Monday, 17 December 2018

Turfgrass Speedo

How fast should we grow our grass? It's a question I have been asking on this blog for almost 7 years now and every year I think I get a bit better. I explained this evolution last year in a blog post called "The Evolution of Precision Fertilizer Application."

Image result for grass speedo
No, not that type of speedo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFmcO1aDUnE
Even as I progress I still admit I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing when it comes to driving turfgrass growth. There are many clues as to the ideal growth rate. I wrote about that in a post called "
Using indicator species to fine tune fertilizer applications."

Could a tool like this help me grow grass at the right speed?
Basically, I have this feeling that achieving the optimum growth rate will make a lot of our issues less severe but figuring out what that speed is has been a challenge. Every year is different so what worked this year certainly won't work next especially if you are looking to really fine tune things to an extreme degree like I have been playing around with.

Tools like the growth potential have been a big help but again, they don't tell me how fast I should grow my grass.

Clipping volume has been a tremendously useful tool to understand the health and vigor and differences in how my grass grows. It has given me clues that growth rates matter. But again, I still don't know how fast I should grow my grass.

At times I require a lot of fertilizer to get the grass to grow and at other times it grows much faster than I would like despite applying hardly any fertilizer. 

Here's the thing. Growth doesn't just rely on how much fertilizer you apply. Adding nitrogen fertilizer can do one thing, make grass grow faster.

Sure we can use growth regulators to grow the turf slower but I also wonder that if we are acutely aware of how fast our grass is growing then why can't we grow it at an appropriate speed without having to spend more money putting the brakes on?

The can of worms opens wider. What is an appropriate growth rate? It depends! How much traffic do you have. Do you want to manage for playability first or plant health first? Every course is different so no one can make a generalization on how much nitrogen to apply.

You start to see why I am so confused with this. There is simply so much we don't know about things as simple as how fast we should grow our grass because it is such a difficult question. I do think, however, that it's a question worth looking into and trying to solve. The benefits of getting it right all the time could be huge.

While working on a presentation about precision fertilizer use for the greenkeepers in Denmark last month I thought of a new way of using the clipping volume and growth potential tools to potentially give me better insight into how fast I should grow my grass.

What if we combine growth potential with #ClipVol ?

Just like I have used growth potential to estimate how much nitrogen I should apply in the past we can use it to estimate how much grass we should grow and it's actually pretty easy especially if you use my turfgrass weather modeller

We simply multiply the growth potential by the maximum growth rate we would ever want to see on our course.

Say the maximum amount of grass you would ever want to harvest in a month is 500ml/m^2. If the monthly growth potential was 50% we would expect to harvest about 250ml of grass/m^2 that month.

That's all fine and dandy but that still doesn't help us know how much fertilizer to apply.

What if we compare the ideal amount to the actual amount. So if we wanted to grow 250ml of grass but we harvested 400ml that would be 400/250 = 1.6. Basically we are growing the grass 1.6 times too fast and we need to back off on the nitrogen fertilizer.

We can compare this number over any time period and it's a feature I added to my Turfgrass Maintenance HUD recently.

Below you can see that addition. On the upper chart you can see the monthly clipping yield compared to the ideal yield. The absolute value doesn't matter. What matters is how close to the ideal amount you are. Generally I've noticed that the further I am from the 1 or yellow line, the more conditions suffer. This chart can also show you when what you are doing to push growth is working even though it might not seem that way. In March 2017 we were recovering from winter damage and even though growth was slow, you can see it was WELL above normal. The extra fertilizer and tarping worked!


The lower gauges compare the actual vs ideal growth rates over varying time frames and could possibly help me make better decisions on how much I need to push or slow growth. We haven't mowed this month yet so obviously there is no recent data. Last month I grew that grass too fast and had some issues with microdochium. But over the last year I grew that grass almost perfectly overall. There were peaks and bumps in the road that certainly caused some issues but overall it was a good year.

The new superintendent here also noted that the greens were really nice and green. They might look nice but there's a cost to that colour in December!


Lush greens in December can be a problem
To determine the weekly ideal harvest we would divide the monthly maximum by 4. Daily by 30.5 etc and compare it to the actual yield.

If we are going too slow we can add more fertilizer, if we are going too fast we can apply less. I think there might be value in having an awareness like this.

The monthly maximum will vary from course to course. I came up with a monthly max of 625ml based of my historical data.

