Friday, June 29, 2018

A Matter of Course: Cultural Practices to Beat the Heat

By Golf Superintendent Ben Larsen 

The weather this past weekend was hot and humid; and is forecasted to continue all this week.  What will this long stretch of heat do to the turf………?  In general, turf goes through two different processes, photosynthesis and photorespiration.  Photosynthesis (energy production) is beneficial to the turf and its optimal production ranges from 68 °F to 77 °F.  Photorespiration occurs during hot weather (especially temperatures > 87 °F) and has a negative impact on the turf because it has trouble capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce energy.  Furthermore, when photorespiration occurs instead of photosynthesis, the plant will use stored energy instead of making new energy.  Once that stored energy is depleted, the turf will not grow (roots or shoots); which can lead to a decline in turf quality.  On a positive note, this past week the Grounds Crew performed some preventative cultural practices for turf decline.  The healthier the turf is going into the heat, the better it will survive and recover.

Verticutting and topdressing have their playability benefits providing true and firm putting surfaces; but they have turf health benefits as well.  Verticutting (seen below) not only removes thatch but it also cuts any laying down or “grainy” turf, resulting in the leaf blades standing up.  We want the leaf blades to stand up because it creates denser and healthier turf.


Light topdressing (seen below) provides protection from summer stresses by covering the turf’s crown (mainly from the sun and traffic), and promoting topical drainage (prevents the turf from burning in surface water).


Verticutting and topdressing are ongoing practices that are performed throughout the golf season, but the most important practice we completed is venting/aerifying.  Venting and aerifying are basically the same thing but the difference is in the size of the tine.  We vented the greens with a small ¼” tine (seen below) that is visibly gone after a couple days.


Venting is performed every 4-6 weeks, dependent on the weather.  This practice was necessary for four main reasons:
  • Rooting
  • Oxygen Exchange
  • Soil Temperature Cooling
  • Water Percolation

We aerified our fairways with a 5/8” tine (seen below) which may take a little longer to heal but leaves the fairways playable after one mowing.  We chose to aerify fairways for the same reasons listed above; plus we have not aerified the fairways, yet, this year.



Other practices the Grounds Crew will be doing during this hot temperature stretch:
  • Light irrigation waterings on wilted turf – overwatering will cook the turf and/or promote disease inoculation
  • Monitor frequency of mowing and rolling – not wanting to injure the turf past the point of recovery
  • Spray phosphites – fertilizer that strengthens turf and prevents diseases


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