Monday, 28 March 2016

5 things that I don't do anymore...... and why

I'm getting to the point where I've been around long enough that I have seen a lot of different practices come and go at my golf club. In the 10 years I have been a superintendent here at Pender Harbour we have made a lot of changes for the better. We all know that each course is unique and no one solution fits all situations. Here I will share some of those things that I used to do but no longer do and why. Maybe I will inspire you to ask yourself if these practices are right for your course.

1. Verticutting

I used to verticut regularly. Twice a year I would go deep and aggressive and once a month I would go nice and light. I haven't used my verticutters for a few years and here's why;

When I evaluate a practice I like to ask myself what is it accomplishing and can I accomplish the same thing for less money or in a way that will help me achieve my goals of reducing pesticides and disease pressure.

The purpose of verticutting is to remove surface organic matter. Verticutters can remove a lot more organic matter than traditional aeration practices except they cannot go very deep. This is OK because most of the organic matter in a green is right near the surface.

Verticutting Pros:

  • Removes a large amount of surface organic matter
  • Less disruption than core aeration
  • Can be used to true-up putting surfaces when setup similar to turf groomers.
Verticutting Cons:
  • Only remove surface organic matter and still require regular core aeration to remove organic matter deeper down in the root zone.
  • Often require supplemental nitrogen applications to speed recovery. This kind of negates the benefits of the organic matter removal doesn't it? Remove it, then grow it back in quickly? A short term solution in my opinion.
  • Verticutters are incredibly hard on the grass. They injure the plant and can spread disease. Don't believe me? Check out the following picture following verticutting a few years back.

Disease spread from verticutters is a sure way to turn 1 spot of disease into 1000.
So I ask myself; Can I accomplish the goals of verticutting without the negative impacts this cultural practice has? The answer is yes.

When it comes to organic matter we can either remove it mechanically, or limit its production and dilute it with regular light sand topdressings.

Dilution is the solution to pollution where OM is the pollutant on turfgrass surfaces. This winter I've been able to apply an entire core aeration's worth of sand without any disruption. 30% more sand this year! Sand is cheap
I have also noticed that by using the growth potential formula to better time my fertilizer applications I have been able to match growth rates to the natural cycles of my grass. I think the advantages to this might be that organic matter production more closely matches organic matter decomposition. I used to apply lots of nitrogen in the spring and fall when soil temps were low and organic matter would simply accumulate. Of course this is all from my simple observations and I have no scientific proof that this is actually happening. What I can say is that I don't miss verticutting at all and my greens have never been firmer or drained better.

Verticutting can also be used to true up the putting surface and even speed them up. I have found that I can roll once or twice daily to accomplish this goal without the detrimental plant health impacts of verticutting. Rolling also helps reduce disease such as dollar spot where verticutting only spreads them around making them worse. When I think of my disease management success over the years, I can confidently say that it is due in part to my not verticutting my greens anymore.

2. Daily Mowing on Greens

Before I got my lightweight roller I had to mow daily. Daily mowing was the easiest and best way to provide consistent greens conditions day to day.

Then I got a lightweight roller and things changed. I heard how guys down in California were rolling daily and cutting every other day. I decided to check it out and even did a few tests to see for myself. Since then I have been hooked on daily rolling and now only mow as required based on clipping yield.
Possibly the single most important tool in my putting green management successes
In 2013 I got a whole new fleet of equipment. As I was hardly using my greens mower anymore I was able to get 2 sets of cutting units for my only triplex mower. I was now able to save a huge amount of money that would otherwise be needed for more mowers on my course. Also, how many low budget 9 hole courses cut their tees with a triflex?

1 Mower + 2 sets of reels = big savings
The reduced mowing has also helped me reduce disease on greens and my entire course in the winter time. When combined with primo maxx applications I have gone 107 days without mowing on my greens and had the easiest time in my career managing fusarium on my course. You might even be convinced I applied a fungicide on my fairways and tees but nope, I didn't. They are miraculously disease free! Maybe it's just dumb luck but for someone who tries as hard as me it's an odd coincidence that's for sure!