Anything more than that is excessive and actually achieving that level should be impossible because no 30 days in a row are exactly at 100% growth potential. Of course we could go higher if growth rates explode like they did last summer.

You can use monthly yield data to determine how much is too much. Last August was way too much but July was just about right for my course's specific needs.

This gives you a hypothetical turfgrass growth speed limit and shows how fast you are going compared to the limit you have set for yourself adjusted to the actual weather conditions. Nothing is based on the date on the calendar but more on actual growing conditions. Then if you feel growth rates are too high you simply adjust the monthly maximum number and this will adjust across all your data.

The amount of nitrogen we apply doesn't really matter. What matters is results. What matters is growing the grass at the appropriate speed and I have a hunch that this might be the best method yet of figuring it all out and achieving better results more consistently but I don't know, it's winter and I have 4 more months to go before the grass starts growing again. As usual I am already excited for next season's grass growing.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Addressing Climate Change in Golf


One of my favorite things to do is a SWOT analysis. It's where you look inward and outward to address the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that you or your organization face. I do this almost continuously although I do a more formalize version every winter.

Back in 2011 one of the biggest threats to golf course operations was a cosmetic pesticide ban. From that time on I took the approach of trying to figure out how I could address this threat by figuring out ways to reduce my reliance on pesticides. While the threat has lessened slightly, I am also less worried that I was back then because I took a proactive approach and learned a few things along the way. I still think there is value in taking this threat seriously though.

Another threat the golf industry faced over the past decade was the recession and financial difficulties. Again, I took the approach of finding solutions to this problem while sharing what I learned here.

In the coming decade I think the biggest threat to golf course operations will be climate change. You might think that it will be the warmer temperatures or the wildly variable weather your course might experience and these are very valid concerns. To me, though, the biggest threat surrounding climate change will be increased costs of fuel and equipment as stricter carbon taxes and regulation come into play.

It seems that in the last 6 months or so the urgency of climate change has intensified although it varies depending on who your government is. This adds another level to the threat. Things could drastically change depending on who is in power. One day you might be fine with your diesel burning mower and one day it might be illegal to use. That's an extreme example but the threat we face is also extreme.

Just like they tried to ban non-essential pesticides back in 2011, what if they try and ban non-essential fossil fuel uses in the near future?

If the price of fuel doubles in the next 5 years will your course be able to adapt?

If the cost and complexity of fossil fuel burning mowers increases even more will your course be able to adapt?

How big of an increase can your course manage without going out of business? If you are looking towards the future and take any possible threats seriously you need to know this figure. How much can you afford? At what point will you be forced to change or close the doors? Maybe you are already there as the cost of mowers is bordering on insane these days!

When we plan out our equipment plans we often look 5 to 10 years into the future. What does that future look like? With the recent pace of change your current plans might look a lot different than they did even a year ago.

Just as I always have, I plan to take a proactive approach to this threat to my business. The first step is to investigate alternative ways to do our jobs without fossil fuels. I have already used battery powered string trimmers and 3 years later the machine and battery still work great for all but the thickest and heaviest of weed whacking jobs.

The second step is to try out and adapt the current technology to our needs. In my opinion there isn't yet a perfect solution but that will change as innovative superintendents get their hands on these new autonomous mowers.

I am extremely excited about the potential that small autonomous mowers will bring. They can mow relatively large areas with the current battery technology and don't require a huge investment to implement.


They promise to solve a lot of the issues we face but the biggest threat they will help us manage is the threat of using fossil fuels to do our job because they are 100% electric. After learning how these mowers are successfully used in Europe already, I am no longer worried. I am excited for the future and challenge of golf course maintenance without fossil fuels.

If someone came to us tomorrow and said you can no longer use diesel or gasoline to maintain your golf course we would have a solution. It would take some creativity to implement but it would be possible and for relatively low costs.

This blog has beat the threats of pesticide bans and tough economic circumstances almost to death. While I will continue to focus on these threats I think that it would be irresponsible to ignore the threat of climate change and how we can make the transition away from fossil fuels as painless as possible.

Implementing this at my new course probably won't happen as quickly as I would like but a neighbouring course ( and hopefully my old course) will be trialing this technology in the new year and I will share everything we learn so that others can also get in early and do something about climate change in golf.

Monday, 10 December 2018

More Crazy Robot Mower Ideas

Recent discussions on twitter have drummed up a lot of interesting ideas about robots and a lot of hate too!

