Update From The Sunshine State

By Todd Lowe, senior agronomist, Florida Region
March 24, 2011

Localized dry spots are beginning to appear as drier conditions occur and may worsen with increased water restrictions. 

The warm season turfgrasses that exist on Florida golf courses resume their active growth cycles at this time of year, and golf courses are taking on a healthier shade of green at this time.  The continual increases in air temperature gradually cause the soil temperature to increase, and active bermudagrass growth generally occurs as soil temperature at the 4-inch depth climbs above 65F. 

Golfers are enjoying the Chamber of Commerce conditions of low 80’s during the day, low relative humidity, and no rainfall.  Most of the golf courses I visit remark that a slow day is one that sees fewer than 150 rounds.  In light of today’s slow economic times, even the most hardened golf course superintendent appreciates the increased rounds and the hopes of improved financial sustainability.  It is still important to incorporate cart traffic management programs at this time, to reduce turf wear and soil compaction.

Our region receives more than 50-inches of precipitation annually, but the bulk of it occurs in early June and continues through late fall.  The annual dry cycle generally begins in March, when active bermudagrass growth begins and very little rainfall occurs.  Localized dry spots will soon begin to occur, and it is recommended to begin wetting agent treatments at this time to improve soil moisture and avoid dry spots.  Fertigation units are particularly useful at this time of year to deliver wetting agents preventatively through the irrigation system on a regular basis.  Some dry spots will inevitably occur and require hand-watering, but preventative wetting agent treatments will reduce dry spot severity.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District recently mentioned that Phase I water restrictions will soon be implemented in most of its counties.  Phase I restrictions calls for a 15% reduction in water use with weekly reporting to the water management district.  Phase I restrictions generally do not pose a threat to golf courses in our region and generally create more localized dry spots.  Phase II water restrictions should equate to a 30% reduction in water allocation, and some turf discoloration will become obvious.  Phase III results in a 45% reduction and would result in short-term brown playing conditions and has caused some turf loss in the past, especially when nematodes and/or excessive cart traffic occurs.  With hope, the summer rains will begin early and replenish the aquifer to the point that more aggressive measures will not be necessary. 

Another issue that occurs at this time of year is the production of unsightly seedheads in bermudagrass turf.  Seedhead production is often considered a defense mechanism to stresses like low fertility, soil compaction, or drought; but whatever the case, it generally occurs each spring and lasts only for a few weeks.  Common bermudagrass patches generally produce more seedheads than the desired Tifway bermudagrass, decreasing golf course aesthetics by disrupting turfgrass uniformity.  Rotary rough mowers help reduce seedhead unsightliness and should be used at this time to improve golf course conditions.

Please keep the early payment deadline of May 15, 2011 in your mind.  Pre-paying for 2011 TAS visits can save your club $600.  Call our office to schedule your visit today. 

Source:  Todd Lowe, tlowe@usga.org or 941-828-2625 

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