Time To Turn Off The Spigots

By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida Region
December 8, 2013

Soil moisture meters are valuable tools to monitor soil saturation and promote healthy turf growth, especially through the winter play season.

USGA agronomists are tasked with identifying turfgrass problems when visiting golf facilities. We see a host of different stresses on Course Consultation Service visits, including biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) stresses that cause decline in turf quality. Biotic stresses include pests like insects, weeds, nematodes and plant pathogens. Abiotic stresses include shade problems, tree root competition, nutrient deficiencies, chemical toxicities, traffic wear injury, soil compaction and soil aeration issues. While turfgrass pests are generally easily recognizable, abiotic stresses are more difficult to identify and often lead to other secondary problems. 

Soil aeration issues can be especially difficult to pinpoint, but generally occur when there is too much water in the rootzone. This can be a chronic problem as a result of inadequate cultivation practices that leads to excessive, undiluted thatch and organic matter in the soil. However, a lack of oxygen in the soil can also occur when there is simply too much water in the soil from rainfall or irrigation. 

Turf growth decreases considerably during the winter months. Also, evapotranspiration, or ET (the rate at which water is lost into the atmosphere from both evaporation and plant transpiration), decreases in winter. Turfgrass uptakes oxygen through roots and saturated soils make it difficult for plants to breathe. As a result, turf decline can occur as temperature drops, if soils remain saturated. It is not uncommon to receive calls from golf facilities struggling with greens in early winter. Upon further inspection, the primary culprit has simply been too much water in the rootzone. In other words, the plants are slowly and steadily suffocating. 

It is recommended to monitor soil moisture on putting greens throughout the year to provide optimum playability and turf quality. However, it is especially important to check moisture as soil temperatures and ET decreases. Portable soil moisture meters, like the one pictured, have become essential tools for golf course superintendents. They provide instantaneous moisture data for any area of the golf course and should be used on a regular basis throughout the winter play season. 

Source:  Todd Lowe, (tlowe@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment

AmEx image