3. Working crazy hours and burning myself out

Last year I read this excellent article on Turfnet. It makes a case for how workaholic superintendents are job-vulnerable. It made a lot of sense to me and changed my attitude towards my job. It helped me reorganize my life and work priorities and the result has been that I am now better at both.

I also put together a really good job board which has helped me be more productive with my time and my staff's time. If you think electronic job boards are only for the high budget courses think again. The return on investments for my $500 job board was a few weeks at most. Low budget courses cannot afford to have unproductive staff. Organizing and prioritizing all the jobs for your staff up to two weeks ahead of time will get the most out of your limited workforce.

4. Syringing Greens


The first few years I was a superintendent I syringed greens during the mid day in an attempt to cool them down. My "weak" poa annua couldn't handle the "extreme" summer temperatures. This all changed when I got a infrared thermometer. This device allowed me to easily monitor surface temperatures. I would see a slight decrease in temps following a syringe but the temp would quickly return to normal within a few minutes following the light water application.

If this practice was to make any impact on the plant surface temperature I would have to water almost every few minutes! Obviously this isn't something that is feasible on a golf course. Furthermore have you every applied too much water to a green during extreme heat? Well I have! Although it wasn't me to applied the water that killed the green below I was the superintendent at the time so obviously some of the blame falls on me even though I was away.
Don't water poa greens for 4 hours mid day when temps are over 30c ;)
Yeah, sure, that water application was hardly a syringe but I have still noticed damage caused by adding water to greens during periods of extreme heat even if it's only on the leaf surface and not watering the soil.

Long before I was a blogger and had a camera to take pics I noticed that the last greens that we would water, and greens that were syringed had brown patch in the summer. The surface moisture and daytime heat provided the perfect conditions for fungal pathogens to go crazy. Since then I try not to apply any water to my greens after 10 am. If they aren't watered by then, I wait until the following night. I wrote about this on an earlier post about how I changed the timing of my greens irrigation with great success. I have yet to see poa annua die from having too little water in one day. It takes days and days for poa to die from lack of water. If it is hot enough to kill poa and it hasn't been adequately watered in a few days you have bigger issues.

Last summer was the hardest summer probably ever to grow poa on the west coast. We had no rain and temperatures regularly in the mid 30's. The highest temp we saw on my course was 37C and guess what? We didn't lose a single blade of grass on the greens and we didn't syringe or add any water for cooling.

If you are serious about reducing pesticides on your greens in the summer, stop creating the perfect conditions for fungi when it's not needed. Wet and warm is not a good combo.

5. Pigments

I used to use pigments and now I don't. The benefits of pigments are many but for me those benefits just aren't worth it. If I can accomplish my goals without pigments why add them to my "program" when they consequently take away one of my most powerful turfgrass management tools?

I consider my eyes to be my most powerful turf management tool. Combine the experience I've gathered over the past 15 years with the ability to look at the grass and make an assessment of how it is doing and you can consistently make the right decision for what to do next. If you take away your ability to observe what the plant actually looks like you take away your ability to make sound management decisions. With the pigment cover up you can get caught with your pants down when it is now too late to take preventative action. This can lead to the need for additional pesticide applications or less than ideal turfgrass conditions.

I've had a few scares with pigments over the years so now no longer use them and I haven't missed them for 1 second. Yes, they do have some benefits, but no, I don't think I'm narrow minded to find that they are an unnecessary and potentially dangerous product to use.

I also don't use dyes when I spray fertilizer anymore either. With high volume air induction nozzles you can get good coverage without the fear of plugged nozzles. I don't have filters of any kind in my sprayer and never have plugged nozzles anymore. I use my sprayer 2 times a week on average.

