Hold On To Those Roots

By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region
May 24, 2012

The season is progressing nicely to date and I believe most managers are happy with the state of their turf as the beginning of summer approaches. The rooting I have observed in putting greens has generally been good in well-managed soil- and sand-based greens. But then again that is what we expect to see in late May with optimal soil temperatures and no extraneous events. It is critical to create optimal conditions for root development in spring, and equally important to do whatever possible to maintain that root mass as long into summer as possible. This can be very challenging, and at times impossible, with annual bluegrass greens.

The decline of root systems in greens usually begins at some point in June, after annual bluegrass has completed seeding, soil temperatures begin to climb, and maintenance intensity increases. A gradual transition to the summer heat allows the annual bluegrass some opportunity to reestablish its energy reserves and continue to produce new roots or at least retain the roots it has. A fast blast of heat in late May and early June often spells trouble for annual bluegrass and a long summer for managers. There are other factors that will impact rooting at this critical time of the season. Here are few to consider:

  • Keep the height of cut as high as possible for as long as possible. Maintain regular light topdressing, use a rolling program, and utilize growth regulators to provide pace and smoothness while maximizing leaf tissue for sun absorption. Golfers and managers need to realize there are limits to when and how hard the turf can “pushed.” Know and respect your limits.
  • Research has shown that shaded turf will not be able to produce the same level of energy and as a result its root mass will be 50-60 percent less than turf growing in full sun.
  • Water management is critical. Strongly consider adding a moisture meter to your tool chest if you do not already have one. There is no better means to monitor soil moisture and gain understanding as to how your greens dry down and the turf reacts to different levels of soil moisture. The meters can help you determine when, where and how much water is required.
  • Less invasive forms of cultivation can be beneficial for retaining roots longer into summer. The use of needle tines, small diameter star tines, and water injection can help to maintain gas exchange in the root zone and create more favorable growing conditions. However, all of these practices are disruptive to the roots to some degree so it is best to use them when weather conditions are favorable. Do not force the issue if your turf is already very weakly rooted.
  • Be on the lookout for root pathogens that can slowly impact roots. Certain species of Pythium can infect roots and cause a significant amount of decline. Often the symptoms are not readily apparent until the summer heat arrives and at that point it is too late. Summer patch treatments are underway at many golf courses. Work with a pathologist to monitor for spring and early summer root pathogens, especially if annual bluegrass is the predominant species.
  • Parasitic nematodes are becoming more frequent pests of annual bluegrass and creeping bentgrass on putting greens in New England. Parasitic nematodes by themselves will not kill putting green turf. But the high populations already being reported are causing damage and place an additional level of stress on root systems. Now is the time to sample your greens if you suspect a potential problem. Stunt, lance and root knot nematodes are the usual suspects. A composite sample taken from across the green is preferred but a cup cutter sample collected from a weakened area will also work. Unfortunately, there are few effective control options available to managers in New England. Those golf courses that are supporting high populations of nematodes need to take an even more conservative maintenance approach with an emphasis on producing more roots that can sustain the turf under the higher nematode feeding pressures.
  • Creeping bentgrass is the grass of choice for golf courses in the northeastern part of the country. The plant’s ability to produce deeper and more vigorous roots makes it the most desirable species. Any means to encourage the establishment and spread of bentgrass will make life in the summer and winter months much easier for golfers and turf managers in New England.

Enjoy the final few days of spring. I think most will fondly remember the spring of 2012 as being kind and producing good growing conditions. Now we can only hope for a smooth transition into summer. We hope to see many of you in our travels and wish you all deep and vigorous rooting in the summer ahead. 

Northeast Region Green Section - Dave Oatis, Director doatis@usga.org; Adam Moeller, Agronomist amoeller@usga.org Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist jskorulski@usga.org.

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment

AmEx image