Close To The End, But Far From Over

By Darin S. Bevard, senior agronomist
October 2, 2012

 Soil moisture levels have been good in most areas since August. This has limited visible damage from the actual feeding of grubs. However, it has also made it much easier for animals such as skunks and raccoons to dig for grubs, and they have eaten well in golf course roughs.

 As this update is written, the calendar says October 1. Cooler temperatures and timely rainfall have reduced environmental stress on the turfgrass, but disease and insect problems are still a source of frustration in the northern half of the region. Further south, bermudagrass growth has slowed dramatically, and the grass is beginning to go off-color. This is a stark reminder that summer is over and fall is upon us. However, while many see the fall as the finish line for a tough growing season, it is really the starting line for preparing the grass for the environmental stresses that will inevitably return in 2013.

Reports of active gray leaf spot in roughs continue to filter in. While the disease is not as devastating with cooler temperatures, it can still damage perennial ryegrass seedlings and remains a concern. In rough, conversion to grasses more tolerant to gray leaf spot such as turf-type tall fescues is currently the best way to minimize the damage from this disease. Fungicide applications are cost prohibitive for most golf courses.

Aggressive digging by animals searching for white grubs has also been a common problem. In some instances, as a cost-saving measure, superintendents decided not to treat roughs with insecticides or, at the very least, reduced the acreage treated. For those that treated early, protection has broken down late in the growing season. The wet and dry cycles that were experienced in midsummer also may have contributed to late grub development. We continue to see more difficulty in gaining season-long control of white grubs using long-residual insecticides, and effective contact products are limited, especially when the grubs are fat and healthy!

Annual bluegrass weevil activity continues as well. All stages of this insect have been observed on recent visits. While damage at this point in the growing season is not severe, any applications to control adult populations will help to control next year’s populations.

For bermudagrass golf courses, traffic management on fairways as the grass enters dormancy is always important. Limiting cart traffic, increasing height of cut and reducing mowing frequency will aid in winter hardening. Cool-season golf courses that have established bermudagrass practice tees also need to reduce traffic. Keep in mind that any divots removed now from these tees will be visible until late next spring when temperatures warm and aggressive bermudagrass growth resumes.

Many golf courses will stage their “Closing Day” golf events in the near future. This can mean that additional aeration and other renovation strategies may soon follow. While these practices will reduce playability for a portion of the fall, just remember this is the starting line for preparing turf for the summer of 2013.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an email.  You can reach Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412/ 341-5922.

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