Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Our Greens, The Heat and Water(or lack thereof)

I guess we should have expected this with the early heat we received this spring.

This is usually the beginning of the stretch of weather that creates the most significant issues for our staff and our aged greens.  Usually, the Invitational had just concluded and it appears the gates of hell begin to open due to the heat and humidity we experience over the next few weeks.  Turf is stressed to its limits trying to get speed, growth has ceased and damage begins.  It is my hope that we took some preventative steps this season and at the beginning of the heat wave in late June that has given our greens a fighting chance to make it through these terrible conditions.  What is hard to believe, the worst is still possibly to come!

I guess a few statistics first.  Right now we are about a half a degree above the all-time record average temperature for the month of July.  87.6 is the record and we are at 88.2.  I think this will probably climb with our 100's this week.  10 days in a row of 100 degree days in a row is 2nd all-time.  At the course, we have had 2.05" of rain since May 7th.  We have surpassed our total city water usage from all of last season and we still have 2 fairly dry months to go in August and September.  We are on track for the hottest year on record, at least through the first 7 months.  Enough of that horror story.

It appears the permanent use of solid rollers on our greens mowers is paying off.  We began this program last season and have continued this year.  The solid rollers place even pressure across the roller creating less stress on the greens. The swag or wiehle roller has grooves on it that presses down on the grass forcing it to stand upright and get cut tighter.  Solid rollers can create slower ball roll due to grass plants laying over but this is offset with grooming, verticutting, brushing and regular topdressing.  I think for a few weeks in June, the greens were rolling more consistent and with better roll out than I have seen since I had been here so we have taken care of that issue.

Right now our ball roll is not real quick but we are doing everything we can to create a stress less environment for our greens.  Greens are being mowed one day and rolled the next.  Light amounts of regulator are being utilized to reduce top growth and force energy into the root systems.  The regulator also reduces the total amount of energy needed for plants which are producing very little energy right now because of the high heat.  With the high soil temperatures, it is remarkable that our greens are growing but the staff is getting plenty of grass when they mow.  Light amounts of fertilization are being used as well as seaweed extracts, fish emulsion and other plant stress reducing products.  Our fungicide program is using the best and updated products to prevent both surface and subsurface diseases from getting a foothold on our greens.  We will lightly topdress during the next break in the weather which assists in ball roll and protects the crowns of the plants and mixes with the thatch created by the plants.

We raised the height of our greens cut from .120" to .125" in late June and have not lowered them.  I felt the extended heat we experienced in early July was just the beginning and it was.  We did what we could to get speed for the Invitational but death would be all over us right now if I had not made adjustments to our program until after the Invitational.  I'm considering another raise in the height but at this time will keep things the way they are now set.

We are managing our greens watering a little differently this season than in years past.  The desert like temperatures and lack of moisture have forced us to water even heavier than I planned but overall I think the program is working well.  We are attempting to keep the profile consistently moist which will allow for water to move through the profile more quickly if needed.  Normally, flushing heavy rainfall helps to recharge the green root system and can create a firmer surface after a couple of days of draining down.  Lack of rainfall has forced us to keep a consistent level of moisture down in the 3-4" area of our root zone to prevent rapid turf loss.  I believe some of our turf loss last season was in an effort to keep the greens too firm and fast during a time that was too severe in temperature and lacking moisture.   Healthy greens were allowed to dry down too much creating root injury and ultimately loss of plants on the green surface.

We  have purchased a Field Scout TDR 300 soil moisture meter which helps us determine the moisture % at a 3" depth of our greens.  This meter should help us keep our moisture levels more consistent with less wild swings in moisture levels.  No guessing or feeling the sand to decide if there is enough moisture or not.  We test at least 15 areas or more of each green on a daily basis and or as time allows to determine the level of moisture in our greens.  It will take a few weeks to get some base line readings but we are already beginning to see some trends of the % they need to be to stay healthy, especially during this severe heat.  We can dowlload the data from the meter onto a computer which helps us with our data collection.  More on this during another post.

Two hydrojectings have assisted with water infiltration and or drying on the surface.  A needle tine operation is planned in the middle of August which should take us through the month of September.

Our staff and I are out on a regular basis hand watering greens, showering and cooling and monitoring our surfaces.  We are doing okay so far but know we have a long way to go.   Rest assured that we will do everything we can to get our greens through this rough stretch of weather so we can get into September and have great greens rolling smooth with extended ball roll.

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