2011 Southeast Region Spring Update

By Patrick O’Brien and Chris Hartwiger, agronomists, Southeast Region
April 4, 2011

Spring dead spot is a major disease of bermudagrass. A new alternative management method of prevention has shown promise compared to preventative fungicides.   

The golf season and the Green Section’s Turf Advisory Service season are well underway.  Below are a few observations noted this season. 

  1. Spring Dead Spot (SDS) – This root pathogen (Ophiosphaerella korrae) of bermudagrass was active over the fall and winter months with disease symptoms noted at numerous golf courses in tees, fairways, and roughs during the first stage of leaf tissue green-up.  SDS is now a rarity on bermudagrass putting greens due to fall preventative treatments.


An interesting observation was noted at an Atlanta area golf course.  Multiple calcium nitrate fertilizer applications were applied last summer instead of a preventative fungicide treatment in the hope of reducing this disease on fairways and roughs. This decision was based on research by Dr. Lane Tredway at North Carolina State University a few years ago.  Calcium nitrate provided moderate to excellent SDS suppression compared to other nitrogen sources tested at the NCSU trials. The results were impressive, as fairway and rough sites treated with calcium nitrate during May, June, and July caused a 90% or more reduction of SDS injury compared to last year when only preventative fungicides were applied to these playing areas.   The calcium nitrate applications are less expensive than preventative fungicides, and perhaps another option should be considered for suppression of this major bermudagrass disease. Based on these positive results, this superintendent plans to repeat the calcium nitrate applications again this summer.

  1. Overseeded versus Non-Overseeded Ultradwarf Putting Greens – A few courses in the SE Region, mainly at resort coastal sites, still overseed ultradwarf putting greens with either Poa trivialis or a blend of Poa trivialis and bentgrass. On the whole, and based upon our observations, the playing quality of the overseeded ultradwarf putting greens is not as good as non-overseeded putting greens. The overseeded greens are usually not as smooth, and Poa annua is more prevalent.  Superintendents who do not overseed have the ability to use colorants, fertilizers, and pigments to achieve the tone of green desired throughout the winter season.   We expect to see a further phasing-out of overseeded ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens.   
  2. Operational Budgets – The majority of golf courses visited so far indicate that the flat or downward trend in operational budgets will continue this season.  This places the superintendent in a difficult position in having to communicate how budget reductions will ultimately impact playing quality through the season.  Despite this trend, golfers continue to expect similar standards, in part because they have so many options where and when they can play golf.  This budget reduction dilemma puts renewed emphasis on the importance of written maintenance standards to help explain how labor hours, equipment, and supplies are allocated with existing funding.


Let us help you get on the right track this season. Call or email us to set up your 2011 Turfgrass Advisory Visit.

Source: Patrick O'Brien 770-229-8125 or patobrien@usga.org  and Chris Hartwiger 205-444-5079 or chartwiger@usga.org 


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