Rain Rain Stay For Awhile!
Travels over the last several weeks have offered views of very dry soils and very thirsty grass. Superintendents have supplemented irrigation systems by hand watering critical areas of the golf course. Reservoirs are down and difficult decisions have had to be made regarding the use of water resources. In portions of the region, drought restrictions have been enacted. Voluntary reductions of 10 to 20 percent water use have been requested. The recent rain from storms out of the Gulf should help and potentially these requests will be lifted.
After the rains pass through, be on the lookout for areas that do not respond to precipitation. We are approaching the time of year when certain white grub populations wreak havoc with the turf. Foraging animals will be looking for a food source and the results of their hunts affect playability. There are eco-friendly products that can be used to deter this activity. Also, it may be necessary to control the food source via site specific pest control application. Don't assume the dry looking turf is just drought stressed; check the soil/thatch interface for grub activity.
This also is a time of year when many turf managers begin to prepare their annual turf maintenance budgets. Product costs have increased. For example, to apply the same amount of fertilizer used during the 2008 season will require a budget increase for 2009. Fertilizer costs have been reported as increasing as much as 150 percent compared to early order pricing from last season. Some tough decisions may have to be made. However, it is unrealistic to expect that a zero budget increase will deliver the same level of conditioning enjoyed this year. Programs can be adjusted with potentially more emphasis being placed on the conditioning of the center lines of the course rather than maintaining pristine rough from tree line to tree line.
Finally, for those turf managers in the Western Pennsylvania area, the West Penn Golf Association has sent out its Golf Maintenance Budget Survey. This survey was developed by a panel of golf course superintendents. The more who respond, the more valuable the information becomes. The information will be categorized allowing for a more reliable comparison when maintenance budgets are evaluated.
As always, if the Mid-Atlantic regional agronomists can be of assistance, contact Stan Zontek ( email@example.com ) or Darin Bevard ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ ( email@example.com ) at 412/ 341-5922.