Coming together and Annual Bluegrass/winterkill

It is finally all coming together here. The property is taking on it's summer form. It has been a long cold winter and compared to many in New England we have had it easy. Many courses suffered severe winterkill. Winterkill is a catch phrase for grass that dies over this time period. It could be direct low temperature, desiccation, crown hydration, anoxia, or a combination of all of the above. You can see it on one course and not another or one side of a course and not on the other courses that cover and those that don't. Greens could be fine and then the deep snow or ice is removed for fear of anoxia or suffocation due to ice cover and a lack of oxygen and then the exposed turf is killed. It becomes a damned if you do or don't scenario if you have ice and snow cover. It is a difficult phenomenon to study and therefore we still do not have a great understanding of it. Simple truth is that bentgrass survives cold winters better than Poa. There is a saying in my business "it is not a matter of if you lose turf but when". If you are in it long enough the fact is inevitable you will lose grass at some point either due to factors you could control or those you could not. We deal with a living thing and are at the mercies of mother nature and the weather.  My advice to any of you who may belong or play at a course that has suffered damage this winter please be patient. Trust me when I tell you the Superintendent feels every bit of your frustration and pain. He would like nothing more than to have the course in normal conditions. He or she may be unable to do the best possible things to recover based on the financial constraints placed upon them and are being forced to open the greens early etc.
fighting a minor disease that causes patch rings

The answers are never simple or inexpensive but you have two simple views: long view or short view. Most clubs will take the short view and attempt to get the greens open as fast as they can. Annual bluegrass, Poa Annua or simply Poa can make a great putting surface. It can be lousy in the spring when it is seeding (look at your lawn or our fairways for the white seed heads) but we have chemicals that do a good job of controlling them now so you may not even notice the disruption to smooth putting. The amount of seeds in the soil are vast and they can be viable for decades so it regenerates easily compared to bentgrass. Also as it matures on properties for decades it tends to seed less or as we have learned become a perennial bio type and less of an annual. Think Oakmont. We have this type of poa on our greens. The issue becomes when you have a mixture of poa and bentgrass. Mixtures are usually good for many reasons but when it comes to putting greens, consistency and ball roll can be hampered by different types and textures of grasses. Poa is often referred to as a weed because it grows everywhere and seeds like mad, requires more fertilizer and water than bentgrass and is more susceptible to disease, insects, and winterkill. So why on earth are we all growing it? Because it is hard to grow any other species without it being invaded by Poa. Our greens were seeded with a blend of bentgrasses called south German mix and for over 70 years have been slowly invaded with Poa. Our new tees were sodded to a special blend of bluegrasses and they are slowly being invaded by Poa. This is a great time of year to see the different grasses because their growth rates are so different and we have yet to fertilize them so the greens are very patchy. The wide leaf and darker colored grass is bentgrass. If you look close it looks like it is laying over or bent. The pale lime green tight upright growing grass is Poa. Also the Poa is seeding so look for the patches that might be seeding on tees etc.
Murph and I edged all 300+ sprinklers and yardage disks this week

We have started to try and push our maintenance practices to favor bentgrass over Poa in the last few years. This would include the way in which we water and to a smaller extent fertilize. A major component to shift the balance is shade. Bentgrass needs full sun so high and dry. Poa likes to be wet so thrives in shade. This is easily seen here where 6 green is mostly bentgrass and 2 green is mostly Poa. Sounds simple right get more sun on the greens with more Poa? For some reason people attach emotion to trees and getting them cut down is extremely difficult. Long view or short view? We are an older course and our trees are reaching an age where they are succumbing to the stress of insects or drought. We need to decide what is more important the safety of our players and the growing environment of our grass or the emotion we feel towards an old tree. Courses with damage this spring will see slower recovery in the shaded areas. It costs money to remove trees and depending on the size and amount of them it could be a lot of money. Short view or long view? Will it even become part of the discussion? After years of fighting to get trees removed the Superintendent gets a reputation as being a tree hater and may get tired of the fight so stops asking. We deal with nature and living plants as our lively-hood. We may get frustrated by cleaning up leaves and branches but trust me we all love a good tree. We simply hate trees in bad places. We are forced to live with many things that make our jobs harder: bad soils, old buildings, equipment, irrigation, lack of help or resources. To then have trees crippling the chance for you to grow grass and have them impossible to get them cut down because people cannot remove the emotion from them and look at the big picture and take the long view can be frustrating. As you enjoy your round of golf look over the property and notice how much shade a tee or green may be growing in and ask yourself is this my favorite green or tee? Have I ever wished this area could be better? Could it be better (and less expensive by the way) simply by cutting down trees?

No comments:

Post a Comment