Florida is in the midst of the peak of the winter golfing season, and many Turf Advisory Service visits have been conducted throughout the region. North Florida is quite different than South Florida with regards to the degree of winter dormancy and stresses that can occur. Visits to most courses in the northern part of the region have shown good turf quality and few problems. However, many course visits in the southern part of the state have focused on disease problems and mechanical wear.
The Goods – A recent visit to Ocala, in central north Florida, found “liquid overseed” being successfully implemented (January-2011 Regional Update). Most north Florida golf courses are comprised of bermudagrass (a warm-season turfgrass), but overseeded with perennial ryegrass (a cool-season turfgrass) to improve winter color and quality. This particular golf course was overseeded for many years, but the overseeding increased winter weeds and deteriorated the base bermudagrass during spring transition. The club chose to go cold turkey and withhold overseeding from all playing surfaces this year to improve bermudagrass health and re-establish an improved weed control program. Instead of overseeding, low-rates of fertilizers and a green pigment are applied on tees and fairways every two weeks and black-dyed sand is regularly applied to the putting greens. So far, the club is very pleased with the playing quality. Fairways temporarily lost color several weeks ago, when night temperatures dropped below 20 F, but color improved within seven to ten days. Good color and quality was sustained on putting greens with the black sand throughout the cold snap.
Spraying fairways with low-rate fertilizers (mostly iron and manganese) has been a practice that several south Florida golf courses have performed over the past few years. With the advent of pigments like PAR and Foursome, we have found this practice to be successful in maintaining color and stimulating growth in northern regions as well. Liquid fertility programs improve turf health and, hopefully, more golf courses will try this program in the future.
The Bads – Increased disease pressure has been reported on several south Florida golf courses. While different pathogens have been reported, leaf spot disease has been the most bothersome. Leaf spot generally subsides in early January, but the persistence of warm temperatures has encouraged its growth. There are different fungicides that effectively control leaf spot and preventative programs are recommended at this time.
Fairy rings are common on many golf courses, but persistent and aggressive fairy rings have been observed on several fairways. October was a very wet month for southwest Florida and this caused prolonged soil saturation, which encouraged fairy ring growth. Fairy rings are particularly problematic in areas with increased organic matter and, while fungicides and wetting agents suppress fairy rings, organic matter dilution through intensive summertime core aeration and sand topdressing might be necessary to reduce aggressive rings.
The Uglies – Thin areas have been observed on several south Florida golf course putting greens. Chronic weak areas on perimeters, caused by shade, traffic and mechanical wear, can become thin or bare when other stresses like low soil temperature and a shorter day length occur. Tree removal might be necessary in shaded areas and golfer traffic can be diverted with the use of ropes or stakes. Perimeter thinning can be minimized with the use of solid rollers on mowers and reduced rolling, but recovery at this time will be slow until soil temperature increases.
Beneficial practices like spiking, supplemental fertility and increased mowing heights are recommended for thin greens. Dark substances, like charcoal or black-dyed sand, also are recommended to retain solar radiation and increase canopy temperature, however significant turf recovery can only occur as soil temperature at a 4-inch depth remains above 75 F. Even though air temperature has increased over the past two weeks, soil temperature is still low. Nursery greens should be utilized to plug out bare areas on putting greens until active turf recovery can occur.
Since much of what we do is influenced by the environment, regional differences can quickly change with the weather. The northern region is currently fairing well, but this might not be the case in a few weeks, especially during overseeding transition. Through the good times and bad, the USGA Green Section is here to help your course provide the best possible playing conditions. Contact John Foy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or me (email@example.com) to schedule your next TAS visit.
Source: Todd Lowe, firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-828-2625