The Rites Of Spring

By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North Central Region
April 17, 2012

Localized dry spots are less likely to become a problem during the heat of summer when soil moisture levels are monitored and adjusted with supplemental irrigation throughout the season. A TDR probe provides a fast, easy way to accurately measure soil moisture.  


Superintendents across the North Central Region historically claim bragging rights amongst their nearby peers by holding out the longest before applying irrigation to greens and fairways each spring. However, the exceptionally warm stretch of weather during late March provided little opportunity for anyone to snatch the golden ring of “April wilt” this season. No doubt, many turf managers found the need to water during early spring unsettling and in unfamiliar territory when it came to scheduling irrigation before the daffodils bloom.

The recent week of cool days, cold nights and hard frosts provided an opportunity for many short-staffed maintenance crews to catch their breath from mowing duties. The worries about watering the course sometimes go on the back burner when the temperatures drop, but cooler temperatures are hardly a substitute for rain and adequate soil moisture.

Early season cash flow is always welcome. However, a sustained period of early warm weather brings forth the fair-weather golfers who tend to have much higher expectations for course conditioning versus the more reasonable all-season player who expects conditions to vary with the seasons. Pressure from some golfers to produce July conditions during April has many superintendents worrying more about what goes on above the surface of the turf instead of what is going on in the root zone. As a result, there is little time or sense of urgency to measure and adjust soil moisture levels by the tried and true method of using a soil probe. Fortunately, there is a much more efficient tool for the task.

Wacky weather so far in 2012 should provide even more incentive to invest in a hand held, time-domain reflectometry (TDR) unit to measure and monitor soil moisture levels in all the critical playing surfaces. These data can be used to fine tune irrigation scheduling and for the vast majority of courses, the adjustments will help provide golfers firmer, faster playing conditions, not to mention significant reductions in water usage. Better yet, operating a TDR unit does not require the considerable experience and judgment associated with assessing moisture using a soil probe, so, with minimal training, anyone on the crew can rapidly obtain and record soil moisture.

Visit the following link for more detailed information regarding the many benefits of using TDR probes for irrigation scheduling 

In the meantime, let’s hope for some April showers.

Source: Bob Vavrek, or 262-797-8743 

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