What Is Going On Under The Snow?

By Darin S. Bevard, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
February 19, 2014

This picture from Lancaster Country Club (Pa.) pretty well sums up conditions in much of the Mid-Atlantic region. Repeated snowfall has put most on-course operations on hold.

Cold temperatures and prolonged snow cover have raised concern over potential winter injury.

Superintendents and course officials increasingly are concerned about potential winterkill of susceptible grasses such as bermudagrass, Poa annua and perennial ryegrass. Snow-covered golf courses in much of the region have made evaluation of problems difficult. Even in areas free of snow, frozen ground has made removal of turf plugs for winterkill evaluation very challenging. If you have winterkill concerns, remove turf plugs from sensitive areas as soon as the weather allows to determine whether contingency plans for winterkill recovery need to be developed. Hopefully, problems will be minimal, but not knowing is unsettling to say the least. Prepare now by using turf plugs to obtain valuable information. For a great step-by-step video, please see Sampling Greens for Winterkill.

With the pending warming in temperatures, the removal of snow and ice from greens has been a frequent topic of conversation: Should we remove snow and ice or not? Regardless of the choice that is made, you have a good chance of being wrong. If snow and ice are removed, and another period of extreme low temperatures is experienced, grasses such as bermudagrass and Poa annua could suffer because of the lack of insulation that the snow cover provides. Of course, leaving the snow and ice could cause problems with low oxygen levels and eventual winterkill, and the ultimate outcome will not be known until temperatures warm and the grass resumes growth in late winter or early spring. Remember, if you do remove snow and ice from a turfgrass area, make sure that there are ample channels for surface water to exit affected areas. Allowing water to accumulate and refreeze in cleared areas will almost certainly lead to problems.

As a reminder, USGA regional meetings are quickly approaching. The first will be March 4, 2014 at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., with the second meeting March 11, 2014 at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pa. These meetings are open to general managers, superintendents, course officials, vendors and interested golfers. We hope to see you there.

Source: Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org)

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