By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast RegionFebruary 19, 2014
|Dig through snow and ice layers to detect for a
fermentation smell and to check the status of ice-encased turf. An indication
of sweet sickly odor is a sign that an anoxic condition exists below the ice
and that annual bluegrass tolerance to colder temperatures has been
With snowpack of nearly three feet over
much of New England, thoughts are turning to the opening of spring training
camps in Florida and seeing fresh green (hopefully living) grass again. This is
a difficult time for snowbound turf managers and especially those contemplating
the need to take action to remove snow and ice cover from putting greens.
continue to receive numerous calls and voices of concern on the issue, so the
purpose of this update is to recount what we know at this point and to help
those dealing with ice-covered turf.
- Although many are concerned about turf survival,
to date there are few reports of actual damage following the multiple flash
freeze weather events. Several courses in New England, New Jersey and southern
Canada have pulled turf plugs from their annual bluegrass putting greens, and
damage thus far has been isolated and fortunately not widespread or uniform.
- The deep snowpack alone is a good thing. Leave
it intact to take advantage of its insulation abilities.
- Ice cover at some locations is pushing 40 days
so it is prudent to continuing sampling and check for the faint fermentation,
or anaerobic smell that indicates an anoxic condition is developing below the
ice. Annual bluegrass can usually tolerate 45 to 60 days of ice cover before
damage but recent studies and field observations show that an even shorter
duration of ice cover can trigger an anoxic condition which will begin the de-hardening
process in plants.
- If an odor is present or ice has been in place
for greater than 40 to 45 days, consideration should be given to exposing and
removing ice. That is not to say that action needs to be taken immediately, but
at least begin to prepare for that extensive operation and to pull plugs from
greens to check the status of the turf.
- Some golf facilities have already removed some snow
cover from greens to speed up the clearing process once warmer temperatures
arrive. Removal of snow and ice layers is a very difficult task, and it entails
risk, so it is not something to undertake without careful consideration. Some
smaller golf facilities are simply not equipped to do it.
- Annual bluegrass that has been exposed to anoxic
conditions has probably lost some of its ability to tolerate very cold
temperatures. For this reason, snow and ice removal should be timed to coincide
with a period of more moderate, above freezing temperatures if possible.
- It is a good idea to clear paths to allow water
from melting snow to exit putting surfaces. Snow should be cleared far enough
from green surfaces to prevent snowmelt from flowing back onto the surfaces
where it can refreeze.
- Ice covered fairways currently run the greatest
risk for injury. Ice cover in low-lying pockets has long exceeded the duration
for damage at many locations so some damage to annual bluegrass in these areas
should be expected. Take the time to extract a plug or two from an ice-covered
fairway in the next week or so to determine if any injury has occurred and keep
your fingers crossed going forward.
Be sure to call our offices to
report what conditions are observed and the status of the turf or if you would like
to discuss the management options further.
The local conference season begins March
3-6 with the New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation Conference in
Providence, R.I. Next, a USGA Regional Meeting will be held March 13 at the
Country Club of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y. The Adirondack Regional Conference
takes place March 19 at High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, N.Y. The MGA/USGA
Green Chairman Seminar will be held March 20 at North Hills Country Club in
Manhasset, N.Y., followed by the New
England Green Section Seminar March 25 at the Andover Country Club in
Andover, Mass. The conferences offer a great way to fight the winter doldrums and
reenergize for the season ahead. We hope to see you there!
The USGA is conducting a regional
seminar on Thursday, March 13th at The Country Club of Rochester.
Many golf and turfgrass management topics will be discussed. To learn more
about the conference and to register, click here. The event
code is 0311.
Information on the
Contact the Green Section Staff