Artificial green colour. No thanks
Never mind that they look artificial and horrible and I feel they take away from the "natural" beauty of the golf course. YUCK

So there you go, I've stopped doing a lot of things on my course, have saved some money, reduced inputs, and likely saved my sanity. One day I'll do another one of these as there are a lot more things that I no longer do on my course. It has gone so far that you might consider me a "do nothing" superintendent and you wouldn't be too far off. Remember that old saying "less is more," I have found that it is definitely true although with the myriad of band aide products easily available, it is easy to get caught up in the vicious circle of chasing our tails in a never ending struggle to find that balance.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Effective Cultural Control of Poa Annua Seedheads

The greens have a white tinge each spring due to the poa annua seed head.
No, I'm not talking about tearing your greens apart with verticutters to try and reduce the puffiness.  Arguably one of the biggest issues with poa annua is that it will produce seed heads even when maintained as greens height turf. This seed leads to puffy turf conditions which leads to bumpy and slow putting conditions. In Canada, there is no chemical control for seed head on poa annua so we are forced to live with this issue.

Back before I had a roller we would have a very difficult time with seed heads. The greens would be so puffy that it would stall our mowers when we tried to mow them. We would often go out with the verticutters to try and remove some of the seed head material in an attempt to reduce the puffiness of the greens. This often was a failed effort and usually only helped spread fusarium around the already stressed turf. I haven't used my verticutters in years for any reason. I also don't do anything different with regards to fertilizer either as I shared in a post from 2013.

Back in 2010 I started rolling my greens. Since then my issues with the poa annua seed head have steadily decreased to the point where now it's a non issue. I always knew it was due to rolling but what about the rolling was reducing the puffiness of the poa? At first I thought it was simply the smoothing effect of the rolling but this doesn't explain the decrease in puffiness of the poa. I also thought that maybe there was maybe a physiological impact. I first wrote about this in 2012.

Take a look at the top of the rolling head of my roller last May.
Wow, lots of poa seed. That's interesting.
Last May while rolling I made the observation that there was a lot of seed sticking to my roller. I had noticed this in the past but had never thought much of it.

The roller is solid poa seed
It's no secret that I roll a lot. Two and sometimes 3 times a day is not uncommon, especially during the seed head flush in the spring. It appears to me that the act of rolling is actually physically removing the seed from the plant. It's not just squishing the plant down as I had thought in the past.

wow, that's a lot of seed.
So it appears to me that by rolling we can remove the seed from the plant which will reduce the puffiness and most of the negative effects of the poa annua seed head. I also have a feeling that rolling more will actually reduce the seed head more. You will still get the white colour of the seed head but with the bulk of the seed head removed (the seed) you don't get the puffiness.

It is often stated that collecting poa seed is difficult. Well I think I have a solution, anyone want some of supergrass?

I don't think that this impact will be observed on all rollers, however. I have noticed that on larger diameter rollers the seed doesn't seem to stick as well. On my True Turf roller I have 3 rollers on each steering head and each roller is always completely full of seeds after each green. With a larger roller with fewer rolling heads you would probably remove less seed head. The drive roller does not collect seeds on my roller.

There is a lot of discussion among those with access to chemicals which can suppress poa annua seed heads about efficacy and timing. Even if I had access to these products I don't think that I would use them. I would simply roll 1 or 2x each day during the times when the seed head was present and would stop worrying about timing an often ineffective chemical application. I often wonder if some people who have recently started rolling more have been blaming their successes in poa seed head control in a PGR when it might actually be from rolling. Another reason to leave check plots out there.

Lots of seed off a roller after only a single roll on 1 green. Multiply this by 3 rollers and you remove a lot of seed each day! If I had to guess I would say probably 1 pound of seed per green each day for a month. 

A few years ago I did a count of how many seed heads were present on a square inch of turf on my rolling moss study. Here were the results.

As you can see rolling your greens 1x per day could reduce the amount of seedhead by 4-5x! Rolling twice a day could reduce the seedhead by up to 20x!

Since I have started rolling and especially since I have started rolling more than one time each day, I have not had a single issue with poa annua seed head on my greens. They are always smooth and firm and I never get comments about the greens other than the colour from golfers.
The greens are white, but are firm and putt true and fast.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Why Does Phosphite Matter?

Last year I wrote a Debbie Downer article about phosphite and how it isn't as environmentally friendly as you might think. Just because it is marketed as a fertilizer doesn't mean that it doesn't have an environmental impact. We all know the impacts fertilizer can have on the environment.
Disease is no big deal these days (knock on wood)
I use the total cost of pest control and the EIQ to quantify my pesticide use. Even though the EIQ is flawed, it's the most user friendly and useful way to measure the environmental impact of a product applied to a golf course.