I love it!

For the haters or skeptics think about robot mowers like this.

Do you have an irrigation system with valve-in-head rotors? Do you have a central control? If yes, your biggest piece of equipment on your course is already a robot.

Afraid robot mowers will take away jobs? How did our current irrigation system technology affect jobs of people who used to manually plug in quick coupler heads all night long? Are you willing to go back to the way it used to be with irrigation? Didn't having actual people manually plugging heads in give it that personal touch that is lost with today's "automatic" sprinkler systems? Don't you think that the precision that modern irrigation systems bring makes golf better? Don't you think that trained and skilled people are still required to operate these highly efficient marvels of irrigation technology?

Just as it is seen today to be better to spend time fine tuning the irrigation system run times instead of spending time just simply turning them on and off again, the same will be true for robot mowers.

Did anyone imaging that we would one day be able to control thousands of sprinkler heads with extreme precision with a computer we hold in our hand?

I think the same big shakeup is coming to mowers sooner than everyone thinks.
Just like with our current irrigation systems, maximum efficiency is found with many heads that distribute water over a smaller area. The same will be true for robotic mowers. Instead of having 1 or two fairway mowers like we have today, we will have hundreds of small battery powered machines.

If one of them breaks down the rest of the "swarm" will be able to pick up the slack. Today, if your only current fairway mower breaks down, nothing gets cut until it is fixed., robotic or human powered.

One big mower is expensive. Many smaller mowers will be easier to start small with and expand their usefulness in small increments. There will be no need to go all in right away. As people are hesitant to adopt the new robotic technology. This will allow them to take baby steps

We won't have mowers that are dedicated to a specific area of the course. Instead, they will have variable heights of cut and will adjust as they enter different areas of the course. Think of the robots of being like a CNC machine today. They will roam the property at times that you specify and will adjust the HOC as needed depending on their current location.

Just like irrigation systems that are designed with a specific water window in mind. We will design these mowing systems with a mowing window. The number of robots that you require will be based off of the time you wish to spend mowing each day or night.

These mowers will change golf course architecture as well. How much of our current golf course design is based off of the needs of irrigation, drainage and mower capabilities? As mower capabilities change we can only expect the course designs to change as well.

Our current mowers have rigid heights of cut. Sure we can adjust them from day to day but they cannot generally be adjusted as we mow. This leaves course areas defined by the height at which the grass is cut. Greens are the shortest, Tees and approaches are a little higher, fairways are higher yet and finally there is the rough. Some courses even have intermediate rough and naturalized areas which aren't mowed at all.

Are rigid height of cut transitions because it's what's best for the game or because it's only what is possible with our current mower technology?
With robot mowers we won't need to define areas like this. We will be able to have soft transitions from one area to another. Focusing on technology that allows robots to mow super precise borders is nice but probably not needed except for maybe the edge of greens although Chambers Bay had no defined border on their greens for years. This feature is needlessly complicated and slows the progress of these mowers. It's probably not needed.

Course architects will be able to design holes with variable heights of cut depending on the weather or how difficult you want the course to play. Greenkeepers will be able to adjust the mowing patterns with the push of a button.

You will be able to upload any pattern of mowing that you want with ease.



After a while, just as we always seem to do. Nostalgia for the ways of old will come back into style and they will have to go through great effort to make mowers that create hard edges except it won't be hard. You will just push a button to present the course as it was back when they still used hickory shafts and mowers that could only cut one height of cut at a time.

We will be able to mount sensors and tools to these mowers as well.

They will drop seed and fertilizer on bare spots. They will spray weeds or kill them with lazers and target disease with UV light. This will drastically improve the environmental impact that golf courses have. No fossil fuels and highly targeted pest control using light.

Maybe this isn't realistic but the more I think of it the more excited I get about the possibilities that lie ahead.

While I really want to try out the current robot mower tech I don't think the leap from what they do today to what I have described above is that big. It would be neat to try out today's technology but we won't have to wait long for something vastly better.
Image result for husqvarna 450x
This is what the mower of the future will look like. Image: husqvarna.com

Sunday, 9 December 2018

More Crazy Robot Mower Ideas

Recent discussions on twitter have drummed up a lot of interesting ideas about robots and a lot of hate too!

I love it!

For the haters or skeptics think about robot mowers like this.

