Is The Worst Over?

By Stanley J. Zontek, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
August 14, 2012

At field days all over the country scientists share their research results. The information garnered at such meetings can help the professional turf manager stay on top of a rapidly changing industry.

This is the one question discussed on every USGA Green Section course visit made this past few weeks. Clearly, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. This change in the seasons tends to compress, and reduce in length, the heat stress the grass is subjected to. The hottest part of the day, which not long ago occurred between 5 and 6 p.m., now tends to peak somewhere between noon and 2 p.m. To repeat the question, “Is the worst over?” the answer could be “yes” or at least a strong “probably.” 

A lesson learned in over 25 years of experience here in the Mid-Atlantic region is that can get hot (and probably will) during August and even into early September. While the worst weather may be behind us this does not mean that turf managers should be less diligent in caring for their grass. The grass is starting its recovery process with new roots beginning to extend deeper into the soil. Being overly aggressive with management practices at this point could significantly retard this important and badly needed physiological process. 

Many golf courses are contemplating if not actually scheduling aeration work for later this month. The short roots brought about by the summer heat demands that the turf manager be extremely careful with aeration. Closely examine the turf as the aerator passes over. If the sod begins to lift a change in the procedure should be made immediately. It may be possible to eliminate this lifting by changing the size of the tines or perhaps the distance between the coring tines. However, the best course of action may be to simply wait another week or even longer. The worst thing to do now is to get too aggressive, too soon. You know your turf better than anyone else. Don’t worry about what the course across the street or down the road is doing. Every golf course is different. Be mindful of what is best for your course and schedule that needed and necessary fall aeration and topdressing for when the grass can handle all of the abrasion. There is nothing worse than navigating a tough summer with minimal turf damage and then suffering self-inflicted damage at the end of the stress period. If you are not sure, wait a week, or month or however long it takes for the grass to be ready for whatever maintenance practice you are going to implement. 

The field day at Penn State University is over. There was good attendance at both this field day and the earlier one at the University of Maryland. Both events highlighted some important new developments in turf management. Specifically, there are some new fungicides, fungicide combinations and herbicides coming to the market from most of the major chemical companies. This is great news for golf courses and the people who take care of them. While it will take time for turf managers to learn how to best utilize these new products the good news that there are new products. This means there are more options available to maintain and protect our grass. At one time we seemed to be losing more materials than were being added. Thankfully, this trend seems to have been reversed. 

Learning about new products is just one good reason to attend state and regional turf conferences this fall and over the winter. Turfgrass field days provide scientists the opportunity to share ongoing research and receive your feedback regarding future research needs. This is what continuing education is all about. 

The Mid-Atlantic Region 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 Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) and Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412/ 341-5922.

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