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THE BLISTERING SUMMER OF 2018
This article appears on the Mass Golf website and in the most recent GHIN e-revision email that was sent out to all active Mass Golf/GHIN members.
As a golfer and interested observer of course conditions, you might wonder why the course you play is having problems this season. I’ve heard some say, “This must be a good year for grass because of all the rain.” While a “lot of rain” might be good for a lawn, it’s not what you want when coupled with high heat and humidity on golf course turf.
The summer of 2018 will be a memorable one for all the wrong reasons. Golf Course Superintendents, veterans and fledglings alike, experienced conditions that haven’t been so widespread for many years.
Spring started for some with winter injury and difficulty germinating seed due to the cold air and soil temperatures. As temperatures warmed and seed germination began, saturated soils and extreme heat and humidity beginning in June led to more turf loss. Areas of poor drainage and shallow pockets called “bird baths” filled with excess water from frequent heavy rains. This led to more turf loss when the hot weather cooked the turf in these spots.
Turf disease such as pythium thrives in wet, hot, humid temperatures. This year these conditions were frequent and created an ideal environment for pythium to take hold. Many superintendents couldn’t apply fungicides because of the frequent rains and heavy downpours. This created a helpless feeling. The only hope was for the rain to stop long enough for fungicide applications to stem the rampant diseases present.
August rolled around, which is the month many superintendents aerify because they believe it to be the best time for the process and generally is a good time for seed germination. Others believe it’s the only time they will have the staff needed to complete the project. There is risk that in some years the weather will prove to be the conqueror. This was that year. In many instances the process is devoted to a date on a course golf schedule and no optional date is included for adverse weather. So, the process proceeds and chances are taken. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Some were fortunate to be the former. Some were, unfortunately, the latter.
Among golf course superintendents in the region, the consensus is, no matter what tools you had in your kit, around August 15, turf loss was evident. High performance turf (that which is grown on golf courses) just melted away. Some turf was lost literally overnight. Turf that was in good condition at day’s end was devastated by pythium during the night-time hours. Additionally, an insect known as ABW (annual bluegrass weevil) decided to make an out-of-season visit in early August. This caught some by surprise and created more stress and damage to the already stressed plants.
The most basic of maintenance procedures – mowing, was a huge task and the cause of much damage for many courses this season. For some it became a “damned if you do – damned if you don’t” situation. Because of the heavy rain, one course reported not mowing fairways for close to a week. An immense crop of clippings was the result after mowing. Certainly, there was a setback of the turf from the shock of having so much growth being removed.
As of the end of August, this was the 6th hottest summer on record, missing the all-time record by .6 of a degree. In Boston, there were 27 nights when the low temperature was above 70 (3 nights shy of the record set back in 1983). Farther inland the temperatures were even warmer! This low evening temperature is an important one for a turf manger since some diseases are very active if the temperature does not drop below 70 in the evening.
In addition to the stress to the grass plants, there is a physical and emotional component to this season. People get tired, worn down, a bit grouchy at times and relationships can suffer. Tempers flare, and courtesy and social graces can become scarce. Cooler weather will bring all back to normal.
This article was compiled from personal observations and input from superintendents and commercial representation from the field.
By Don Hearn, Executive Director
NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS - THE UMASS WINTER SCHOOL FOR TURF MANAGERS
The UMass Winter School for Turf Managers immerses students in a full-time program, focused solely on the management of fine turf and taught primarily by UMass faculty and staff. Winter School is a comprehensive certificate program designed to furnish turf managers with the fundamental concepts essential to maintaining high quality turf, while instilling a sense of environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility.
Winter School 2019 runs January 7 - February 15, 2019, at the UMass campus in Amherst, in a recently revised, time-efficient six week format. Classes are scheduled: Mon-Th 8 AM - 5 PM, and Fri 8 AM - noon. This schedule is designed to accommodate weekend commuters who may want to stay in the Amherst area Mon-Thurs evenings but head home on the weekends. Some area hotels offer special packages for UMass Winter School students.
The international student application deadline is September 14, 2018. Application review for US students will begin in early September, with a deadline of October 31, 2018 (late applications may be accepted pending availability of seats). Space is limited.
Pesticide recertification contact hours will be offered for all New England states, and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are offered.
For more information, including application instructions, visit https://ag.umass.edu/turf/education/turf-winter-school. Questions on Winter School? Call (413) 545-5202, or email Karen White at email@example.com.
Questions or comments? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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