Relative to some other regions across the country, Florida has not been plagued by extreme and record-setting environmental stresses throughout the summer of 2011. This is not to say it has been an easy summer, however, and there are many courses around the state still faced with challenges in reestablishing a dense and healthy turf cover and course conditions in keeping with expectations for the rapidly approaching winter play season.
During August and September, average to slightly above average rainfall was experienced throughout South Florida, and this has helped alleviate but not eliminate drought concerns from earlier in the year. However, in the central and northern part of the state, rainfall levels were below average and this has resulted in Lake Okeechobee still being 3 ft. below its average level for this time of the year. This does not bode well for the coming dry season and there is the distinct possibility that the South Florida Water Management District will maintain current water use restrictions. Also again, a number of courses visited recently have not been able to produce a full recovery from the drought stress problems experienced earlier in the summer.
Furthermore, the feast or famine rainfall pattern has not been conducive to summertime management programs and being able to provide good quality course conditioning. At one point in mid-September there were areas in Southeast Florida that received 12-inches of rainfall in a 12-day stretch. With the occurrence of frequent and heavy rainfall, it wasn’t possible to complete daily tasks, such as routine mowing, and additional man-hours were consumed with cleaning debris and repairing sand washouts in bunkers. An explosion of weeds has been another consequence, but with frequent rainfall, being able to conduct herbicide treatments has been a challenge. On a positive note, there still should be six to eight weeks of decent growing weather in Central to South Florida so that preparations for the winter can be completed.
The combination of sandy soils and thunderstorms can make it difficult to maintain adequate levels of nutrients in the rootzone to support healthy turf growth. However, it is very important to avoid excessive applications of soluble nitrogen that cause rapid shoot growth at the expense of root growth and carbohydrate production. Over the next several weeks it is very important to stay in balance with both the amount and frequency of nitrogen and potassium to prepare bermudagrass to survive the winter.
Significantly reduced sunlight is another major concern with growing bermudagrass during the rainy season in Florida. During this time there are typically only three or four days each month when moderate to heavy cloud cover does not persist throughout the day. Thus, with putting greens as well as tees and fairways, maintaining higher mowing heights is needed to compensate for a lack of sunlight and ensuring that adequate photosynthesis, carbohydrate production and storage continues. This can present some challenges in providing faster putting speeds; but if the putting green
health is compromised at this time, there is little if anything that can be done to recover and provide acceptable quality conditions through the winter and early spring. Also, if not already done, it is time to avoid aggressive verticutting of putting greens to minimize the amount of mechanical stress on the turf.
The Florida region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team and if we can be of assistance with any recovery concerns and preparing for the winter season, give us a call or send an email. You can reach John Foy at firstname.lastname@example.org, 772-546-2620, or Todd Lowe, email@example.com, 941-828-2625.