Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and … Poa annua?

By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North-Central region
June 20, 2012

Encouraged by a mild winter and an unusually warm March, a bumper crop of Poa annua seedheads has been a nuisance at many courses this spring.  Alternating periods of cold and warm weather combined with droughty conditions through June seem to have produced another flush of seedheads just when you thought they were gone for the season.

Was your golf facility affected by a double whammy of Poa annua problems this spring? Many courses noticed a bumper crop of small, dime-sized Poa annua plants in bentgrass playing surfaces this spring, even those that were relatively clean last fall. No doubt, the exceptionally mild winter weather was the primary reason for the high survival rate of so much Poa annua. To the disdain of turf managers and players alike, the new Poa annua tends to be the biotype that produces an abundance of seedheads.   

However, both old and new Poa annua plants appear to be seeding for an extended period of time this spring. Attempts to suppress seedhead development with plant growth regulators (PGRs) have been, at best, marginally successful. This should come as no surprise when 10 days of temperatures in the 80’s occurred during mid-March to jump start Poa annua growth and reinforce the suspicion that degree-day models used to predict seedhead development and timing of PGR treatments become practically worthless when a significant spike in soil temperatures occurs in early spring.  

Heavy seeding will limit green speed and disrupt smoothness of putting surfaces. Old school management practices such as grooming, vertical mowing and brushing can be effective options for removing some of the troublesome seedheads from the greens, but these techniques have become a lost art at many courses that now rely solely on mowing and rolling to prepare a putting surface for play.   

Seedhead issues will subside when, and if, the weather patterns stabilize this summer. Perhaps the less obvious, but more important, issue to consider is the surprising amount of new Poa annua that has become well established in greens this spring at courses that were, up to now, making considerable progress increasing the ratio of bentgrass to Poa annua through cultural and chemical  programs.   

Certainly, a spring like this has many superintendents wondering if attempts at Poa annua control are really worth all the effort and aggravation in a climate that can, at times, be so favorable to this grass. Yet, these same superintendents will try almost anything to rid the course of annual bluegrass after struggling with extensive losses of Poa annua caused by winterkill or heat stress.  

Perhaps long-term Poa annua control is a goal we will never achieve throughout the upper Midwest. Perhaps we are resigned to accept Poa annua as a permanent component of the playing surfaces, knowing full well that it will forever be much like Longfellow’s little girl with the curl… 

When she was good, 

She was very good indeed, 

But when she was bad she was horrid.   

Source: Bob Vavrek (rvavrek@usga.org) or 262.797.8743

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment

AmEx image