Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Rolling and Poa annua Seed Head?

OK. I know what you're thinking. Enough with the rolling already. This guy is nuts. You might be right but.....

I think I am seeing a difference in the amount of seed head relative to rolling frequency. Here's a few pictures so you can decide for yourself.

The plots that are rolled 2x daily have in my view significantly less seed head than the control. Plots rolled more than 2x daily have practically zero seed head present. Keep in mind the quality of the turf here is so low as the putting green only receives 2 hrs of sunlight/day when it's not raining. I am trying to grow moss here after all!

Poa annua NOT rolled
Poa annua rolled 2x daily 
Poa annua rolled 4x daily

Poa annua/dirt rolled 8x daily
This spring my greens have never been so good during the Poa annua seed head cycle. I knew a big part of it had to do with the rolling but I just thought that it was the physical act of smoothing the surfaces that was making them roll so much truer and faster. Last week a visiting superintendent was shocked to see so little seed head on my greens. Typically our two courses had the same amount of seed head but not this year. He doesn't roll. Apparently it turns out that rolling could actually reduce the number of seed heads on Poa annua!

This could also be a contributing factor in why I'm seeing less disease pressure on plots that are rolled. Less seed head = less plant stress = greater resistance to disease? Another long-shot but what the hell.

Too bad I have to wait till next spring to test this theory out. I'm going to need a special use permit for some Proxy or Embark to compare. hmmmmmm

UPDATE: More close-up pictures

Poa annua not rolled

Poa annua rolled 2x daily

Poa annua rolled 1x daily

Results after a rough count.

Fusarium, Rolling Results

The results are in for my accidental discovery last week. I collected the data and Larry from PACE Turf analyzed it for me.
Golf Tees show the Fusarium Patches on the Control Plot
(never rolled ever)
Now it would be easy to jump to conclusion that rolling more is better but hold on just a second. This study is far from scientific and was designed for a completely different purpose. Any superintendent will tell you that no two sites are the same and what I am seeing might not be repeatable on other sites....maybe. This study was not set up to study turfgrass disease and therefore some of the results could be augmented due to disease spread from mowers. Further study is definitely needed to really get to the bottom of this discovery.

 I hypothesize that the reason rolling is having an effect on fusarium is the same reason that rolling has an effect on Dollar Spot. Researches are working to see if it is the increased microbial populations in soils that are rolled that are having an effect on the fusarium patch fungus. I also agree with Dr. Vargas and Paul Giordano's research with respect to dew removal. In my experience we rarely have dew on this turf during periods of high fusarium pressure due to constant rain.

This plot is rolled 1x/day. The cluster of disease suggests
that the disease could be spread by a mower from a nearby
control plot located to the top right of this plot.
Making this discovery has left me with a ton of questions. Can this be used to control fusarium in the winter? Does soil fertility have an effect? Do different rolling frequencies have different effects at different times of the year? Can rolling be used curatively to combat already active fusarium (a long-shot but what the hell)?

This is a pretty cool discovery but I do not recommend that everyone go out and start rolling like that fool in Pender Harbour. What I do recommend is that you set aside a small part of your nursery or practice green and do a test for yourself. Leave a spot untreated with pesticides and try a few different rolling frequencies to see if it has an effect on your site. I would recommend you start with rolling frequencies of 1, 2, and 3 times daily.

This plot is rolled 4x daily
I have rolled daily since 2010 on my Poa annua greens with no ill effects. I have now upped the rolling to 2x daily to see what will happen. I haven't seen any ill effects from rolling as much as 4x daily on my trial green so I am very confident that it will not harm my putting greens. For me, rolling an extra time each day costs the club $20. It potentially will reduce the amount of pesticides we need to use and the greens are that much nicer! Win win? We'll see.

What really excites me about this discovery is the potential it holds. Fusarium is my biggest threat and the only pest that I cannot control at my location without pesticides. The only respite West Coast turf managers get from this pest is the summer heat and dry weather. I am seeing these results in spring during cool wet conditions on a putting green grown in almost complete shade (2 hours of sun per day tops). If fusarium patch can be controlled in cool wet conditions culturally this could be big. Cultural control independent of the weather. If anything this could mean that turf managers could have another tool in their toolbox for fighting or preventing Microdochium nivale in putting green turf.

Tru-Turf should really sponsor me. This machine kicks ass!
Poa annua rolled 8x daily with a HOC of 0.090" during full seed head flush with only 2 hrs of sunlight/day. Whoa!
do you see what I see? Where's the seedhead? Oh snap!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Rolling, Moss, and Fusarium?

This morning while checking on my moss study plots I was treated to a pleasant surprise. The study putting green was caked in fusarium patch just the same as the rest of my putting surfaces. I always gravitate towards the plot that is rolled 8x a day just to see how it is managing. The turf was slightly thinning but there was absolutely no fusarium present! At first I was a bit surprised but then again it's no big deal to not see any disease on a small 4'x4' section of the putting green turf even with severe disease pressure.

I kept on looking at all the plots to rate them on fusarium severity. I made a hasty observation that plots that were rolled at least 4x/day had no disease where plots with 2-3x/day had some disease and the control plots were severely infected.

