A Rough May

By Adam Moeller, agronomist, Northeast Region
May 26, 2011

Annual bluegrass weevil larvae were observed in the past two weeks in New Jersey.  Frequent scouting for this insect is necessary to prevent significant damage.   

A few days of dry weather has been a welcomed respite from the deluge of rain throughout the Northeast in April and May.  With luck, drier weather will continue as we head towards Memorial Day, a prime golfing weekend throughout the country.  Due to the frequent rain, golf courses have battled a multitude of weather-related and agronomic problems over the past few weeks. 

Penal, thick rough has been a constant source of discussion on golf course visits recently.  The growth rate of the rough turf, combined with saturated soils that are prone to tire rutting, has been next to impossible to keep up without damaging the soil structure or producing excessive clipping piles.  The abundance of heavy rain also has been frustrating to many golfers who want to play, even though the course is nearly underwater.  Playing on puddled and saturated greens is never good for the turf, and particularly damaging to soil structure.  Golf cart restrictions have been necessary at most facilities.  It is difficult to predict the damage potential from a few golfers playing on saturated greens, but everyone should agree that nothing good comes from golfer traffic in these conditions.  Thankfully, these frustrations diminish as the soils dry.   

Annual bluegrass weevil larvae (and slight damage) were observed at several New Jersey golf courses in the past two weeks.  These larvae are likely to be active throughout most of the Northeast.  Keep a close eye on areas with a history of annual bluegrass weevil damage.  Discolored annual bluegrass (Poa annua) could be mis-diagnosed as drought stress when soils begin to dry.  Scouting early and often is necessary to maximize control programs and prevent significant injury.  Visual inspection of the soils in areas of past damage, soap drenches (lemon scented soap is ideal), and submerging turf plugs in a salt solution are excellent ways to identify insect numbers and life stages as you consider initial control and future action.       

Golf courses that experienced putting green winter damage are still in recovery mode.  Whether seeding or sodding was used, inconsistent temperatures and saturated soils have slowed recovery to some extent, especially when the greens were opened for play before the young turf was adequately rooted and healthy.  Healing from winter injury is never easy, but golfer patience and conservative management practices will allow the injured areas to recover and survive through the stressful summer weather.  Many winter-damaged greens may look bad, but they play fine after a few topdressing applications.  It is important for golfers to focus on playability rather than aesthetics as much as possible, especially if winter damage has occurred. 

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information that involves all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency.  Contact Dave Oatis, Director doatis@usga.org; Adam Moeller, Agronomist amoeller@usga.org; or Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist jskorulski@usga.org for a Turf Advisory Service visit this season.


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