Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Increasing Airflow and Aesthetics

The week of January 17Th through January 22Nd was a busy time for the maintenance department. The task of limbing trees in order to raise the canopy so that air flow can be increased to turf in the fairways was the goal. We targeted the holes with the thickest tree lines by using a 45' lift to remove lower limbs on mature Oak, Beech, and Poplar trees. The limbs that were removed, were readily put through a 12" chipper for easy cleanup. The amount of work that was completed in such a short time, could have not happened without the help of Todd Bonehman and his crew from Tebco.

The right side of #2 has a much higher canopy now, which will definitely aid in maintaining better turf conditions in areas of the fairway that have struggled during summer stress in the past. To the golfer, he or she will recognize it may be easier to sneak a shot through the trees to accomodate the dogleg.

This picture shows the view from the back tee on #7. Notice that the opening to the fairway is much wider, the entire fairway bunker on the left can be seen from the tee now. The limbing of the trees on the left corner of the creek will allow us to use the left side of the middle tee box, while eliminating the "must hit" right to left shot.

This picture shows the view from the tee on #8. All trees on the right side from behind 7 green to the dogleg corner at the fairway of #8 had all lower branches removed.
The right side of #11 had the most dramatic change in scenery of any hole on the course. The large trees had all lower branches removed, and all underbrush was removed from the tree line to the creek a long the right side. There is easily 10 to 15 yards of rough area in play now, the hazard line along the right side was drastically pushed back. The turf in the fairway and the errant shots on this hole, will reap the benefits from a lot of hard work during cold January weather.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Organic (Natural) v/s Chemical (Inorganic)

During the 2011 season at Crofton we are going to be using a large amount of Organic Fertilizers on the turf for fertility. In years past we have used more Chemical than Organic Fertilizers. The debate and thoughts on which one provides the best results is ongoing. However, we have decided that Organic fertlizer will give us the upper hand for the best results at Crofton due to the micro climates and different soils that exist on the golf course. The following paragraphs give a summary and run down of both types of fertilizer, and why we are going with the change for the upcoming season.

Man made Chemical fertilizers always have a high total of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) from 20% to 60% per bag. The total NPK for Organic fertilizer blends will always be low, 14% is about as high as it gets per bag. The balance of the ingredients in a bag of Chemical fertilizer aside from the NPK are usually made up of inert filler or a chemical that isn't needed. In a bag of Organic fertilizer the NPK are all necessary soil nutrients. Organic means the nutrients came from an animal-plant blend which means every ingredient is important to life, everything in the bag is needed and in correct proportions.

There is very little if any Carbon in a bag of Chemical fertilizer, but a plant or animal is abundant with the element Carbon, in the form of energy as carbohydrates. For the turf to be properly fed with any fertilizer, the microbial life in the soil has to process the fertilizer into a substance that can be absorbed by the turf in correct amounts. In order for the microbes to perform this process they must have energy. Microbes do not have the presence of sunlight and do not have chlorophyll, so the microbes must get their energy from organic material in the soil. In a bag of Organic fertilizer the carbon energy the soil microbes need is already present in correct amounts to perform the task of breaking down the nutrients for the turf.

Organic fertilizers are slower acting than a Chemical fertilizer in producing visual results due to a lower NPK analysis, but Organic fertilizers can be used in higher amounts without the risk of burning the turf, as well as lasting longer in the soil. Another benefit of Organic compared to Chemical fertilizers, is that with a Chemical fertilizer they can quickly dissolve in the sandy soils here at Crofton. This can cause burn to the roots of the plants, and quickly leach into soil depths where the roots cannot uptake the nutrients. Chemical fertilizers also have the potential to pollute the environment due to dissolving fast and being moved out of the soil. The only negative is the odor that might be present for a couple of days. This odor is not that of manure or any type of waste, but that of bone, fish, and feather meals of animals. The inconvenience of the odor for a couple of days will by far be worth it for the results this fertilizer will produce for the turf at Crofton.

Organic Fertilizers contain energy and many other things that continually build soil fertility, crumb structure, increased water holding capacity, food for beneficial soil life, and contribute to the hundreds of other yet-unknown things that cause a turf to be healthy and vigorous. With all of these benefits there for the taking is why we have decided that Organic fertilizers will be our approach with fertility for the turf of the golf course in 2011. With all these benefits we are giving the turf more weapons early to defend against the stress that was endured in the summer of 2010, which will help in producing optimal playing conditions for the entire golfing season.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tree Limbs and Debris Clean Up

Starting the week of January 10th, 2011 a 12 inch chipper is on site to start cleaning up tree limbs and debris from the underbrushing operations that took place through the month of December. We are chipping into our utility vehicle and dumping the mulch into areas of the golf course where it can be used for fill and/or aesthetic purposes.

