Annual Bluegrass Challenges Continue

By Adam Moeller, agronomist, Northeast Region
May 29, 2013

Annual bluegrass weevil damage on a golf course collar.

For many golfers in the Northeast Region, Memorial Day weekend is considered the official start of the golf season. Golf course superintendents need time in April and May to groom and condition the turf to produce the smooth, true, and firm surfaces golfers come to expect in June, July, and August. Unfortunately, annual bluegrass (i.e. Poa annua) putting greens are not cooperating and are still bumpy at many facilities in the region, mainly due to the presence of seedheads. Surface grooming, brushing, light verticutting, and regular mowing are all commonly used cultural programs to reduce the bumpiness associated with annual bluegrass seedheads. Plant growth regulation programs also help with seedheads by suppressing them before they develop. Many golf courses are reporting less than desirable control with these plant growth regulation programs this season though. Timing is crucial with these materials and although there are tools to help predict when they should be applied, sometimes the grass does not react as expected. It should be noted that even with excellent timing, it is unlikely that these materials will consistently provide more than 75 percent seedhead control. Thankfully, the presence of seedheads on annual bluegrass putting greens will not be a problem for much longer based on the plants typical life cycle. Golf facilities with creeping bentgrass as the major species on putting greens are much smoother and truer this time of year because this species does not produce an annoying seedhead. This is a major advantage that should be considered for golf facilities examining all the benefits of regrassing to creeping bentgrass and getting rid of annual bluegrass. 

The first sighting of annual bluegrass weevil damage was observed in New Jersey this week. These insects are a major concern on golf courses with high amounts of annual bluegrass on putting greens, teeing grounds, and fairways. Scouting is necessary to make sure these insects are not damaging your turf. If annual bluegrass turf starts to look off color, dig into the soil and look closely for the presence of larvae because they are could be active in your area soon if not already. 

Much needed rain hit the region over this past week. Many golf courses in New England were showing signs of moderate drought stress until the recent rain. Automatic irrigation systems are a supplement to rainfall, not a replacement, so the rain helped replenish dry soils in many areas. 

Source: Adam Moeller (amoeller@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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