Thursday, November 10, 2016

Is There a Frost Delay Today?

By Golf Superintendent Ben Larsen

That’s the question that will be on every early morning golfer’s mind from now until winter. Generally speaking, for frost to form the surface must be colder than the surrounding air with clear skies and calm conditions. Temperatures do not need to be equal to or below freezing in order for frost to occur. Also, frost may not be present everywhere, it depends upon the area’s microclimate. The erratic occurrence of frost is partly due to: differences of elevation, lower areas being cooler than higher, shaded or sunny, turf height and moisture; which are all examples of microclimates. Typically, frost can be forecasted based on the following day’s weather but the only unknown variable is how long the frost is going to persist. During periods of frost, we want to protect the golf course from any damage from both the employees and golfers. So on that note, a practice that will both protect the course from damage and speed up the frost delay, is to introduce (warmer) irrigation water to the grass which essentially helps to “melt” the frost off of the leaf blade.

Why is frost a big deal?
 Many plants can be damaged or killed by freezing temperatures or frost. The damage varies by the type of plant and tissue exposed to low temperatures. Once frost forms, the leaf cells may be damaged by sharp ice crystals that are located on or inside the plant. However, the turf plant itself is not necessarily damaged when leaf temperature drops below the freezing point, just the leaf tissue. This is evident on some areas of bentgrass that turn either a dull green or purple. On the other hand, if those sharp crystals are present and are stepped on, you can damage the leaf blade and kill the plant or turf.

Off-site example of frost damage/ kill from someone walking on a green with frost present.
Below is a video from the USGA that illustrates and further explains frost, the golf course and you.


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