With my data collection I have found that by incorporating phosphite into my disease management strategy I have been able to keep costs and the EIQ relatively unchanged. That means that the phosphite makes up for its cost and EIQ in reductions in cost and EIQ of traditional pesticides. So in the end there really is no difference, on paper anyway.

Since I incorporated phosphite into my disease management program I have cut the environmental impact of my traditional pesticide use by 40%! Now if I wanted to blow smoke up the environmentalists's asses I could rightfully tell them this. That would be a big deal. But the realist in me knows that just because Monsanto doesn't make it, doesn't make it good. I always get a kick out of some people's "natural" or "organic" home weed control ideas. My conscience won't let me claim victory on this one, sorry.

Total EIQ1286.38648.65792.941130.25885.41997579956.7716667
Phosphite EIQ440.00440.00400.00228.00
Phosphite percent of total0.390.500.400.390.43
Traditional Pesticide EIQ reduction690.25445.41597.00351.00577.55

The most meaningful pest control numbers are overall cost or EIQ reductions. Last year I managed to reduce both of these by 30% but that doesn't mean I can do it again. I guess if I can consistently meet that 30% reduction it will be cause to celebrate but until then we can assume it was simply a fluke.
The result of dumb luck or good management decisions? I don't know.

It's a positive trend but is it sustainable?

So why era phosphite and other ISR products important? I think there are a few reasons why we should look seriously at these products and find ways to incorporate them into our programs in no particular order:

  1. Public Perception. This is a huge deal even though most of their perception is based on
    This scares the shit out of most people even though they
    don't know what's being applied.
    One pass fairway app anyone?
    misinformation. For the most part the public doesn't care if phosphite has an environmental impact. They care that I'm using less devil baby killing traditional pesticides. Think what you will but from what I've experienced, what the majority of people perceive to be true pretty much makes it true. The real question is; is it ethical to say you are using less pesticides even though you really aren't?
  2. Pesticide Bans and Restrictions: These products work. They will definitely help you reduce the use of traditional pesticides which are the products that are impacted by pesticide bans and restrictions. Because for some reason phosphite is considered a fertilizer, we can bypass these restrictions. If I was managing turf in Ontario, for example, the use of phosphite would significantly reduce the amount of work I needed to do on my annual pesticide use audit. If in the future we are met with more pesticide restrictions, products like phosphite will help us manage our grass to acceptable levels without our old faithful pesticides.
  3. Easier pest management. I used to get huge disease outbreaks overnight and now I no longer do. Disease comes on slow and I have a lot of time to make adjustments to my cultural practices and can, in most cases, prevent the disease from progressing to a point where it causes damage. Case in point my success with managing Anthracnose and Dollar Spot last year. Yes they were present, but not in levels that required a pesticide. This might be one of the most understated advantages of using an ISR product. Last year this slow disease progression played a huge part in my 30% reduction in overall pest control costs and EIQ. This benefit will not be realized if you use preventative pesticide applications though.
  4. Easier to apply than other ISR products. In my experience phosphite usually comes as a clear liquid. It mixes well with every product I have ever used as well. I think the biggest advantage though is that it can be safely applied in any conditions. Winter, Summer, Hot, Cold it doesn't matter. The only thing I like is to have it sit on the plant for a few hours before rain. Other than that there is really no fear of adverse effects such as there would be with mineral oil applications.
One thing that leaves me wondering is the disease management success I've had on the rest of my golf course that doesn't receive phosphite. I only use phosphite on my greens but my tees and fairways have never had so little disease in the winter. I guess it's true when they say you can't pin your success to any single thing. It's the complete package that makes the difference. Greens are also a totally different beast when it comes to managing disease that the other surfaces on a golf course. A lot of people want to blame my pest control success on things like the MLSN or growth potential and believe me, I do too, but I am just starting to see things that might suggest that this is the case. I guess we will just have to wait and see. I'm not willing to give my fertilizer practices credit yet.

