An Icy Start To Winter February 27, 2015

An Icy Start To Winter

By Adam Moeller, Agronomist
December 16, 2009

Many locations of the Northeast Region are off to a tough start to the winter season with recent snow and rain storms causing an early formation of ice across greens, tees, and fairways. Widespread winter injury occurred across the northern tier of the region last year and the early ice formation this year is extremely frustrating and also threatening.

Dealing with ice formation is difficult and requires careful analysis before removal is considered. Snow/ice removal followed by a significant drop in air temperatures can be lethal to the turf. On the other hand, turf covered by ice for an extended time can be severely injured by suffocation or anoxia. For Poa annua, ice encasement problems typically arise after 60 days of continuous ice cover while bentgrass generally lasts for a month longer under ice. However, there are many variables affecting turf performance such as organic matter levels, the level of hardiness attained, soil temperatures, etc. Removing ice now probably isn’t necessary, but given the injury experienced last year, it might be tempting. Since most turf has probably not fully hardened off, tolerance of ice encasement will be reduced

 12-16-2009 NE Update Picture  
Early snow/ice accumulation in the Toronto area and other parts of the region should be closely monitored over the next few weeks to identify the best course of action to minimize potential winter injury.

At this point, it is difficult to determine the best course of action. The ice may melt all by itself, solving the problem. Removal often is risky, but assisting natural ice removal if temperatures warm a little would make good sense. For instance, if there is a predicted warming trend that looks sufficient for melting the ice, helping it along by applying melting agents (i.e. black sand) would be appropriate. Hastening the melt if the weather is not likely to be warm enough for the turf to clear off completely may lead to more freeze- thaw cycles, which can be disastrous.

Pressure to remove snow/ice layers early could be a response from pressures created by course decision makers who remember the problems experienced last winter. Keep in mind, removing snow/ice layers can cause significant mechanical damage so if you do need to remove snow/ice accumulations, be careful not to create a problem when trying to solve another.

The recent snow/ice accumulation may also have disrupted preventative snow mold applications in the southern tier of the region. Hopefully the warming trend experienced earlier this week has helped clear some snow/ice and the applications can be made as soon as possible. Now is the time to make these applications if they haven’t been done so already.

The winter season is certainly off to an interesting start. When communicating the potential problems that can arise on golf courses as a result of winter weather, be sure everyone understands that there are some variables that can be controlled and some that cannot.

From everyone in the Northeast Region Green Section office, have a great holiday season!

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We encourage you to take a few minutes to fill out a brief survey included in the 2009 November/December issue of the Green Section Record. Your opinion is important for maintaining and improving the quality of the Green Section Record magazine.

USGA agronomists can provide insightful and invaluable information involving all areas of golf course maintenance, which will help maximize turf health, playability, and efficiency. Contact Dave Oatis, director; Adam Moeller, agronomist; or Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist for a Turf Advisory Service visit in the 2010 season.