You’re Not Alone!
By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region April 16, 2014
|Scenes such as this one
will be common on golf courses across the region where efforts are, or soon will
be, underway to restore turf damaged from this season’s exceptionally cold and
widely fluctuating temperatures.|
The reports of cold-temperature
injury are growing as the snowpack recedes and the soils thaw. The damage is
widespread throughout most of the region. Golf courses in metropolitan areas of
New York and Boston, the Berkshire region, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, upstate
New York, Ontario and Quebec have reported injury. The injury in some areas is very
severe. The patterns of injury reported, and that which we have seen, indicate
that several mechanisms were at work this winter. This makes sense considering
the scope and long duration of the winter we experienced. Understanding, or
even trying to explain, the injury patterns is always a challenge because several
variables, including site characteristics (e.g., surface drainage, sun and wind
exposure, soil type, grasses etc.) and weather events, ultimately dictate where
winter injury will occur and how severe it will be. This is what has been
observed so far in the field.
- Damage from
direct cold temperature has been more evident this season, and it most
likely occurred during one of the flash-freeze events we experienced in
January. Temperatures during those events fell 40-50 degrees in a fairly
short time, which in itself is often lethal to annual bluegrass. Uncovered
areas where turf was directly exposed to very cold temperatures are most
prone to this type of injury. This form of injury causes more widespread damage
on exposed surfaces rather than only impacting low-lying areas.
hydration injury patterns are evident in lower swales and pockets. However,
this damage can be confused with direct cold-temperature injury. This
injury usually develops when freeze/thaw cycles occur as annual bluegrass begins
to break dormancy and transition into spring. Turf that has been encased
in ice usually has a reduced ability to tolerate cold temperature and is
especially prone to this type of damage.
This damage typically occurs in low-lying, saturated areas when turf
emerging from dormancy is exposed to freezing temperatures after imbibing
water from ice and snow melt during mid-to-late winter. Several
superintendents feel their annual bluegrass deteriorated during this
transitional period. There is a good chance that crown hydration was the
mechanism for that injury.
- Anoxia – low
oxygen levels – resulting from extended ice encasement or impermeable
covers was also responsible for some of the injury that has occurred. The
telltale “smell of death” was apparent at many golf courses as the ice
layers began to melt and the surfaces were exposed. Under the right
circumstances, a dense layer of ice directly encasing the turf or heavy
layers of ice and snow lying above an impermeable cover can begin to
create anoxic conditions within a 40-day period. Venting programs for
covered greens can help reduce anoxic conditions. Anoxia can also affect turf
indirectly by reducing the plant’s ability to tolerate other types of
winter injury. Many golf courses were under snow and ice cover for 100 or
more days this season providing ample opportunity for anoxia damage. We
have observed some lower pockets under persistent ice coverage and some
isolated areas below impermeable covers that have succumb to anoxia.
So, if your golf course has experienced cold-temperature
injury you are not alone. Multiple forms of damage may be present on the same
green, which can get confusing. Ultimately, much of the damage in the Northeast
region was caused by cold temperature and the susceptibility of annual
bluegrass to winter injury. At the writing of this update we are experiencing
yet another freeze that was preceded by some very warm temperatures, reminding
us that this is not over yet.
Hopefully, a recovery plan
is in place or is already underway to restore damaged areas at your golf course.
The articles Recovery
for Winter-Injured Greens and Recipe for Rapid Recovery
from Winter Injury provide information on recovery programs. We urge you to
contact our offices if we can help evaluate winter damaged surfaces, help
develop an effective recovery program, or look at some steps that can be taken
to reduce concerns with cold-temperature damage in the future.
Source: Jim Skorulski firstname.lastname@example.org
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