Do you have an irrigation system with valve-in-head rotors? Do you have a central control? If yes, your biggest piece of equipment on your course is already a robot.

Afraid robot mowers will take away jobs? How did our current irrigation system technology affect jobs of people who used to manually plug in quick coupler heads all night long? Are you willing to go back to the way it used to be with irrigation? Didn't having actual people manually plugging heads in give it that personal touch that is lost with today's "automatic" sprinkler systems? Don't you think that the precision that modern irrigation systems bring makes golf better? Don't you think that trained and skilled people are still required to operate these highly efficient marvels of irrigation technology?

Just as it is seen today to be better to spend time fine tuning the irrigation system run times instead of spending time just simply turning them on and off again, the same will be true for robot mowers.

Did anyone imaging that we would one day be able to control thousands of sprinkler heads with extreme precision with a computer we hold in our hand?

I think the same big shakeup is coming to mowers sooner than everyone thinks.

Just like with our current irrigation systems, maximum efficiency is found with many heads that distribute water over a smaller area. The same will be true for robotic mowers. Instead of having 1 or two fairway mowers like we have today, we will have hundreds of small battery powered machines.

If one of them breaks down the rest of the "swarm" will be able to pick up the slack. Today, if your only current fairway mower breaks down, nothing gets cut until it is fixed., robotic or human powered.

One big mower is expensive. Many smaller mowers will be easier to start small with and expand their usefulness in small increments. There will be no need to go all in right away. As people are hesitant to adopt the new robotic technology. This will allow them to take baby steps

We won't have mowers that are dedicated to a specific area of the course. Instead, they will have variable heights of cut and will adjust as they enter different areas of the course. Think of the robots of being like a CNC machine today. They will roam the property at times that you specify and will adjust the HOC as needed depending on their current location.

Just like irrigation systems that are designed with a specific water window in mind. We will design these mowing systems with a mowing window. The number of robots that you require will be based off of the time you wish to spend mowing each day or night.

These mowers will change golf course architecture as well. How much of our current golf course design is based off of the needs of irrigation, drainage and mower capabilities? As mower capabilities change we can only expect the course designs to change as well.

Our current mowers have rigid heights of cut. Sure we can adjust them from day to day but they cannot generally be adjusted as we mow. This leaves course areas defined by the height at which the grass is cut. Greens are the shortest, Tees and approaches are a little higher, fairways are higher yet and finally there is the rough. Some courses even have intermediate rough and naturalized areas which aren't mowed at all.

Are rigid height of cut transitions because it's what's best for the game or because it's only what is possible with our current mower technology?
With robot mowers we won't need to define areas like this. We will be able to have soft transitions from one area to another. Focusing on technology that allows robots to mow super precise borders is nice but probably not needed except for maybe the edge of greens although Chambers Bay had no defined border on their greens for years. This feature is needlessly complicated and slows the progress of these mowers. It's probably not needed.

Course architects will be able to design holes with variable heights of cut depending on the weather or how difficult you want the course to play. Greenkeepers will be able to adjust the mowing patterns with the push of a button.

You will be able to upload any pattern of mowing that you want with ease.



After a while, just as we always seem to do. Nostalgia for the ways of old will come back into style and they will have to go through great effort to make mowers that create hard edges except it won't be hard. You will just push a button to present the course as it was back when they still used hickory shafts and mowers that could only cut one height of cut at a time.

We will be able to mount sensors and tools to these mowers as well.

They will drop seed and fertilizer on bare spots. They will spray weeds or kill them with lazers and target disease with UV light. This will drastically improve the environmental impact that golf courses have. No fossil fuels and highly targeted pest control using light.

Maybe this isn't realistic but the more I think of it the more excited I get about the possibilities that lie ahead.

While I really want to try out the current robot mower tech I don't think the leap from what they do today to what I have described above is that big. It would be neat to try out today's technology but we won't have to wait long for something vastly better.
Image result for husqvarna 450x
This is what the mower of the future will look like. Image: husqvarna.com

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Future of Robot Mowers Today

In my travels I am very fortunate to be able to sit in on other people's presentations. While in Denmark last month I was able to sit in on a presentation by William Boogaarts who works for de Enk Groen & Golf in the Netherlands. They have been using robot mowers for years and in my opinion are way ahead of us in North America.




Yes, I know there are a few golf courses that use robot mowers already but they are very few and far between.