I've seen good research showing the benefits of phosphite and have observed it's impact on unintentional control plots over the years (missed passes with sprayer). Observations about excess fertilizer applications are just starting to trickle in and I expect to learn a lot over the next few years as I work to reduce any nutrient excesses in my soils. So for now I blame most of my pesticide "reductions" on phosphite because it is, in my opinion, the most likely culprit.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Psychology of Going MLSN

Aside from a little N (4kg 21-0-0 on 0.4ha if you are wondering) these greens haven't seen any fertilizer in 4 months!
When something comes along like the MLSN it is natural to have doubts. When you decide to commit to something like the MLSN these doubts can get the better of you if you aren't careful. In this post I will share my experience dealing with the mental impacts of making such a drastic change to the way I fertilize grass and how you can hopefully find success in the MLSN without full on panic and terror. Don't worry, it's going to be just fine in the end.

I might have been one of the first people to fully commit to the MLSN guidelines because the minute they were released I was all in! They just made so much sense to me as they described what I was seeing in the field and not what things like the BCSR described were happening in the soil. Basically, before the MLSN I was applying fertilizer and not really seeing any impact of those applications.

I had also seen awesome grass that was grown at soil levels much lower than the MLSN guidelines. In one such instance the grass was in great shape right up until it finally started to show signs of a deficiency by not recovering at all after an aeration. After a soil test it was determined there was a deficiency of calcium so calcium was applied. A few weeks later you could hardly tell there was any issue. If the MLSN guidelines were a bad idea then I could just add more fertilizer and be confident that things would be ok. You would think that that assurance would be enough but to be honest it hasn't been easy.

It is very easy to place blame on things not working as expected on recent changes to your program but consider this; how many times have you thought you had everything figured out when all of a sudden everything goes sideways and you are back at square 1? I mean, this happens to me almost every time I think I have the upper hand. Mother Nature is an incredibly complex and ruthless bitch to say the least.

The winter of 2012-2013 was incredibly tough on me. I had just started following the guidelines and things were going great until 3 of my green completely died. I mean they weren't a little dead, they were dead dead. In a situation like this it would be very easy for me to blame this calamity on the MLSN. I had made a big change and WHAMO my greens die.
Not what you want to see after making big changes in your management program. This is following a spring aeration. Notice the wall of shade to south of green. It's gone now :)
After gathering all the facts I was able to determine that the dead greens had nothing to do with how I fertilized the grass. It was due mostly to shade, heavy frost, freeze thaw conditions, and golfers golfing on frost. It might have also had something to do with running equipment on the green when the ground was frozen but there is no way to prove this. The biggest issue was shade. The trees to the south had finally grown to a height where the winter sun was completely blocked for 4 months of the winter. This happened relatively fast. One year there was enough sun, the next there was virtually none. This is an issue where trees can grow 4-6' each season! This issues came on very quickly and completely caught me off guard. Needless to say I now monitor the sun energy reaching all my greens each winter to see where things are at to make sure that they get enough light!
This green also suffered greatly but is now one of the best greens on the course through the winter thanks to less shade.
Needless to say we identified the problem and remedied it by selectively removing some trees to allow for sufficient light to hit this green all winter long. This was done with light meters as described in this blog post. This green has now been open the entire winter without issue. No additional special fertilizer just more sun!

It was incredibly difficult for me to not go crazy and apply a ton of fertilizer to these greens during this time. Yes, I did apply more fertilizer than I would normally do because I wanted to push growth to fill in the damage. This meant that I was applying a bit more nitrogen and potassium. I still didn't apply any phosphorus or calcium.

I still struggle every winter with fertilizing my grass. In the past I would keep things growing all winter long. The grass would be nice and lush and looked great despite the fact that it was highly susceptible to fusarium patch. Now with my efforts to stop growth I am presented with a rather off colour turf for most of the winter. It still takes a great deal of effort to not go crazy and go out with some N P and K , Ca and even Mg mid winter! Needless to say I have been able to hold it all together and guess what? Things have been just fine and my grass has actually never been better.

It actually reminds me of that funny time I thought I had killed my greens the winter of 2013-2014. I described this incident in this post.  I was so convinced they were dead because of the MLSN I was in full panic mode. Thanks for the local superintendent who visited and kept me grounded and from doing something stupid. It's hard to argue with 50 plus years of experience telling you your greens are in fantastic shape even though I didn't want to believe them.

