Thursday, January 9, 2014

Polar Vortex 2014, cold temperatures and our turfgrass

As the snow accumulated and the Polar Vortex of 2014 let loose its cold fury on many of these united States, superintendent 's began to contemplate the fate of their various grasses on the course.  In most cases, a deep layer of snow was already protecting fine turf areas in the middle to northern parts of the country.  We received our layer of protection overnight Saturday and into Sunday which gave me some respite from my anxiety.

Most of the areas of the course were covered in a nice 8" layer of snow.  I mentioned to Beth that some areas of the course looked like the ocean where waves of snow in various depths and drifts laid in wait for the next push of wind to move it further across the course.  There were some areas  that the wind exposed areas of turf where you can see the grass very easily sticking out of the small amount of snow that was trapped by the leaves.  These exposed areas could potentially be subject to cold temperature damage because of this exposure dependent upon the grass species.

Usually '0' degrees and below is beginning to get into the area of cold temperature where our most susceptible species of turfgrass Bermuda is most susceptible to temperature injury.  The loss of some of the bermuda grass we have on property would probably be a good thing if we could pick and chose the areas of turf that would be lost but we do not have that choice.   Overall, some slowing of the bermuda coming out next spring would be helpful to give the zoysia a little more advantage for the season.  This could also help our close rough areas where we do have cool season turf mixed with bermuda.  Anything that slows the bermuda is helpful but to kill large areas all at once could leave voids in turf cover that we would not want to see and could provide for some very tight lies.

Some additional chemical applications in the rough could suppress the bermuda even more.  We have been attempting to remove the bermuda grass through our bermuda eradication program over the last few years in our fairways to reduce potential wide area winter kill issues.  The cold should significantly enhance the damage to the bermuda that I sprayed this past fall in our fairways.

The dry fall had me concerned as our Meyer Zoysia went into dormancy.  Late fall rain and snow hopefully reduced some of the this stress before the severe freeze set in over the last few days.  Meyer Zoysia has shown the ability to regrow from stolons which survived temperatures to -18 degrees in testing from Dr. John Dunn from University of Missouri.  In my experience over the years in St. Louis, I've only seen limited damage from low temperatures tozoysia such as low wet areas or weakened and thin turf from shade.  Yes, here he goes again talking about the effects of shade!  Once the ground thaws, we will pull a couple of plugs from a few spots and place them in the greenhouse to see if we can get these areas to green up.

We have 7 different species of turfgrass at Glen Echo CC.  Below is a list in order of Low Temperature Hardiness from Dr. James Beard's, Turfgrass: Science and Culture.

      Creeping Bent grass- Green/collar/false front of greens and some tee areas.
       Kentucky Blue grass-Various rough areas and mixed with green surrounds.
       Annual Blue grass- Contaminated in greens, shaded areas of rough and cool tees.
       Tall Fescue- Rough and green surrounds areas
       Zoysia-Fairways and tees
       Perennial rye grass-cool season tees, areas of rough, over seeded long range tee.
       Bermuda grass-contaminated fairways, roughs, tees, in other words everywhere!

Our long range which is covered in Patriot Bermuda could also face some issues this spring.  It is a finer bladed bermuda that has better cold tolerance but could also be very slow coming out this spring due to the below zero temperatures.

In the end, we will be evaluating turf this late winter and early spring to see if any signs of injury are appearing in our turfgrass.  I will keep you updated when I have additional information to share with you regarding our turf.

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