Friday, 19 August 2011

Week 1 results of the "Cut less, Roll More, Save Money" program

So a week has now passed and the results are in for my alternate cutting and daily rolling study!

As can be seen from the above chart Cutting and rolling produced the fastest green speed at about 9.5'-10'. Only rolling produced speeds of about 9.5' and cutting only produced speeds of about 8'-9'.

The actual speeds that were achieved this last week are less important than the difference in speed that resulted from the different cultural practices that were done to the greens. Cutting and rolling produced the fastest greens and only cutting produced the slowest. Rolling only produced green speeds that weren't significantly different than either Cutting and Rolling or Cutting only.

So from this short, unscientific, probably flawed study I can conclude that if you have an option, Roll every day, Cut every other day. Time will tell me how true this last statement is.

For this experiment my Toro 3100 with single point adjustment heads, 11 blade reels was set at 0.110"  I rolled using a Greensiron 3000 with a mechanical drive.  I have predominately Poa annua greens with about 10% Creeping Bent.

Aside from the performance benefits of cutting cutting every other day and rolling daily you will also save wear and tear on your greens mower and you turf will be less stressed.  Cutting half as much will theoretically save you half on greens mower maintenance.  Mowing is arguably the most stressful cultural practice that we routinely use on our putting greens.  Less cutting will result in healthier turf that will require less fertility, pesticides and water.  Some might say that daily rolling will stress out the turf but if you utilize a lightweight roller the ground compaction to the soil would be about as much as a golfer makes.

Don't take my word for it though, go and try it out and let me know how it went.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

IPM in Action Against Dollar Spot

Dollar Spot Fungus on #9 Fairway

During some recent disease monitoring we have noticed that conditions are prime for the dollar spot fungus. Dollar spot is a fungus that attacks the leaves of turfgrass during periods of prolonged dew, warm temperatures, nitrogen deficiencies and drought stress. As this is August and the nights are a bit longer now we are seeing a longer period of dew than we would normally see during the months of July.

Hole 9 in particular had the worst outbreak of the disease as can been seen in the above photo.

#8 Fairways has almost no disease
Hole 8 on the other hand has almost no sign of the disease.  Both of these fairways have the same fertility, soil type (rock), cultural practices, and moisture levels.

At Pender Harbour we don't apply any pesticides to our fairways.  At first this was due to the prohibitive cost of the chemicals but it has evolved to the point where we really don't need them.  Most disease activity during the summer months really only causes aesthetic damage and has very little effect on the actual playability of the course.  We maintain our fairways at 0.5" and grass cut at this height is often very capable of outgrowing disease damage in our climate.  I must stress that our climate is quite moderate in both the summer and winter.  We rarely see snow, temps below -5 celcius or above 25 celcius.  Course with climates with more extreme conditions would have a much harder time growing turf at less than 0.5" without the help from at least a little pesticide.

Back to the disease.  The only real difference between the two fairways is the time at which they are irrigated at night.  Hole 9 is watered last at about 6am.  Hole 8 is watered between midnight and 4 am.  These days we are seeing dew fall at about 9pm and last to about 10am in the morning.  Irrigation water knocks the dew off of the grass leaves and into the soil and reduces the amount of stagnant moisture on the leaf blades.  By irrigating hole 8 in the mid- night we are able to see a drastic reduction in the dollar spot fungus.  This is even more evident on our fairways due to the fact that there is zero effect on the disease from pesticides.

So now we know what time of night we should irrigate our fairways to reduce disease.  But we can't water all of our fairways between these hours.  With our system's capacity we are only able to water 2 fairways during this time.  All other fairways are going to see a higher disease pressure.

But in the grand scheme of things we really don't care if our fairways get disease anyway.  As I stated earlier, the disease on our fairways this time of year is purely aesthetic.

We do care about our greens though.  Any amount of disease on our putting greens greatly reduces the quality play and the turf surface.  Dollar spot can quickly cause a great deal of damage on our putting greens and we often are forced to apply a fungicide when an outbreak occurs.

Fungicides are expensive and time consuming to apply.  Talk to any Superintendent and they will tell you that they would do anything to reduce the amount that they spray.

