It’s All About Water Management!

By Keith A. Happ, senior agronomist
June 20, 2012

Moisture meter being used on a practice putting green at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Ca., during preparations for the 2012 U.S. Open.


Monitoring How and Where Water is Applied is Critical When Summer Heat Arrives. 

Superintendents across the region are now shifting to more focused water management programs for the summer. When resources allow, hand watering is often the strategy of choice. Turf managers are also using more technology than ever before to meet water needs of the turf (see photo) and, at the same time, watching the bottom line when it comes to the cost of water, a most precious resource for golf. The use of soil moisture meters, both in-ground sensors and handheld units, is becoming much more the norm than the exception. Already this season superintendents have shared their baseline moisture data during Turf Advisory Service (TAS) visits. This baseline data allows for very site-specific applications of water. The result is more efficient use of water, i.e., less water, to produce healthier turf and firmer, drier playing surfaces. For most superintendents, water management is still an element of feel, but a great deal of science is also being used to irrigate golf course turf. It is not just about pushing buttons on the irrigation radio anymore! If you haven’t used moisture sensing tools in your water management programs, give our offices a call so we may discuss available options.

Thus far, our region has experienced drastic fluctuations in the weather. While some areas have been wet, only a short distance away other areas have experienced borderline drought conditions. These wet and dry cycles have placed considerable stress on the turf. Issues with fairy ring, a soil-borne organism, is often much more difficult to control when these conditions are experienced. Those that have pretreated with wetting agents and fungicides have had a great deal of success in controlling fairy ring this year. Controlling soil-borne organisms before they attack the turf reduces the need for curative treatments. USGA-funded research on fairy ring management and control is paying dividends.

Anthracnose has been a topic of discussion during many recent TAS visits. First and foremost, evaluate current fertility levels in the soil or even in the leaf tissue. Grass that is growing well will tolerate stress better and be less susceptible to infection from anthracnose in comparison to turfgrass that is low on nitrogen, or “hungry.” Research has shown that anthracnose is a “disease of low nitrogen.” Furthermore, use of higher volumes of spray solution (up to 100 gallons of water, as a carrier, per acre) helps to ensure that fungicides reach the crowns of the plants, where basal rot anthracnose exists. Research has shown that it is more effective to use high spray volumes rather than attempt to water the fungicide into the turf. Finally, minimize any mechanical stress that may be contributing to the disease activity. That may mean controlling traffic stress as well. Simply altering walk-off/walk-on traffic will help.

Begin to think about survival strategies for summer, which officially begins Wednesday, June 20. For many, summer conditions have already begun.

Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question or concern, especially now, give us a call or send an email. You can reach Stan Zontek ( or Darin Bevard ( at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ ( at 412/ 341-5922.

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