In his presentation he showed the impressive self driving mower tech that has been adapted to our current mowing equipment. While impressive, this wasn't what really caught my attention. Thinking that adapting our current mowers to be self driving is completely missing the boat when it comes to robotic mowers.

He showed us how they were using the small robotic mowers from Husqvarna to mow fairways. While not 100% ideal for golf courses currently, they are relatively cheap technology that can do the job TODAY!



The more I think about using these mowers on golf courses the more they make sense and the more I think how our current equipment manufacturers might completely miss the boat and end up like Kodak. Obsolete in only a few short years.

Currently these robotic mowers can mow up to 5000m^2 on a charge which is about 1 fairway. Their HOC only goes down to 20mm which isn't quite short enough for most courses. I think this could probably be modified to cut lower.

On fairways that were mowed with this mower, experienced greenkeepers couldn't tell the difference as far as quality of cut is concerned. These mowers are relentless and will mow as often as is required during the times of day or night that you specify. They can sense where the grass is longer and will return to these areas more often and will skip areas where growth isn't as much. In the near future this data could easily be used to adjust fertilizer rates based off of growth on your course. You could also add sensors to measure moisture and even a small seeder to drop seed on bare areas.

The best part and the thing that the current greens mowing robots can't do is, they require no human interaction to do their job. You just program them and let them go. They charge themselves and mow when needed. Set it and forget it.

Because we aren't paying a person to sit on these mowers we don't need to be concerned about the speed of mowing. They can mow all the time so we can get away with much smaller machines to do the work. This small size brings a lot of benefits to the job.

They don't wear the grass out as much as big mowers. Less wear and tear is a good thing. They can travel over softer areas without sinking and leaving deep ruts. They can also mow slopes up to 45 degrees! This is a big deal for us a Pender Harbour and if the grass is wet here on our 4th hole, we can only mow downhill even with all wheel drive mowers.

This increased turf quality isn't just anecdotal. This study showed that an autonomous mower modified to mow at 1.2cm had better quality grass http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/28/4/509

Steep slopes are a challenge for conventional mowers.
The best part I think about their small size is how they remove a lot of the mechanical complexity that the larger mowers require. No hydraulics, only 1 spinning blade. No fuel needs.

That brings up the point of transitioning to a sustainable energy use model on our courses. With large mowers their cost will only go up as the batteries are currently way too expensive for such large machines. If there's anything we don't need, is for our mowers to become more expensive. These small mowers can already be powered by battery today so the transition away from fossil fuels is easy and painless with small mowers.

There are downsides though. Because they are so small they can't mulch like our conventional mowers can. Leaves, branches pine cones and probably divots will need to be blown clear. For most of the year this isn't an issue but during the fall and winter storms this might cause issues.

Their docking stations need a power supply. If you have satellite irrigation controllers you could tie into their power supplies. If not it might be expensive to run power to each fairway.

The mowers today are only commercial or home owner specific. The leap to a golf course model is not that big. Maybe a bigger battery and a lower hoc and some sensors for moisture.

Drones will be obsolete as quickly as they became popular. There will be no need for them with these future mowers. I would not invest in drones today after seeing this. They are simply too difficult and costly to fly in some areas. Adding the sensor tech to the mowers bypasses all the issues with drone mounted tech.

Let's do some quick and dirty math to see how the return on investment might be for these mowers.

Cost of 1 current fairway mower. $60-90,000. every 5 years.

Cost to mow 10 ha of grass each season 3 times a week. $15-20,000.

Cost of fuel and mower maintenance each year. $5000+

So the cost of mowing fairways with this quick and dirty math is about $32,000 per year at best.

The robot mower with the highest capacity costs about $4500. You need 20 of these mowers to cut 10ha for a total cost of $90,000. Of course you need to supply power to your fairways but that's a one time cost and will vary a lot course to course.

So for the price of 1 fairway mower you can cut 18 holes of fairways but essentially will have no fuel cost or labor cost. You will have to spend some time cleaning debris off the fairways but that won't be significant. New blades every month or so also won't be a significant expense.

As you can see, the return on investment is about 3 years with these mowers today but you will potentially also get a better product with smaller machines. Many courses have more than 1 fairway mower so the ROI will be even quicker for them. With improvement in the tech it will be even less in short order.