The chipper will be on site for the next two weeks. During this time we will be concentrating on holes 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. We have made great progress in cleaning some areas on these holes, to increase sunlight and air flow to the turf. While doing this clean up we have opened up some areas of the course that will now be playable for the golfer who hits a few stray shots during their round.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Hidden Pest

The biggest pest we deal with at Crofton is ironically the smallest in size. This insect only shows its self a few times a year, but is always somewhere near where close cut, high maintained turf is located. This pest is a turf eating insect known as the Annual Bluegrass Weevil (ABW). The ABW is a beetle in the weevil family, and feeds on short cut Poa Annua (Annual Bluegrass) and Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis Stolonifera). These two turfs are grown on greens and fairways here at Crofton.

The ABW has a complete life cycle and can produce one to three generations per year. The insects are small in size during the adult stage, differing in color from black to gray. They average 1/8 of an inch long and have a characteristic weevil snout. During the stage when the adult emerges from the pupal stage they appear reddish in color, but change to a charcoal gray color as their shell hardens. The eggs of the ABW are small and oblong, and can be found in the leaf sheaths of turfgrass plants.

When the larvae emerge from the eggs that have been laid in the leaf sheath, they are legless with a white body and brown head. The pupae stage of the ABW look a lot like an adult, but are smaller in size and have a reddish brown color that darkens over time. The adult and pupae stage of the ABW do not often cause noticeable damage to turfgrasses. Most damage to the turf by the ABW is often noticed in the perimeter of greens and fairways that support a high population of Annual Bluegrass. The majority of the damage is caused by this insect during its larvae stage, and can go unnoticed for sometime. The damage occurs when the female adult chews into the outer sheaths of the grass blade and lays her eggs between the sheaths. This process will weaken the plant and discolor, but not kill it instantly. Therefore the damage cannot be seen as it happens most of the time. The larvae that hatch from the eggs feed on stems and then move into the crown tissue of the plant. When crown feeding occurs the plants can easily be pulled from the soil, and a hollowed grass stem is a sure sign that ABW's are present. The more eggs, the more larvae, the more damage to the turf. The turf will appear purple before it turns brown and dies out. The significant damage that the larvae cause becomes obvious in late May or early June.
During the early fall season the larvae which have became adults at this time, make their way from the close cut turf of greens and fairways to wooded areas. There they over-winter in litter under trees and clippings deposited there or in rough areas. In early April these adults make their way back to the greens and fairways to begin feeding, this however causes little damage. The laying of the eggs during this feeding that will produce the damage when the eggs hatch in a month's time. The larvae will be present feeding on turf from the first part of May until the end of June, with most damage possible during the summer.
The larvae can be detected by cutting a slice of turf two inches deep as seen in the picture above. During the 2010 season we did not detect larvae in many areas, and some areas did not have any at all. However, we must use control methods every year as if we are preparing for year of the worst infestation. For the 2011 season we have adapted transitioning our collars and approaches from Creeping Bentgrass to Perennial Ryegrass. Perennial Ryegrass has been proven to be a resistant variety of turf that ABW's will not feed on, so this measure will keep the greens and surrounding areas protected from damage. As for these areas and the fairways chemical applications will be applied two to three times during the year when needed. This is just one of many things we will be doing to provide the best turf conditions for playability during the 2011 season.
* Biology and Management of ABW in Turfgrass. - Steven McDonald M.S. & Peter Dernoeden Ph.D.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Wetting Agents On Tap For 2011"

A Wetting Agent program has been put in place for the 2011 season. The Wetting Agents will be applied to greens and fairways once a month beginning in April and ending in September. This program will allow us to manage our water output while helping improve the capabilities of the soil to use water efficiently for the turf.

The golf course at Crofton is built mostly upon sandy soils. The particles of sand in a sandy soil have a reputation of developing water repellancy due to a wax like substance that coats each particle. This waxy substance has fungi properties which cause the soil in localized spots to become hydrophobic, or the inability of water to flow through the soil into the root zone allowing the turf plants to use the water efficiently. The turf in these spots wilts and thins out during stress periods of heat and drought due to lack of water for the roots to absorb.

Hydrophobic soils are difficult to wet because they repel water. The infiltration of water into these soils can often be improved by applying a non ionic surfactant, more commonly known as a Wetting Agent. Wetting Agents are detergent-like substances that are applied in a spray solution to reduce surface tension of water, allowing it to penetrate and wet the soil more easily.

