Slow Spring In The Mid-Atlantic Region
The start of spring has required one thing from golf course superintendents and golfers alike, patience. While early spring has not provided any bitter cold weather, it also has not provided much warm weather either. When temperatures have warmed up, it has coincided with rain and a quick cool down to below average temperatures. The result has been slow turfgrass green-up and top growth, but in early season visits roots have been deep and healthy overall.
While daily mowing has not begun, most fine turf areas have been mowed a few times with the exception of the northern most parts of the region. Additionally, greens on many golf courses have been aerated, and many more will be punched soon. With cooler temperatures, healing is slow. This is one of the risks of early season aeration. Yes, you get the process out of the way. However, cool temperatures lengthen the window of healing and bumpy greens are the rule. Aerating later in the spring can be difficult because of the golf schedule, but healing times are greatly reduced. Do your best to fill aeration holes completely to accommodate healing. Periodic, light topdressing and even rolling can improve ball roll while you work through healing from aeration. No one enjoys aeration, except, of course, the turf.
On Poa annua greens or mixed Poa annua /creeping bentgrass greens, growth regulator applications to inhibit seedhead formation are close at hand. In fact, in parts of the region, Poa seedhead control applications have already been made. Keep in mind that application timing is critical so regular monitoring for seedheads on fairways and greens is critical. If you are close to proper timing, at least some level of suppression will be realized. Remember, each putting green represents a different growing environment that could have slightly different "ideal" application timing. This confounds seedhead inhibition efforts. The goal is to control the majority of seedheads in one or two applications. Research clearly shows that excellent Poa annua seedhead inhibition can be realized with proper timing. This timing is as much art as science with the variety of weather experienced during the spring.
Finally, now is the time to begin monitoring greens and fairway edges if you have encountered problems with Annual Bluegrass Weevil. It is still a little early, but once the first wave of warm weather occurs, you can bet these critters will be active and looking to mate. Monitor traditional hot spots on your golf course so that treatments to control adult weevils can be implemented.
From a non-agronomic aspect, one challenge that has arisen is labor. The fate of many H2B workers is tangled up in immigration reform. For those who are not familiar, the H2B program is one that allows migrant workers to enter the country to work in various industries. The golf course industry relies on this labor pool in many areas. Congress failed to extend the exemption of returning workers under the H2B program, which means there is a shortfall in workers compared to H2B requests. This is unfortunate because many of these workers are experienced and have been working at the same golf course for several years. Many golf courses are not getting the workers that they thought would be starting on April 1 st , which could provide further challenges for early season preparations. Golf courses will need to recruit and train additional workers, and potentially at higher hourly rates. This is not a good situation and it is causing angst for more than a few superintendents.
Course conditions will quickly improve with warmer weather. Aeration holes will heal, and routine maintenance operations will commence. We are still very early in the golfing season, and it takes time for the grass to wake-up. Patience!
Always remember, the Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team. If you have questions or concerns, give us a call or send an e-mail. You may contact the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region, 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.