During my visit to Gran Canaria, I visited all seven golf facilities on the island. It is interesting to consider how the different grasses are performing. Although Gran Canaria has an exceptionally salubrious climate for people, it actually can be a difficult place to manage turfgrass.
The main turfgrasses being grown on the golf courses are:
- kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum)
- seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum)
- bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.)
- creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)
The first three of these are warm-season grasses, meaning they grow most rapidly with an average temperature of more than 27°C. Creeping bentgrass is a cool-season grass, and it grows best at a temperature of around 20°C.
There are three interesting things that we can note related to the grasses and the temperature here.
1. When we plot the temperature-based growth potential of cool-season and warm-season grasses based on climatological normals weather data at Las Palmas, we see that the growth potential for cool-season grass is higher than that for warm-season grass for each month of the year. For more about growth potential, see this article by Dr. Wendy Gelernter and Dr. Larry Stowell of PACE Turf.
2. The grasses on the golf courses of Gran Canaria are almost all warm-season, but the growth potential model predicts that the temperatures are ideal for cool-season grasses. Why is it that we find the warm-season grasses predominating?
It is because of water. The eastern and southern parts of the island, where the golf courses are located, receive very little precipitation. Supplemental irrigation is required to keep functional golfing surfaces, and that irrigation is both limited in supply and rather high in salinity. Some irrigation supplies on the island have an electrical conductivity of almost 4 dS/m.
Warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass and seashore paspalum have lower water use rates than do cool-season grasses, and these warm-season grasses are also more tolerant of salinity. This allows the golf course turf to be maintained with a minimum of water. This benefit is enhanced by the rather cool temperatures during the winter months, and in fact, for seven months of the year at Gran Canaria, the warm-season grasses grow at less than 50% of their potential, which means they use less water. The relatively low growth potential for warm-season grasses mean they will use less fertilizer also.
3. The resort courses at the southern part of the island see high traffic during the months of October to April. This creates a challenge for greenkeepers because the very season at which traffic is highest is also the season at which the primary turf of bermudagrass or seashore paspalum has its slowest growth.
As I spoke with greenkeepers around the island, and as I mentioned in my radio interview with Chicho Morales on Bajo Par Canarias, the most important thing in managing good turf on Gran Canaria is water. Applying the right amount of water to the turf, and managing the salts that are applied in the irrigation water, by leaching, will lead to the best possible turfgrass conditions.
Listen to the radio show here, with extended comments from me starting at about the 10:00 mark, some good questions from host Chicho Morales, and translation and additional remarks on my visit by Alejandro Nagy and Daniel Carretero.
For more information, I wrote about the golf courses and grasses of Gran Canaria in this post, and you can see photos of the different grasses and golf courses at Gran Canaria here.