The explanation for hydrophobic soils developing is explained as there are three forces that affect the movement of water into the soil. The first force is Gravity, or the constant force that pulls water downward. The second force is Cohesion, or the attraction of water molecules for each other that holds a droplet of water together. Cohesion creates a water droplet's surface tension. The third and final force is Adhesion, the attraction of water molecules to other substances. Adhesion is what causes water to adhere to soil particles. When the Adhesive forces between water molecules and an object are weaker than the Cohesive forces between water molecules, the soil surface repels water and is said to be a hydrophobic soil.

An area of turf that has hydrophobic soil is also known as Localized Dry Spot (LDS). These spots can easily be identified during the summer months due to turf wilting, changing in color, or dying due to insufficient moisture. Non ionic surfactants when applied by spraying on these areas reduce the surface tension of water, allowing the water molecules to spread out and penetrate the surface of the soil. This allows for consistent moisture levels throughout a putting green or fairway, providing a healthy turf covering the entire area for maximum playing conditions.

Applying Wetting Agents on a monthly basis during the 2011 season will help us be more successful at keeping moisture levels consistent throughout the course. A uniform moisture pattern in the root zones of the soil will allow for fewer spots of thinning turf during the summer stress periods. LDS has been a problem in the recent past at Crofton, and with our plan of attack in place for 2011, our goal is to eliminate as many of these spots as possible to provide a better conditioned course.

* "Soil Facts- Using Wetting Agents"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why is the Course Closed on a 50 Degree Day?

The alternate freezing and thawing, along with intermittent wetting and drying of the soil on a bent grass putting green during the winter months is detrimental in many ways. These conditions produce a soil of a crumb structure, when this happens contraction and expansion take place. The resulting pressure separates the soil particles and fills the top layer of the surface with numerous pore spaces.

The paragraph above states an agronomic explanation which probably doesn't make a lot of sense to the golfer or someone who is not a golf course superintendent. So the question to be answered here is this. How does winter play affect the course conditions, so that ideal conditions may not be achieved when the spring season arrives?

The answer to this question in simple terms is this. The foot traffic of players over a small area such as a putting green develops surface compaction when the top layer is not frozen solid like the remainder of the soil is. A compacted surface layer of soil prevents the easy flow of food, water, and air into the lower soil regions where roots normally grow. When the growing season arrives in spring, the roots of the plants will not grow in soils where the natural channels and voids that have been destroyed by the compressing and crushing action of foot traffic on the thawed top layer of soil. Where there is no air there are no plant roots and thus there can be no turf.

The obvious reasons that most people understand are that ball marks on greens at this time make terrible scars and provide bumpy putting conditions as well as the indention from footprints. The underlying reasons of what was discussed above is that compaction and good golf turf just don't go together. However, let it be known that if the entire soil profile including the top layer is completely frozen no damage can occur, and in these conditions the course will be open for the brave souls who want to take on the cold temperatures while playing.

So when the course is temporarily closed during the winter it is done with the future in mind. If the course is not closed during the unfavorable conditions, the greens will be injured to the point where it will be impossible to provide good playing conditions for the remainder of the playing season. So why should the wishes of a few golfers wanting to play during the cold winter months interfere with the conditions for many golfers later on in the season? The answer to this question should be something to keep in mind.

"* USGA Journal and Turf Management source cited."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Breaking Down & Rebuilding "Reels"

During the winter months, our mechanic is busy in the shop making sure that the equipment is ready to go for the season of 2011. The first job to be completed is a breakdown and rebuild of each cutting unit reel for the greens, tees, and fairway mowers. This is a very detailed procedure and takes plenty of time and experience to make sure all parts involved are prepared for the everyday use they will receive when the season begins.

All Rollers that are attached to the cutting unit are taken off, bearings are replaced, and regreased.

The counter weights are taken off as well, and given a fresh coat of paint. New bed knives are installed and given a new cutting edge by a grinder. The exterior of the bed knives and shields are given a fresh coat of paint also.
The cutting reel is also put on a grinder so that each blade is given a sharp edge so that all grass will be cut and not torn. The rollers, shields, counter weights, and bed knives are reassembled to produce a completed cutting unit that is ready for the 2011 season.

The process above must be completed 5 times to make up a "set" of reels for 1 fairway mower. The reels and bed knives are sharpened when needed throughout the season to maintain an excellent cut. However, the bearings in the rollers and the reels are only replaced during the winter.