So using the information that my chemical free fairways have shown me I am able to greatly reduce the disease pressure on my putting greens simply by irrigating between the hours of midnight and 4 am.  Simple and free.  Normally we water the greens right before we cut them in the morning.  This is done to reduce the leaf wetness during the spring and fall months and helps fight the disease called Fusarium.  Fusarium is a bitch.  Fusarium also isn't really a problem this time of year so we can water our greens any time we want.
The single Dollar spot sign on our putting greens
Superintendents who regularly spray their fairways won't be able to see as clearly the effects of watering time on the disease pressure as those who don't use chemicals.  The chemicals often fight the disease entirely on fairways.  I stress again that in some cases chemicals are required on fairways for disease pressures that I do not see on the West Coast and in no way am I pointing fingers at anyone here.  Do what you have to do.  I, fortunately, don't have to do squat to my fairways.

There are other methods using dew points and temperatures that can be used to determine what time of the night you should water but I find that using my chemical-free fairways as an indicator works best for me.
smooooth putting greens are nice
So far my change in irrigation scheduling has seemed to be working.  I have gone 6 weeks in severe dollar spot pressure without applying any chemicals to my putting greens.  And for you nay-sayers out there, my greens aren't those kind of greens that you see at "organic" courses that roll at 6 on the STIMP and are full of divots and weeds. They regularly roll over 10' and are as true as time!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Greenspeed, Rolling and Height of Cut....the Relationship.

It is easy to get used to a particular way of doing things.  For years we at our course have cut the greens daily during the growing season.  This was just the way we did things.  We felt that this was the best way to provide smooth consistent playing conditions on our putting greens.  For the most part this statement was true.  Two years ago we purchased a roller for our greens.  Most of the literature I had read warned that rolling the greens too frequently lead to compaction and wear damage on the green collars.  It suggested that greens be rolled a maximum of 4 times a week.  Other articles suggested that adequate green speeds could be achieved if you cut at a higher than normal height and rolled more often.  So this is what we did........because that was just the way it was done.....

We had our greens mower set at a bench height of 0.125" and we rolled 4 times a week.  Green speeds averaged 7-8' on the STIMP meter.  This sucked!

So I tried rolling more.  We rolled 6-7 times a week and then saw speed rise to maybe 9' max.  Ok but not quite there.  I also didn't see any of this compaction or wear damage that everyone warned about.  NONE! But no matter how often I rolled I just couldn't get the speed up past 9'.

So last week I come across an article by Greg Evans called "Wuthering Heights" .
He made a very convincing argument why green heights could safely go lower.  My greens were in great shape and I was bored so I though, "why not??"

So I dropped my bench height down to 0.110".  I didn't want to go crazy just yet.  So I went out and cut my greens then got out the good old STIMP meter.  They clocked in at just shy of 8.5'. whoopeee.  So I thought maybe I'll try giving them a roll.  Rolled and STIMPed again.  BOOM!!  10'!!

So even though the height of cut was lower, the green speed weren't significantly different than the previous HOC. But the lower HOC combined with rolling gave me the speeds I wanted.

So then I tried only rolling.  Speeds were at 9.5' on the STIMP meter.  This wasn't significantly different from the cut and roll that I did the day earlier.  According the the USGA, the average golfer can't tell the difference of a foot on the STIMP meter.

So now I'm thinking "why am I cutting seven days a week?"  If I can cut four times a week and still achieve the same consistency and speed why not?

This lead me to think that the HOC on the greens only offers the potential of a high STIMP reading.  Rolling brings out the potential.

So this week I am only going to cut my greens 4 times.  I will roll every day.  Each day I will take a reading before and after I roll and compare the two.  So far, after rolling I am seeing a jump of approx 1.5' on the STIMP meter.

Cutting the greens causes stress.  It probably causes more stress than rolling.  I don't know this for sure because I'm not a scientist.  But if I'm right, my greens will be faster and healthier if I only cut 4 times a week and roll 7!

Furthermore, the cost of purchase and maintenance is much higher for a greens mower than a roller so rolling more and cutting less should save money in maintenance.

Have some fun and reverse the frequency that you cut and roll and give it a try.  What have you got to lose??

So here is my graph in progress comparing the green speed to the different rolling and mowing practices this week.  This is an interactive graph and will be updated in real-time as I collect the data so check back daily.