Monday, April 29, 2013

View MSU Snow Mold Plots at Treetops on May 2

Nancy Dykema
Research Assistant

It’s snow mold time again. We have rated and photographed the Tree Tops snow mold study and we have set the field plot viewing (“field day”) for Thursday, May 2. We will plan to meet at the Pro Shop at Tree Tops/Sylvan Resort at 10 am, as in the past, and will travel as a group to the plots. As far as air transportation goes, Joe recommends flying in to either Detroit (4 hr drive following flight), Flint (3 hr drive), or Traverse City (1 hr drive). 

The address to the resort is:

Treetops Resort
3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord, MI 49732
1-888-TREETOPS (888-873-3867)

Remember, we’re meeting at the pro shop, not the main resort, but this will get you to the property if you’re using a GPS system.

From the Gaylord exit off I-75 (exit #282), proceed east through Gaylord on Rt 32 until you reach Chester Rd (2-3 miles east of town). Turn left (north) on Chester Rd and proceed until it dead ends on Wilkinson Rd (1-2 miles). Turn right (east) on Wilkinson Rd and proceed about 1 mile to the resort entrance on the left. The pro shop is located on the first drive on the left. Lodging is available at the resort or at various hotels in Gaylord.

As always, be prepared for any weather conditions for the tour. Rain and cold weather gear is recommended. We will conduct the tour despite light rain or non-accumulating snow.

Feel free to bring as many associates along as you wish, but please RSVP by noon on Tuesday, April 30, with the number of people attending from your organization either by emailing me at (best method) or by calling our lab at (517)353-9082 and leaving a message with someone in the lab.  If you RSVP by phone, please leave an email address where we can send a message if the plot tour is cancelled for some reason.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at 517-353-9082. Joe, Ron and I are looking forward to seeing you.

Nancy Dykema
Research Assistant
Michigan State University

Another Spin on the Augusta Syndrome?

Dr. Trey Rogers

Every year in early April, after the Madness of March is over, and before any green in the northern tier of the United States, eyes are turned to that magical place in Georgia, Augusta National golf club and the Masters Golf Tournament.  This is about the time that I begin reading and hearing about the Augusta Syndrome, the complaint that the absolute pristine and perfect conditions provided by Augusta are somehow supposed to be duplicated at the local golf course, and the fact that it drives local superintendents and Green Committee chairs crazy- and is bad for golf.  In fact, in a 2013 issue of a National golf magazine, 6 of the game’s most prominent golf course architects asked what effect the Augusta Syndrome had on the game today.  Five of them answered with quotes surmising around terrible and ruinous.  Only one, not surprising, Pete Dye, said he thought the Augusta Syndrome was ‘Hog wash’.  I could not agree more with Mr. Dye.  Maybe not for the same reason, but the Augusta Syndrome has provided golfers many more benefits than headaches, by a long shot.

Augusta National is one of the two most hallowed pieces of turf grounds in the world (Wimbledon is the other).  Every year, not once every ten, but every year, the WORLD turns its eyes on this event and the splendor of the golf course.  It is truly a situation where perfect is average (and by definition, less than perfect is leaning toward a failing grade.)  The pressure to maintain perfect is immense, and no question, the budgets and resources they receive go a long way to helping them achieve their goals.  My argument is that their chase for perfection at Augusta has yielded many tools, products, and techniques that have become common, or at least very attainable for the local golf course. (I know more than one golf course superintendent who says every trip to Augusta makes his course better because of a new methodology or trick he picks up from their management schemes)

Before we get too far into this, understand that my operating premise is that there are very few new ideas in the world, just improving technology to carry the original ones forward.  Places like Augusta (and Wimbledon, and NASA for that matter) have to get it right, and have room to chase the technology, and we get the spin offs.

Keep in mind that while the most outlandish of ideas at Augusta might not make it to your putting greens, if there is money to be made by companies it won’t be in selling to only the elite, it will be selling in volume (you can insert just about any communications technology here from 1990 to now and prove this point) to the 15,000 golf courses and other turf entities.

So specifically, what can we thank the Augusta Syndrome for in our world?  Well, for starters, a couple of creeping bentgrass varieties that were pulled from the greens in the late 1980 by Dr. Joe Duich, Professor Emeritus from Penn State.  The strains, now known as A-1 and A-4, came from the greens at Augusta after they were converted to bentgrass in 1981 (definitely a big deal then).  These grasses came on strong at the end of the century and have propelled the use of bentgrass greens and conversions world-wide.

One constant at Augusta is there penchant for change to keep up with technology.  During the summer when the course is closed, the construction season is in full swing.  The beauty of these changes is how seamless and integrated they look almost instantly.  These techniques are fully utilized all over the world today in some fashion.   

You have probably noticed, and known, about the famous 12th green at Augusta, the tucked away green with all the shade and temperature issues.  The devices used to heat and cool the soil temperatures, as well as the lighting to mitigate the shade have all advanced the technologies to use by a wider ray of turf entities, grower larger every year as competition increases and prices drop.  As each of these has improved turf conditions by improving the environmental conditions, it has decreased the need for plant protectants.

