On The Road With The USGA - January 2008
How "climate change" may affect turf maintenance at courses located across the north central tier of states was discussed by a meteorologist at the recent Wisconsin Turf Symposium. The good news was that there will likely be more rainfall per season and that the upper Midwest could be less affected by drought than other regions of the country. The bad news was that the extra rain would likely occur during the winter months.
If you believe the weatherman (and who doesn't?), all of that extra rain would definitely increase the potential for winter injury. Keep in mind, warmer winters will not necessarily equate to fewer episodes of winterkill. In fact, mild weather occurring later into the fall and earlier in spring only increases the chances of crown hydration injury. Turf species, such as Poa annua and perennial ryegrass, that never have an opportunity to fully harden off will have little ability to withstand thaw/freeze events and low temperatures. Furthermore, milder winters will likely produce less consistent snow cover.
Do I cover greens or don't I? Do I remove snow and ice or don't I? Do I apply another treatment of snow mold protection or don't I? Do I open the course to play or don't I? These are questions that will be asked more frequently in the future, and making the wrong decision can have more serious consequences than in the past. For example, it really didn't matter if you covered greens or not as long as there was plenty of deep, continuous snow cover.
The office phone begins ringing this time of the year with the age old question: "do I remove ice from my greens or not?" The answer is always the same: "it depends." It's a rare winter in this Region where ice could stay on the greens long enough to injure creeping bentgrass. However, it can remain on the turf longer than the 70 continuous days necessary to affect Poa annua .
If greens have been under ice cover for 50 - 60 days and there are still several weeks of cold weather left to push the turf into the red zone then it makes sense to remove ice. On the other hand, it makes little sense to remove ice that initially develops during late January and early February, since the ice isn't likely to remain solid for another 70 days without at least several opportunities for significant thaws. Removing ice and exposing the turf to temperatures well below freezing is never a good idea, so try and put snow back on the turf if possible, especially in the northernmost reaches of the Region.
Whether or not to remove ice is never an easy or simple call. Sometimes, what you decide is dictated by those around you. No one wants to be only person in town who didn't remove ice when dead turf is discovered in spring. However, it sure is a pain when the two nearest courses to you each have a 10 man crew removing thick, 1-week old ice from new, pure bentgrass greens during late February. You look at your entire winter crew, which consists of the mechanic who could have retired 10 years ago, and ask."do I remove ice or don't I?"
Source: Bob Vavrek, email@example.com or 262-797-8743