Roots Are Not Elastic!
WOW! The mercury pushes above the freezing mark for a couple of days in much of the region, and the questions regarding winter play have come rushing into our offices. The negative impacts of winter play are hard to quantify, which is what makes the topic so controversial. However, it is generally accepted that golfer traffic on dormant, frozen greens can create problems, even if only early in the growing season.
A bigger concern is playing on greens during freeze/thaw cycles, which are the conditions that are occurring right now. In recent days, the surfaces of greens have thawed, but underlying soils are still frozen within one or two inches of the surface. Under these conditions, the potential for root shearing is greatest. How much this actually occurs in debatable, but it is best to err on the side of caution and keep greens closed until thawing occurs deeper in the profile. Remember, if the underlying soils are frozen, water infiltration will not occur, thus keeping the greens spongy and more prone to mechanical damage from foot traffic and ball marks. In some instances, the need for revenue may trump caution, but beware of potential problems of subjecting greens to winter play.
Conditions vary greatly throughout the region. Northern portions of the region are still under snow and ice cover, while snow cover has melted in other areas. The bottom line at this point is we simply do not know the probability of potential winterkill. We may get some answers on the northern push of bermudagrasses that have not traditionally been considered winter hardy. Time will tell as winter injury to Poa annua populations in the Pocono Mountains, Pittsburgh, and other areas are a concern as well.
Keep in mind that additional snow mold applications may be needed with the current thaw. At the very least, review your application records and the ten day weather forecast to help determine if another application is necessary before spring.
The conference season is in full swing, and the first USGA Green Section Mid-Atlantic regional conference is set for Tuesday, March 9th at Oakmont Country Club just outside of Pittsburgh. Our second meeting will be on Tuesday, March 16th at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. Mailings for these conferences will go out soon, and, for the first time, online registration for these conferences will be available. We hope that you join us for one or both meetings.
Finally, Turf Advisory Service invoices will be mailed to golf courses in the coming weeks. There is no fee increase in 2010 and we continue to offer a $500 discount for payments received by May 15th. Consider one or more Green Section visits in 2010. We can help your golf course.
Always remember, the Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail. Stan Zontek (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Darin Bevard (email@example.com) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 412/ 341-5922.