If you study the maintenance operation at Augusta, you come to the conclusion that their part of their perfection is achieved by the sheer numbers of people completing the tasks.  While the idea of more hands making the job easier is not rocket science, there are still only 24 hours in a day.  This means that in order to get the course ready, the operation begins in the dark.  The lights developed specifically due to this demand are almost standard equipment on mowers and other machines sold in the industry today.

My attempt to celebrate, rather than berate, the Augusta syndrome has likely left out many technological improvements, a few of which you may be thinking about right now.  The point here is to remember that research and technology drive the bus when chasing perfection, regardless of the definition.  We should be thankful for these sites charged with this task, as the annual memories of the tournament conditions are fleeting at best, but the contributions from the chase are everlasting.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring Flooding of Turf

Dr. Kevin W. Frank
Assoc. Professor & Extension Turf Specialist

In the last week heavy rains blanketed most of the state resulting in streams and rivers overflowing their banks and many low lying areas flooding.  The water has slowly started to subside and turf that was flooded may be exhibiting damage symptoms.  Factors that determine turf survival under water include: turfgrass species, submergence duration, submergence depth, water temperature, and light intensity. 

Turfgrass species differ in their ability to survive flooding.  Unfortunately there are no hard fast numbers such as Kentucky bluegrass will survive 5 days and creeping bentgrass 15 days under water.  Instead species have been assigned relative submersion tolerance ratings: creeping bentgrass – excellent, Kentucky bluegrass – medium, Poa annua and perennial ryegrass – fair.  As submergence depth increases the potential for injury increases.  If the leaf tissue is above the water line – even just a little bit – the turf will probably survive.  On golf courses many have observed creeping bentgrass floating on the edge and even growing out into a lake.  This is a perfect example of turf surviving when partially submerged.  The final two factors affecting turf survival are water temperature and light intensity.  Both of these factors are working in our favor right now as the air and water temperatures have been cool.  Flooding during the summer months when temperatures are higher often result in damage to the turf when it’s submerged for even a short time. 

Many golf courses in flood plains have flooded.
As the water recedes, the turf may be yellow or brown.  The discoloration is related to the turf losing its ability to take up nutrients.  It doesn’t take long once turf is submerged for soil oxygen levels to decline and root hairs to begin to die.  As the root system becomes impaired, nutrient extraction and water uptake will be limited.  Keep this in mind once the water has receded as the turf may benefit from a light fertilizer application.  To assess if submersion has caused injury, extract several plants from the flooded site and cut a horizontal cross section through the crown.  If the crown is white and firm – it has survived.  If the crown is brown and mushy – it’s dead, so time to develop a reestablishment plan.  Finally, for those areas that were flooded due to a stream or river overflowing a bank you are probably dealing with silt or soil deposition.  Removal of soil deposition can be difficult and seeding into the deposited soil can be an option.  Once successfully reestablished soil cultivation such as core aeration or slicing will benefit the turf by breaking through deposited soil layers to facilitate rooting and water infiltration.

Yellowing of turf from flooding.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Preemergence Herbicide Applications for Crabgrass Control

Dr. Kevin W. Frank
Assoc. Professor and Extension Turf Specialist

Unlike the spring of 2012, the spring of 2013 is off to a very slow start with cool temperatures and soaking rains the last week.  There have been several inquiries within the last week about when to apply preemergence herbicides for crabgrass control.  Summer annual grasses such as crabgrass require proper soil temperature and moisture to germinate and establish.  Eighty percent of germination will occur when the 0-2 inch depth soil temperature is consistently reaching 60-70 degrees F. For preemergence herbicides to be effective they need to be applied before the soils reach this optimum temperature range.  For example, soil temperatures at the Hancock Turfgrass Research Center on campus indicate soil temperatures still hovering in the low to mid 40’s.  We have a growing degree day (GDD) model available at that uses GDD to indirectly measure soil temperatures in a turf situation (enter your zipcode under the map and then click on the Crabgrass PRE button).  As with all models, discretion and understanding of local conditions should be considered. The target range for this model attempts to predict when the 0-2 inch depth soil temperatures consistently reach 50-55 degrees F and therefore provides adequate time for the preemergence herbicide to be applied and watered in before crabgrass germination occurs.

Preemergence application timing for crabgrass in Michigan is usually between April 15 and May 15.  Using prediction models at indicate that with the exception of a small area just north of the border near Toledo, the entire state is still either in the ‘Early’ or ‘Under’ application window.  Areas in the ‘Under’ application window may be days from being bumped up to the ‘Early’ application window or for areas under snow may be several weeks or more away.  The most common question right now is if your location is in the ‘Early’ application window whether or not preemergence applications at this time will be effective.  Applying preemergence herbicides in the ‘Early’ application window is effective and most professional lawn care companies will time applications on the early side because of the reliable medium and long-residual herbicides that are available and the number of properties they are treating. Most homeowners are probably waiting for the first warm weekend in mid-April, often coinciding with the ‘Optimum’ period to make their application.  A good environmental indicator for the ‘Optimum’ period that I have not witnessed yet this year is to look for when forsythia bushes are blooming with their bright yellow flowers.  Whether you target your application for the early or optimum window, remember the practices than encourage a healthy, dense turf stand such as mowing high, returning clippings, and adequate fertilization are all part of an effective crabgrass prevention strategy.      
Crabgrass infesting a commercial landscape.