Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Matter of Course: Will No Snow Cover and Cold Temperatures Lead to Turf Damage?

By Golf Superintendent Ben Larsen

During last month’s conditions, we discussed the benefits of having snow cover and its insulating properties; this month’s conditions are quite the opposite.  The course is currently exposed with little to no snow cover.  The 14-day forecast does not predict any high amounts of accumulation of snow, but we will experience subzero temperatures.

Will no snow cover and extremely cold temperatures lead to turf damage/kill?  USGA states, “Winter injury is a very complex event because it is controlled by many variables that are not completely understood.”

During these windy sub-zero temperatures, two winter injuries can occur: low temperature kill and desiccation.  As of now, because of our high population of low temperature tolerant turf species, along with the amount of precipitation we have accumulated this winter, low temperature kill and desiccation are unlikely.

During these winter periods of extremely low temperatures and no snow cover can have their benefits for the upcoming golf season.  As a matter of fact, once temperatures plummet, we would prefer there to be little to no snow all winter.  The reason being is snow acts as an insulator which would not allow as deep of a freeze.  A deep freeze is beneficial because the soil profile to undergo a “natural aerification.”  This is made possible by having moist or saturated soil which will then freeze and expand.  During the course of expansion, the ice will create underground fissures which results in the break-up of the soil profile creating air flow and gas exchange to assist next spring’s root growth and overall plant health.

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