Every now and then a superintendent will contact me wondering about an issue they are having on their course and wondering if it has something to do with the MLSN. My recommendation to you is to prove that the only reasonable reason for your issue is fertilizer. I think that in almost every instance your issue can be linked to something else.

I had a discussion with Micah Woods this winter about how to know if the MLSN guidelines are wrong. He replied with the following comment;

One of the biggest things you will notice when using the MLSN guidelines is that you will probably apply a lot less P and Ca and even K although the K levels will quickly drop and be required as fertilizer in most cases. Removing P and Ca from your regular fert program can be a big deal mentally. If you use the BCSR for your fertilizer recommendations you will no doubt be applying a lot of these products. There has also been a lot of fear about fertilizer deficiencies as I described in a recent post about how the MLSN is not that complicated. It is only natural to have a lot of reservations about not applying these products because for so long we have been taught that the world will end if you don't apply Ca or maintain a ph of 7 (I've had a ph in the mid 5's for years and have only seen good things as described in this post).

I am now at the point where I wonder about what the impacts of nutrient excesses are and have been working to get my nutrient levels down to the levels of the MLSN guidelines to see what will happen if any excess is eliminated as much as possible. I'm basically doing what every fertilizer salesperson and a lot of turfgrass scientists say not to do. I'm going into my 4th year and so far the grass continues to improve so maybe there's something to this although the creators of the MLSN do not recommend using them as targets. They are simply the levels you should stay above to avoid having issues with fertilizer deficiencies on your turfgrass.

Perhaps one of the best things about the MLSN is that it has allowed me to focus my efforts where they will actually make a difference and not on theoretical fear mongering issues that don't exist. By trusting in the MLSN it has forced me to look harder at my issues and the results can speak for themselves. My trouble areas due to shade are no longer shaded, the wet areas are now dry. No longer m I throwing money away chasing imaginary cures for these relatively simple issues on my golf course. Furthermore I now am solving the underlying cause of these issues instead of treating the symptoms. This is a HUGE deal if you are trying to make your operation more sustainable. If you like throwing your money away chasing imaginary issues and treating the symptoms instead of the root causes then by all means don't use the MLSN.

As I have stated in the past, my experience with the MLSN has been universally positive. It hasn't been easy to accept the change, but this acceptance and trust in the science done by people much smarter than myself has helped me move forward with my operation and focus my resources where they are really needed.

If you have recently undertaken the MLSN guidelines and are having issues please speak up. Micah Woods and Larry Stowell are very approachable and look forward to any observations you can make. By sharing what you are experiencing you might even figure out what the real source of your issues are and avoid costly and unnecessary fertilizer applications that make no difference whatsoever.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

WWGCSA talk "4 Years of MLSN"

In January I had the honor to speak to the members of the Western Washington Golf Course Superintendent Association. I was asked to talk about my experience with the MLSN. Here is my presentation as I presented it.

I really enjoyed speaking and hope to do more of it in the future! If you or someone you know would like me to speak at your event let me know and we can try and make it work. Listening to what other superintendents are doing has always been my favorite. Thanks again WWGCSA!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Grubs, Ravens and Nature's Solution to my Problem Areas

Ravens tear up this area of poorly rooted turf. Notice the water logged yellow turf. It's thatchy here.

For the past few winters my course has suffered from "grub damage." The real source of the damage is the ravens tearing the poorly rooted turf up in order to eat the grubs. 

Where most might first think that the Ravens are the problem I have a different approach which I have described in the following video.

Simply killing the ravens will not solve the problem. Never mind the fact that ravens are a very intelligent and important species on the Coast, they aren't the problem in this situation.