It's crazy how quickly this technology is progressing. Just like other facets of the tech industry a lot of people will be caught off guard. This tech is ready today but with some tweaks it will be the best option for golf courses in every way. If you recently bought a new fairway mower, I expect it could be the last big mower you will buy. If you have an old unit that you are wanting to replace, look into this tech, the return on investment is very quick.

If this intrigues you, you can act today. These mowers are available everywhere, all they need are some forward thinking and innovative superintendents to try them out and make them work for golf.

I think I may have just purchased my last big expensive mower.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Out of Control Growth



It's totally true. This year I had big plans to control growth on my greens and boy did I fail. Despite having an intimate understanding of how fast each and every one of my greens was growing as well as how much fertilizer I had applied and how much growth I could expect from those applications, the growth rate this past May and August went completely off the rails. You'll also notice that the previous two years I was able to achieve relatively consistent growth, then it all fell apart. WTF!



As you can see, the growth this past May and August was significantly higher than in previous years.


This despite never applying less fertilizer to the greens. The total cost this year for those that are wondering came out to $275 for 1 acre of greens or about $0.07 per square meter.

Dude!

Like Sean says, "we don't have as much control as we think we do."  Although growth this summer got away from me I have some suspicions why it might have been this way despite reintroducing growth regulators in July. The growth rates were so high that we struggled to cut enough grass each day and we were stuck with puffy conditions prone to scalping! Green speed was a challenge to maintain and we were forced to mow more than we would normally like.

Even with the elevated growth dollar spot was still a concern on a few greens. I think this is most likely due to the older bentgrass cultivars that remain on our greens. For the most part, dollar spot on the course was managed very successfully without pesticide interventions. Fairways and tees were in excellent shape all summer and didn't seem to experience the same growth explosion that the greens did.

We still have elevated organic matter from the winterkill episode of 2016. During the crazy heat we experienced this summer I bet the excess organic matter was mineralized and this led to extreme growth rates.

We started using Civitas again. Some of the product claims suggest reduced fertilizer requirements and increased growth. The first application was on the 16th of August, well into the big growth surge we were experiencing.


We started using primo again this year on July 9th and followed a strict 200 growing degree day reapplication interval helped out by my weather modeller.


As you can see, we had higher GDD this year than last so that certainly played a roll.


What else could it be?

The only other thing I can think of is grass type.

Last spring we were able to significantly increase the amount of bentgrass on our greens due to losing half of our poa thanks to winterkill.

The first green here is still mostly poa and you can see that despite it receiving higher amounts of fertilizer, it struggled to grow compared to our other bentgrass dominated greens.


It was very apparent to me this year that bentgrass grows much more with less fertilizer. Of course it could be less fertilizer or maybe the deeper rooted plant simply has access to more nutrients? There hasn't been roots deeper than 10cm for the past 20 years here so there is likely a treasure trove of nutrients in the depths below. Most plugs I sample have roots well below 20cm these days which essentially doubles the amount of nutrients available to the plant assuming it works that way.


Either way, I think the increase in clipping yield this year is partly due to having more bentgrass on the course and will allow me to potentially go even lower with fertilizer next season. Of course I will continue to monitor the growth rates and will adjust where possible despite having less control that I would like. I now also know what too much growth looks like and can really back off as we approach growth rates that can cause concern.

For more about these bitching graphs check out this post https://www.turfhacker.com/2018/03/turfgrass-maintenance-hud.html


Saturday, 25 August 2018

Lets try this organic thing again

When I told a local superintendent my intentions to try Civitas on my greens again he threatened to kick me in the nuts. Here's why and please note that this post does not contain any paid promotions although I am probably broke enough now to finally start selling out.

Hey, I also started a vlog, check it out here.


Back in 2012 I started using Civitas on my greens. It worked amazing. Back then only my 8th green was dominated by bentgrass and I went an entire year without any traditional pesticides on that green. Just mineral oil.

The only problem was that on a few of my shadier greens they turned to dirt and for the first time in my career I was forced to deal with winter kill.

Winter Kill of 2012 caused by a number of factors that mineral oil certainly didn't help. Shade much?
It turns out that when you apply oil to your greens every few weeks while the turf isn't growing and combine that with almost daily rolling of the greens that you will get dead grass.

Lesson leaned?

