Pros And Cons Of A Mild South Florida Winter

By John H. Foy, director, Florida Region
February 29, 2012

In addition to the persistence of moderate to high disease pressure, plant parasitic nematodes are another pest problem being encountered on recent TAS visits in South Florida. Irregular shaped areas of weak, chlorotic turf and no roots are classic symptoms of a nematode problem.   

As noted in the January and February regional updates, we have been enjoying very mild to warm temperatures this winter. This is in stark contrast to the past two winters of prolonged and record setting cold temperatures. On a positive side, the weather has been great for getting out and playing, and during recent TAS visits most courses are reporting that increased rounds are being hosted. It has also been encouraging to hear that as a result of innovative campaigns, a number of clubs have successfully increased membership levels. Furthermore, the very mild to warm temperatures have helped reduce turf damage from carts on courses in the southern half of the state. 

On the other side of the coin, increased pest pressure has been a concern at many courses. As previously reported by Todd Lowe, leaf spot disease problems typically subside in early January with cooler temperatures and lower humidity. Yet, during the mid to latter part of February, warm temperatures in combination with higher humidity levels and overcast conditions resulted in a perfect storm scenario for leaf spot disease and other fungal pathogens. At one point, disease pressure was so high that outbreaks occurred even on putting greens receiving aggressive preventative fungicide treatments.  With the extended weather forecast calling for more of the same, continuing fungicide treatment programs on putting greens is advised. Exercising care with nitrogen fertilization and making sure that sufficient levels of potassium and magnesium are maintained can aid in reducing the susceptibility to leaf spot disease outbreaks.

Another pest problem that is starting to be encountered is plant parasitic nematodes.  With a lack of cold weather, there has not been much of a slow down in activity of these microscopic, worm-like organisms that feed on the root system of the turf. The resulting root system damage greatly impairs the ability to take up nutrients and moisture, and on putting greens this results in irregular shaped areas of chlorotic weak and thin turf coverage. Very shallow and disfigured roots are classic symptoms of elevated nematode population levels, and laboratory assays of soil samples submitted from courses recently visited have confirmed the existence of this pest problem.  Eradication of nematodes or any other pest organism is economically and environmentally impossible. Limitations in available curative nematicide treatments have made it even more difficult to keep nematode population levels suppressed below damaging thresholds. Thus, more so than ever before, employment of agronomically sound and proven basic management practices to produce healthy turf growth and minimize other stress factors to the degree possible is a mandated survival strategy. Space is not available to review all aspects of an integrated nematode survival management program. For more specifics, please do not hesitate to contact Todd Lowe or myself. 

Invoices for the 2012 Turf Advisory Service (TAS) have been mailed to courses in Florida. The cost for a TAS visit is $2400 for a half-day and $3400 for a full-day. Payments made before May 15th result in a $600 discount – rates of $1800 and $2800 respectively. You can call our office, 772-546-2620 to schedule your visits at anytime. We look forward to working with you to discuss disease, nematode, or any other issues regarding golf course maintenance. 

 

Source:  John Foy, jfoy@usga.org, or 772-546-2620

 

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