|Slight moisture stress on the aprons means it's time to start hand watering for the season.|
There is no question that wetting agents work, we have all seen the studies that show plots where wetting agents have been applied vs plots where they have not been applied. The differences are shocking. Back when I first started in the industry in 2001 we didn't use wetting agents on our greens. We would have to spend a ton of time with hoses hand watering. We would wait until we saw stressed out grass and would apply water to the brown spots. Along came wetting agents and all of a sudden we had a lot less LDS areas on our greens. Wetting agents were a game changer back in the early 2000's for our course. The thing about these studies is that they aren't real life. They aren't rolling, spiking, hand watering or doing anything else. They simply are one step better than doing absolutely nothing.
Yeah, so what has changed? Why the hell would you decide to not use wetting agents on greens?
Soil moisture meters for one. Just like wetting agents were a game changer back then, soil moisture meters were an even bigger game changer. All of a sudden we could manage our soil moisture levels with precision. We didn't have to guess. We could see moisture issues arise before we could visually see the issues. We could be proactive instead of reactive to moisture stress issues. All of a sudden we need less of a buffer effect that wetting agents provide.
Wetting agents to a point allow you to be less precise with irrigation practices. This is why I still plan on using them on tees and fairways. I don't have the time or capability to test soil moisture on tees and fairways and wetting agents allow me to achieve a better level of uniformity on these surfaces that I would not otherwise be able to achieve. But on greens, I test the moisture levels daily in 10-20 spots per green, hand water dry areas, and rarely see turf turn brown unless I intentionally dry things down.
We regularly needle tine our greens. This is a new practice for us in the past 4 or 5 years and it has really made a huge difference. By using non-disruptive aeration practices we are able to increase surface infiltration rates and the amount of air in the soil while also decreasing compaction. No wetting agent is going to do what needle tine aeration can do for your greens.
We roll like crazy. Lightweight rolling has been found to increase the amount of moisture in the soils. We only roll our greens but have noticed that on areas that we roll, we require less water. Chris Tritabaugh shared this pic with me during the Masters tourney. Guess where the roller enters the green in the following pic?
I'm also not worried about disease on tees or fairways to the extent that I am on greens. The only part of the course that we require pesticides are the greens, so moisture management is key in these areas. So you're thinking, why wouldn't you use wetting agents on greens then if you are so worried about soil moisture on them? In my experience wetting agents don't prevent over-watering which is the problem with fungal diseases. I'm a lot less concerned with under-watering on my greens. I often wonder if wetting agents promote over-watering to some extent. On my tees I can apply more water than I would on my greens because I'm not worried about firmness, ball roll, or disease. Wetting agents allow me to use less water on my tees than I would use without them, but still more than I would use if I was hand watering, rolling, and needle tine aerating my tees regularly.@PenderSuper right behind where Brenden Grace is walking. Can see it here. I thought of you when I saw it. pic.twitter.com/7uicjhub3W— Chris Tritabaugh (@ct_turf) April 10, 2016
I also found that with the expensive revolutionary wetting agents (not naming any names ;) ) that it was often too difficult to dry down my greens. They were always wet. This created issues with disease such as cyanobacteria (algae), moss, and brown patch in the summer.
|Cyanobacteria in 2014. We had none in 2015.|