter. The SunSeeker app (inset) showed that the tree canopy intercepted most of the sunlight on the back of this green during the winter months and left no doubt that the tree needed to be removed.

I have visited three golf facilities over the past few weeks with severe turf thinning due to trees. Luckily, the shade stress was isolated to one or two putting greens, but the damage caused considerable turf loss on those greens. Agronomists sometimes get a bad reputation for being tree haters, but this is because we have the unfortunate task of telling the facility that, “It’s either the tree or the green, which one do you want to keep?”

There seems to be an application, or app, for anything these days, and there are apps that can help you with problematic trees. I use the SunSeeker app on my iPad to show how trees block sunlight to particular areas of greens. When this data is coupled with known information about sunlight requirements of bermudagrass greens, it leaves little to question as to whether it is time to remove a problematic tree. Sometimes limb pruning can help, but eventually mature trees can no longer be pruned to provide adequate sunlight to the green without harming the tree.

These apps can track the sunlight movement for different times of the year. This is a very important feature because the harmful effects of tree shade change with the season. For the most part, we find that trees are more harmful in Florida around the winter solstice (Dec. 21), as it is the shortest day of the year and the sun is at its lowest angle. Shade stress also occurs when it is cold outside at a time when turf growth and recovery is at its slowest.

Shade damage can still be seen on golf courses throughout the region, but it will improve as the sun angle increases and some areas may completely recover over the next month. So, make decisions now, while the pain of turf loss is still fresh, to remove problematic trees and reduce the likelihood of turf thinning next year.

Source:  Todd Lowe, (tlowe@usga.org

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