Our Dry Spring Continues

By Darin S. Bevard, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
April 24, 2012

Many irrigation systems are already running full bore to prevent drought stress to the turf. For those that have to purchase water, dry early season conditions can greatly affect the budget.

In reviewing the U.S. Drought Monitor (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu), it is apparent that precipitation since early winter has been very limited. Significant portions of the Mid-Atlantic Region are classified as abnormally dry. Smaller areas such as the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay are actually classified as experiencing severe drought. In response, courses are using much more water than usual for this time of year. For those that purchase water, this additional water was not originally accounted for during budgeting.

Additionally, there is another issue at hand. The dry conditions have been great for playing golf, but the potential for water restrictions is a concern going forward. With that in mind, be sure that you stay current on any required permitting or paperwork that may be needed if water restrictions are indeed put in place. Reporting requirements for water use and other materials need to be updated regularly. The last two growing seasons may have made some forget about water restrictions. Be sure you do not wait until the eleventh hour to find out that your drought management plan is not up to date!

If there has been an agronomic downside to the recent weather patterns (aside from hand watering more akin to late June) it is that weed control efforts have suffered. The weather has not only been dry, it has been persistently windy which makes accurate and safe application of broadleaf herbicides very difficult. Non-target impacts of broadleaf herbicides can affect desirable plants, so applicators must be careful. Also, under very dry conditions, the uptake of broadleaf herbicides may be reduced which will have a negative impact on long-term control. Applications of preemergence herbicides have generally been made. However, for those areas that have limited or no irrigation coverage, the rainfall necessary for herbicide activation may not yet have been received. Most preemergence products require irrigation or rainfall for activation and maximum effectiveness. Again, dry conditions will affect preemergence herbicide control of weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass.

The dry conditions in conjunction with colder temperatures have also slowed healing from aeration and other cultural programs. While irrigation water seems to keep the grass going, rainfall really makes it grow. Be patient, and if you still have some open holes on greens, consider additional light topdressings to smooth the greens and improve playability. This weekend’s soaking rainfall (and even some snow!) has helped with the drought, but our region still is in a moisture deficit situation.

Poa annua seedhead control has been variable at best. We have received many questions regarding additional growth regulator applications to suppress seedheads.  From what we have seen in the field, a better option may be to resume normal maintenance growth regulator applications and groom periodically to manage seedheads already emerged. Remember, once emerged, there is nothing that you can apply that will make seedheads disappear. Every situation is different, but if you have already made two applications of growth regulators for seedhead control, a third probably will not do much good. Just focus on maintaining healthy grass from this point forward.

Regarding overall agronomic issues, very little has changed since our last update. In most respects, this is a good thing. Golfers are enjoying their courses and feel like they are getting value for the money paid. As one general manager stated in a recent conversation, “Even the hamburgers taste better.” That pretty much sums up the 2012 season to date. Let’s hope that favorable weather patterns for golf continue. We deserve it.

Three weeks remain on the calendar to take advantage of the early payment discount for Turf Advisory Service visits. That is, May 15 is the deadline for the $600.00 savings. Reminders and invoices have been sent out. If you should want to schedule a visit, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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. 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. 

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