Nope.

via GIPHY

The following year I decided to try it again. I wrote about that here. Long story short, I couldn't see the true colour of the turf due to the pigment and was shocked to see the yellow grass after mowing the grass for the first time in a few weeks. I panicked, invited the local supers to come see only to have them call me an asshole for inviting them to see my perfectly healthy "dying" greens. They wanted to see carnage and all they got was good grass. I was just tricked into thinking they had suddenly taken a turn for the worse because I was used to seeing them nice and green from the pigment and not their true yellow winter colour.

I had a few jugs left over and I used them up without much thought in 2014 and since then I haven't' used the product because I couldn't find a benefit for its use.

During the time period from 2012-now my maintenance practices took a radical shift as this blog will clearly show if you go back to some older posts. All of the changes I made were to have healthier, lower maintenance grass that required the least amount of inputs to sustain quality playing surfaces (on greens at least). For the most part I was successful. In the past few years I have never used less pesticide as I learn how to best manage the diseases my course typically suffers from, dollar spot and fusarium patch.

With the exception of 2 of my greens, I have only applied 2 applications of a traditional pesticide this year. This is the best I have ever managed my greens. Of course some of it can be attributed to luck but for someone to find success who tries as hard as I do it makes you wonder if I'm actually on the right track.

I still have issues every now and then and need some outside help from pesticides to keep damage to a minimum.

Despite managing disease pretty good without pesticides, I still need some help

So why go back to Civitas?

There are a number of reasons why I have decided to try this product again and I doubt that the local superintendent will have to knock any sense into me this time.

It works. When I saw that I could go all year without traditional pesticides on my only bentgrass green it was amazing especially considering how bass ackwards my disease management strategy was back then. Now all my greens are mostly bentgrass so this gives me hope that maybe we can go all-in. I use almost no traditional pesticides anymore and only need a slight advantage to be successful. I have optimized the maintenance of our greens for disease management and think I might find success with what Civitas can offer.

Last year the impact of nitrogen was very apparent on my green collars. By treating collars with more nitrogen this year they are clean.


It's OMRI certified. I know what you're thinking and believe me, I'm thinking it too. I've even wrote about how dumb organic is. So why try to go the organic route?

Public perception is why. Maybe I'm wrong but I believe that there is a distinct advantage to be able to claim that all pest control is organic on a golf course. We all know that this isn't likely the case but as far as perception is concerned, organic is better than not organic and there's nothing you or I can do to change that. We see this all the time and it's a big deal. Take nuclear power. It's clean, emits no carbon, and no one wants it. Same goes for pesticides. They work, are miracles of modern science, but still, consumers don't want them.

So as far as my customers are concerned, Organic > not organic as long as I have quality playing surfaces and I think I can do that.

I have the tools to better assess plant health. Now that I measure the clipping yield on individual greens, I can see if certain greens are growing as expected. This "extra set of eyes" will help me even though I can't see the actual colour of the grass due to the horrid pigment colour that Civitas has. Seriously, it's a gross shade of green and I'm not a fan.

I also think that I can better manage the issues I had with traffic combined with Civitas during the winter. I have 2 possible solutions that will help reduce the potential for winter damage.

Apply it either on a GDD calendar or based off of clipping yield.

In the summer we average about 200GDD per week. The label suggests an application interval of about 14-30 days therefore if I use 400GDD as the target application interval that will give me about 14 days between applications in the summer months. In the winter that leaves me with an application interval of 3-10 weeks which is more reasonable for times of little to no growth. Overall this would require about 10 applications per year. I found success at the 0.250ml/100m^2 every 14 day application interval last time so this would require about 2.5L of product per 100m^2 per year which is well under the 7L maximum stated on the label.

The oil-o-meter on my HUD based off clipping yield

If I applied it based on clipping yield I could also increase intervals through the winter. If I applied it after every 250ml/m^2 of grass harvested that would also leave me requiring about 10 applications per year.

I think the GDD method is more useful during the summer but basing applications on clippings in the winter might be safer because even with low daily GDD in the winter, there is virtually no growth and I wouldn't want to start applying oil on top of oil. Either way, I will be comparing the two application strategies this winter to see what works best in practice.

I'm not really one to put so much faith in one product or one specific disease management strategie. It takes a broad spectrum of strategies to be successful so who knows, maybe I'll only use this product during specific stress periods.

I'm cautiously optimistic that maybe now this will all work. I barely need help compared to back in 2012. All I need is a little nudge to get me through a few tough times each year.

Fingers crossed.