Greenkeepers Report January 2020
Firstly, a happy new year to you all, I hope you all had a restful Christmas and ready to bring your handicap down to single figures during 2020!
As you are all aware, we have had a very wet 2019 and I have attached a chart of rainfall from 2018-19 to show just how much more rain we have had. Thankfully the course has begun to dry enough to enable us to mow the fairways, rough, tees and approaches this week.
There is much discussion within the greenkeeping industry about mental health and the stress caused especially during the winter period. Greenkeepers are passionate about grass, its not just pride in our work but we care about the course and want it to be perfect condition all of the time, sadly this is not possible. We spend all summer creating the best greens we can, for the winter to come and produce disease that can damage them, it can be very disheartening. I thought I would try to explain a bit of the challenges we need to overcome.
Fusarium is the main turf disease you will see on the greens, and there was only one product on the market to get rid of Fusarium (Iprodione). This was withdrawn from the market 2 years ago, so now the only fungicides we have are to prevent the disease from occurring, but with the disease pressure as high as it has been, these fungicides may not be enough.
Think of it like this, when we catch a virus or the flu, we can take antibiotics to clear things up. The greenkeepers antibiotic to Fusarium was Iprodione. Now that has gone we do not have any cure when we get fusarium so we have to try and prevent it from occurring, just like you would put on extra clothes, keep warm, eat the right foods etc to keep healthy, I apply turf hardeners, iron, trace elements of zine, magnesium, calcium and of course preventative fungicide to the greens to help protect the grass. I also spray ‘Dew cure’ which is like spraying a thin waxy layer over the greens to stop the dew from sticking to the grass, this helps keep them drier for longer, but it doesn’t last long especially when we cut the greens every week or so. The preventative fungicides are slowly being withdrawn from the market, so we only have a pool of 4 to choose from, all of which work differently to each other. Soon, I can see all fungicides will be withdrawn and our expectations of what is possible during the winter will have to change.
A fungicide application will last 3-4 weeks, depending on rainfall, growth and disease pressure. To use the sprayer, I need the weather to be dry with light winds, so even though the greens may be due an application of fungicide I am also governed by the weather conditions. If there are no ‘spraying windows’ and the last application was over 4 weeks ago, then the greens are unprotected. Trying to find a spraying window during Oct, Nov and Dec was very hard as the rain didn’t stop and when it did the winds were too strong.
The climate is changing, it’s not normal to have spring bulbs growing in January, day AND night temperature around 10 degrees. These mild temperatures all day and night after months of more than average rainfall creating a soil of high humidity. This moist soil, high temperature and little wind combination create very wet dews in the morning, this is perfect growing conditions for turf diseases. This is why we try and to solid tine or apply sand as mush as we can, to dry the surface out and get the moisture to drain through the profile of the soil.
The worse greens we have are the ones with little airflow, 3rd, 15th, and 16th. The 12th and 13th were bad when I first arrived but since we have lowered the hedge and created light and air movement these have dramatically improved.
The good news is the greens are generally in good health and I am pleased with the condition of the grass and when the conditions are right, they will recover quickly so I can’t wait until Spring maintenance in March! In the meantime, I hope we get some prolonged, really cold dry weather as this would stop the fusarium more than any chemical would.
Other news: We have taken our yearly soil samples taken from the greens, this has been sent to a turf laboratory where it is tested to find out the chemical make up of the soil, this will help me create a feed program for 2020 and improve the greens further. Along with planning the feed program for 2020 the work for maintenance weeks for March and August has also been drawn up.
All the planned winter work has been completed, this included bunker drainage, removal of a few trees, removal of a couple of bunkers and raising the front edge of others. We have started to clear the copse between the 4th and 5th, we have been stopped by the amount of rainfall as transporting the branches was beginning to make a lot of mess, I would like to get this completed by spring, however, it is a huge task and we do have other jobs to do so this may not be possible.