Look Under The Surface To Maintain Playing Quality

By Keith Happ, director, North-Central Region
August 5, 2013

Anaerobic soils have been a common problem with all of the rain experienced throughout the region. Venting the sulfide gas to the atmosphere before root decline occurs is essential.

The recent change in the weather has brought relief to many areas of the region. However, heavy rainfall wreaked havoc on low lying areas of fairways and on poor draining greens. It is very difficult to maintain turf quality when the soils are saturated. Add heat stress and there may be no chance to control or limit the damage. Adequate drainage is just as important as timely irrigation with respect to sound water management. Greens with poor or no internal drainage suffered during the month of July. 

Air drainage can relieve turf stress when the soils are saturated. Venting programs, using 3 to 8 mm solid tines, are ideal for stimulating gas exchange. This gas exchange can be critical to the turf’s ability to survive during periods of soils saturation. The venting channel in the soil increases the surface area for evaporation of excess soil moisture. Increase air circulation with a fan and the effect is even more beneficial. A gentle breeze across the vented surface of a green can help to dry the soil, allow the turf to cool itself and if soil temperatures are low, stimulate root growth. 

When the need is urgent, venting can be performed on small areas prone to soil saturation. Do not hesitate to examine low areas of greens that do not drain well. Turf thinning and algae development can be prevented. If anaerobic soils (Black Layer) are present, vent as often as once a week before surface conditions decline. Maintain speed and smoothness by rolling after the venting process. A great deal of research has been conducted on the benefits of short term aeration relief. The turf will respond positively. 

Don’t wait until the surface declines to act. Be proactive. Vent with standard coring units, slice, spike, HydroJect or use a deep tine venting procedure to ensure the turf survives and playability can be sustained. 

Keith Happ khapp@usga.org

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff  

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