Easy Does It

By James Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region
May 28, 2014

Young turf plants are most vulnerable to traffic, especially that caused by aggressive shoe patterns. Keeping severely damaged greens closed to play is never popular and sometimes not possible, but keeping greens closed continues to be the best strategy to obtain the most rapid recovery.

What a difference a week with mild temperatures and some rain can make. Grass does actually grow in New England during the spring. Actually, I was getting a little worried but, sure enough, roughs are thick and lush, Poa annua is seeding, and we have real growth in areas that were damaged this winter. Growth rates between annual bluegrass, creeping bentgrass and perennial ryegrass are not yet uniform but that too will come as soil and air temperatures become more stable.

Those attempting to re-establish turf areas lost during the winter have experienced pretty good seed germination from initial seeding attempts. Areas that did not establish well have been reseeded or, in some cases, plugged out or patched with sod. Recovery is progressing but is never fast enough. This time of year is always a difficult period during the recovery process because golfers begin to tire of playing temporary greens, expenses are up while revenues are down, and severely damaged greens look just about good enough to open when viewing from the 150-yard markers. The pressure to open damaged greens builds regardless of whether the surfaces are ready for play. Unfortunately, opening greens dominated by young, tender, seedling plants will negatively impact the growth of those plants and ultimately hinder recovery. Greens with widespread damage will be impacted the most by premature play. Eventually, the surfaces will fill in but will be dominated by annual bluegrass. Recovery time will be longer if greens are opened too soon and, in some cases, recovery may not even be complete by season’s end.

Stay strong and do the right thing for the grass if you can. Manage conservatively for the purpose of promoting new grass plants and obtaining turf cover as fast as possible. However, if you must open damaged greens, keep play away from the areas that are still recovering by using ropes and signs to direct golfers. This might make for some interesting hole locations, but it will promote turf recovery in damaged areas. Communicate the important role golfer cooperation plays in the recovery process.

Additionally, be careful topdressing young turf that is subjected to play. Topdressing should be done but do so selectively, perhaps when damaged areas are interseeded. Restrict regular, light topdressing applications to areas that have fully recovered. Furthermore, increase mowing height, utilize smooth rollers, spoon-feed with soluble fertilizers, and only use growth regulators on areas that have near complete turf cover to expedite recovery. Damaged greens that are prematurely opened to play will likely require more persistent interseeding to offset the damage caused by traffic. 

Annual Bluegrass Weevil  

The emergence of adult annual bluegrass weevils has been impacted by cold spring temperatures. Adults were observed on several central New England golf courses last week, while third- and fourth-instar larvae are feeding in other parts of the region. Dr. Pat Vittum, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, indicated that now is the time to apply insecticides targeting ABW larvae in areas where the common rhododendron is blooming. The 2014 season has the makings of another challenging management season, especially if ABWs are resistant to pyrethroid insecticides.

Source:  Jim Skorulski (jskorulski@usga.org)

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