The Squamish Nation sees ravens as "a key part of many North West Coast legends and stories. In many stories the raven teaches us about life and right from wrong. The raven is often misbehaving but never boring. He symbolizes change in life, creativity, and humor. A key figure in Northwest Coast legends, the raven is involved in many creation stories and is also recognized as the bringer of light as it is said that the raven released the sun and moon. The Raven is known as a trickster or the catalyst for change, causing many changes to transpire as Raven gets bored quickly and is continually looking for things to amuse himself. Raven is quick to take action, extremely curious and at times greedy. Raven likes to be involved and often takes part in stories that have raven working to gain. Raven is motivated by self indulgence, though there is often a price that raven will pay, in the course of which causing beneficial things to happen at his cost. He could be taken as a symbol of the Coastal People’s view that the world has many faces, is a place full of surprises, neither good nor bad, often unpredictable. Raven has a long straight beak that is often seen with a circle in its mouth representing the story of having brought light to the earth." (source)

So if the raven is seen as a trickster I think that the joke is on the raven for his antics are actually helping us produce better more sustainable turfgrass in the long run. Let me explain.

The real issue is the poorly rooted turfgrass. Killing the ravens will only leave me with poorly rooted turfgrass infested with grubs which will eventually cause more damage, this time, during the playing season.

You may have noticed over the past few years the huge amount of damage caused by birds and raccoons tearing up turfgrass on city lawns and boulevards. The reason the damage is so bad is because all of this turf is poorly rooted. Nowadays it is common to sod lawns and boulevards and this sodded turf really never roots properly unless it is aerated like crazy which I can almost guarantee it is never aerated ever. This is one of the reasons golf course superintendents hate sod. It's a quick fix but is far inferior to seeded turf. It is incredibly hard to get sod to knit entirely to the soil unless you aerate it a lot the first few years.

Turf that is rooted well is not damaged from ravens feeding on the grubs
In my case I have grubs almost everywhere. We never use insecticides on our golf course so it is expected that there will always be grubs and insects everywhere all the time. For the most part this causes almost no issues on our course except for the few hundred square meters of grass that is poorly rooted on the fairways.

The reasons for the poorly rooted turf are many but mostly come down to grass that is growing in the shade with poor drainage. Grass that grows in shade is wet for longer. This leads to a buildup of thatch as the water logged conditions don't allow for adequate decomposition of the grass clippings. This thatch buildup further reduces drainage in these areas which makes them even more wet. It's a vicious circle.
A thick thatch layer is the problem. In this area the thatch is almost 10cm (4") deep.
We have done a lot of work to reduce the shade issues on our course over the years but the years of poor growing conditions have left many areas with a thick layer of thatch that is easily torn up by the ravens when infested with grubs.

Again, at this point I am not willing to start spraying insecticide. The areas of damage are so small and hard to locate that a spot application of an insecticide would be impossible to do. A broadcast application of insecticide would also be wasteful as less than 1% of my fairway turf is impacted.

Last year I honest had no clue what I was going to do with this damage. The ripped up turf area was so soft that I couldn't bring any equipment into the site without it sinking or getting stuck. For this reason I was forced to wait until it dried up a bit. At this time I was looking at a relatively large area of ripped up thatchy sod. I figured that I could mulch it up with my rotary rough mower and pack it down smooth and hope that the clubs of turf would catch and grow in.

Well lucky for me this is exactly what happened. I was surprised how well it actually worked. This chronically wet and soft area quickly became one of the best stands of fairway turf on my course. Where in the past there would be wet areas even in the dry summer, there wasn't a single wet spot to be found. It seemed to me that when the ravens ripped up the thatch, they actually did me a huge favour. The removal of the thatch allowed me to mulch it up (essentially aerifying the anaerobic conditions) and allowed these areas to drain properly. This increased drainage now allows me to keep these historically wet areas dry which will hopefully lead to a further reduction in thatch in these areas. The reduction in thatch will also make it easier for me to keep these areas green in the summer as thatch can become hydrophobic if allowed to dry out where soil is less prone to this issue.

So my problems are solved and all I did was be patient and allow the ravens to do the dirty work for me. I think that we are often too quick to react to issues such as this. Often if we area able to wait things out (this is obviously not always the case) we can find a better long term solution to the problem. In my case on fairways, I now welcome the ravens to rip up the turf as I know that the following year the turf will be better than ever. It's a short term pain for a long term and very cost effective and environmentally friendly gain.