Wow! We know rolling has an effect on Dollar Spot but Fusarium? Really? These observations are very early and clearly demand further investigation. This moss study is a long term pet project of mine so it should be very interesting to see what other effects rolling frequency has on turf and the other organisms that interact with it.

Here are a few pics I snapped with my phone camera this morning.
Control Plot (never rolled) with new outbreak of fusarium patch. The dew definitely helps the Fusarium. Also you
gotta love that divot on the top left. NOT

Plot that is rolled 8x/day with no sign of fusarium yet. A little thin but give me a break, it's poa cut at 0.090" grown
in full shade!
We roll our greens every day with the best roller on the market!
Now I know what you're thinking. Who in their right mind is going to roll 8x/day? Not me for one. I don't even think 4x/day is realistic. What this observation could one find if scientifically proven is that rolling could have a detrimental affect on Microdochium nivale. It could also be used as a tool to get turf managers through rough patches where fungicide applications aren't possible such as during heavy rains, winds, resistance, temporary periods of high disease severity (like this past week on the West Coast) and also for those organic maniacs out there who might want to consider dropping their HOC down stupidly low. During this past winter I would only roll on days with heavy dew (not raining) where there was no frost present (practically never). If this theory was proven correct I would probably roll on the rainy days as well to maybe help reduce the severity of the only fungal disease that really causes us concern out West in the winter months. I could also use it for short periods of time when environmental conditions favor the disease for a short period of time such as this past week. For the last month we have had amazing weather. Hot, dry and not very good for fusarium. This last week the temps dropped into the 8-13C range (perfect fusarium territory) and poof! Out comes the disease!

This is a very early observation but I was just so excited that I had to share! This also shows another benefit of my anti-preventative fungicide application beliefs. I saw the disease coming late last week. I chose not to apply a preventative fungicide and was rewarded handsomely. If I had applied a preventative I would have completely missed this observations :)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Turfgrass Growth Rates This Spring

Most of you now know that I have been monitoring my growth rates on the course for the past 6 months now. This has been a really enlightening experience and has really opened my eyes to what is really going on with my putting greens. It helps me plan for fertility, keep the greens consistent and also see when the turf is stressed.

The following chart illustrates the growth rate on my putting greens and the effects of plant growth regulators. Prior to the spring growth surge my growth rate was at about 0.4 (This number really doesn't mean anything to anyone but myself. It is based on the clippings we collect on our greens mower each time we cut. It gives us a constant to compare data). In late April the growth rate surged to 2.5 or almost 6x the growth I was seeing in the early spring. After my first application of Primo Maxx at the label rate of 2ml/100m2 the growth rates dropped down to about 1 (our ideal clipping yield based on observed stress and consistency). This growth rate was sustained for about a week when we made our second Primo Maxx application again at the label rate. This application was based on the Growing Degree Day model that can be seen here. After this second application the growth rate continued to drop back down to the levels that we saw in early spring or 6 times less that the late April Growth rates! We wend from cutting every other day back to every 4 days! This is a huge time saver especially when you have a crew of 3!

Now the manufacturers of Primo Maxx and research only claim a 50% reduction in vertical growth. The reason I think that we are seeing the further reduction is the fact that the Poa annua is going to seed. We actually observed the first seed head 2 weeks earlier than normal this year on the 5th of May. When the Poa goes to seed it uses all its energy to produce the seed heads. I think that it is this stress that is causing the growth rate to drop so far down. We also can't forget that the past 3 weeks have been remarkably dry and hot (for West Coast standards) so this could also be a contributing cause of the reduced growth rates.

What I really like about this scenario is that the slowed growth rates we are seeing allow us to keep the greens extremely consistent day to day as well and very fast despite the effects of the seed head on ball roll.  In previous years we normally made our first Primo Maxx application mid-May so we were usually a bit late to really get control of the growth on the putting greens.

Another thing monitoring growth rates shows me is the effects of fertilizer applications. When I saw the first seed heads I upped the N rates by 50% to help replenish the carbohydrate reserves in the stressed Poa. Despite the large increase in fertility the growth rate continued to drop. It is my hope that the plants are using this energy to push through the seed head cycle and remain healthy and strong going into June instead of growing vertically like usual (but who really knows?).

Time will tell if this low growth rate is here to stay or not. I think that by mid June the rates will jump back up into the 1 range when the seed heads finally leave.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

For every 100 trees I cut down, I will plant 1

Most people that know me probably think that I hate trees. I do hate trees when they are shading the turfgrass but trees do have their place on a golf course. Today we planted a white oak tree on the right side of hole 9.
Richy Smith and Simone admiring the new tree

The infamous blind tee shot on hole nine requires a periscope to see if the fairway ahead is clear. The large gap in the forest lures people to aim right down the middle. Unfortunately any shots right of centre will find the hidden pond. I have nothing against blind tee shots (that's just good fun) but hiding penal water on the other side of the hill is just cruel.
Overhead view showing location of tree and teeboxes on hole 9
 To show golfers where the water is and where not to aim we planted the tree right in front of the pond. In a few years when the tree matures it will make it obvious to the golfers that they should not aim in that direction. It should not have any affect on the way the hole plays other than a visual "don't aim here" clue for the golfers.

How the tree will eventually look from the white, blue, and gold tees

We might have to relocate the stop/go sign but that won't happen for a few years. If in the end we don't like the tree I will do what I do best and turn it into chips.