Sunday, May 29, 2016

Take-All Patch

We've all heard the oft-quoted phrase, stating that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Well, not to argue with Mr. Einstein, but when it comes to growing turf, we can do the same things year after year, and never see the same results twice.  Clearly, the variable is the weather, and it seems to have thrown us a curve ball once again. 

If you notice brown areas of turf on some tees and fairways, you're most likely seeing the record amount of Take-All Patch we're dealing with.  Each and every year, we have seen some of this disease, however never to this extent.

As with most turf diseases, Take-All is active in a relatively narrow temperature range.  In a typical spring (if there is such a thing), the symptoms of this disease appear on the foliage as a slightly weakened looking stand of turf, but as the soil temperatures increase, the disease activity stops, and the Bentgrass grows out of it.  However, this spring's prolonged cool weather appears to have kept things in the "sweet spot" for this pathogen.
Take-All on #12 fairway.

When you compare May, 2016 to May, 2015, you can see how soil temperatures remained much cooler throughout the first three weeks of the month, often hovering in the 55+/- degree range where Take-All is active.

While this may have been a weather anomaly, which may not occur again for years, steps are being taken to ensure that we won't see the same issue again, regardless of the spring weather.  We are fortunate to have a great local support network of turfgrass disease experts to consult with, including Rich Buckley, Director of Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Lab, Steve McDonald of Turfgrass Disease Solutions, and Adam Moeller, USGA agronomist.

With a root-borne pathogen such as Take-All, prevention is key, as we only see declining leaf tissue after the damage is already done to the root system.  The plan going forward will likely include preventative fungicide treatments in the fall, as well as an increased use of acidifying nitrogen sources, such as ammonium sulfate, which will lower the soil pH, decreasing the severity of Take-All.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finer Fescue

We've already received some positive comments regarding the playability of the Fescue.  For the second year, we added a spring mowing to these areas, which will help to set us up well as we enter the summer.  Mowing helps thin the stand and allows us to address weed issues early.

Use of selective herbicides in these areas has also been increased.  One product in particular is doing an outstanding job of removing undesirable grasses, while leaving the fine Fescues untouched.  After the first application of this product along the right of #16, there was quite a contrast between the treated and untreated areas.
Treated portion to the left, and untreated to the right.
If used carefully, this selective herbicide can make a dense, unplayable area a bit more friendly.
A treated area to the right of #10 green.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The One-Two Punch

The aerification process is always evolving, based on the particular need we are addressing.  You might wonder why the greens need a different aerification plan now than in the past.  Well, the greens are over 25 years old, and in much the same way that the needs change for a person to remain healthy as they age, so too do the needs of a putting green.

Aerification helps remove excess organic matter when a plug is pulled, and helps dilute the existing soil profile when sand is used to fill the hole.  Traditional hollow tine aerifiers pull a plug 3-4" in length.  This also happens to be the approximate depth of sand and organic matter which has accumulated during the life of the greens.  Thus, we are finding that we are reaching the limit of a traditional aerifier being able to break through the built up material, and create a channel to the mix below.

What's the answer to this?  We decided to go with the one-two punch again this spring.  On Monday, we aerified the greens with 7/16" hollow tines on a very tight spacing.  The plugs were removed (organic matter reduction) and the holes filled with sand. 

Phase two occurred the next day when we had an outside contractor come to the course with some unique aerifiers, called Dryject.  These machines use high pressure water to create a small hole on the surface, and sand is instantly vacuumed into this.  The company set the machines to the 4-6" depth we were looking for.

As you can see in the picture, the Dryject was able to get more sand, deeper into the soil profile when compared to a traditional core aerifier. 

Between the two processes, we used 90 tons of sand on the greens!  Players sometimes ask us why we need to aerfiy the greens when they are in great shape.  The answer is that it is this kind of on-going cultural practices which allow us to have great greens throughout the year. 

A comparison could be made to a car:  Why take it in for maintenance when it's running fine?  Because it's that maintenance that keep your vehicle running well. This combination of aerification practices provides the benefits that will help the greens make it through this summer's heat.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Traffic Toll

If you look at the picture below, you will see a pretty clear line between good looking fairway turf with a nice dew pattern, and some other fairway turf in the foreground, which is hurting a little.

So, what's the difference between these two areas?  In two words:  Cart traffic.  Look closely and you can see that the healthy turf begins at the point where the directional signs have carts leaving the fairway to enter the cart path.  Even with limited play this past week, the vehicle damage on the soaked turf is clear.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Big Bottle

If you've ever wanted to fill a few extra divots, we now have the answer for you.
A large bottle with divot mix has been placed on #8.  So feel free to grab this big bottle and fill away.  Your help will be appreciated by both staff and your fellow golfers!