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August 2009

The 2nd IGOLF-SGA Singapore Golf and Environment Forum

Micah woods and igolf directors before singapore forum
The Keppel Club hosted IGOLF's 2nd Singapore Golf and Environment forum today. I was there to speak about five simple ways to reduce chemical use on golf course turf. I discussed how chemical use can be reduced on golf courses by:
  1. Choosing the grass that will require fewer pesticide inputs. At Singapore this will tend to be a zoysiagrass.
  2. Create a healthy growing environment, especially focusing on establishing and maintaining adequate air space in the soil.
  3. Applying the optimum amount of fertilizer so that grass will be healthy and have a good color.
  4. Mowing at the proper mowing height, with sharp blades, at the proper mowing frequency, and with a well-thought out mowing pattern.
  5. When pesticides are used, apply the product according to label instructions, being sure to use the appropriate water volume and spray droplet size, and choose reduced risk products when possible.
Download my handout for this presentation by clicking here.
Daniel navid and paul sochaczewski
Daniel Navid (IGOLF President and CEO) and Paul Sochaczewski (IGOLF Chairman) introduced the program and then we had a number of interesting talks. Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society Singapore, gave a detailed talk about species diversity in the urban landscape and how golf courses can take some simple steps to increase biodiversity on their properties. Energy expert Per Dahlen talked about energy use on golf courses and how energy use can be reduced (and substantial costs can be saved) by implementing some new technologies. Dr. Michelle Sim from PUB Singapore gave a talk on water quality of water bodies on golf courses in the catchment areas of Singapore's water reservoirs. The types of fertilizers and pesticides allowed to be applied in catchment areas are closely monitored by PUB, and it was (for me) especially interesting to see the ranges of water chemical properties in samples taken from ponds on golf courses in these catchment areas. Phosphorus was high in the samples, generally. When adequate phosphorus is already held in the soil, phosphorus fertilization will not cause an improvement to turfgrass quality.

Forum delegates also had a chance to tour the Keppel Club's Earth Week exhibits at the Club's Keppel Hall. These exhibits showed how the Club and its employees are involved with nature preservation and recycling and environmental outreach.

With a great venue, expert speakers, and an especially interested and involved group of forum delegates, this environmental forum was an excellent opportunity to share information about golf and the environment and to discuss ways to improve the environmental management of golf courses at Singapore.
Igolf keppel club singapore golf environment forum

Asian Turfgrass Center's New Magazine Advertisement

New atc advert

I have prepared this new advertisement to run in an upcoming issue of Golf Business Asia, the publication of the Asian Golf Course Owners' Association (AGCOA). I've written a number of articles for Golf Business Asia over the past few years, many of which are posted as .pdf files on the Asian Turfgrass Center's turfgrass information page. You may also download these articles published in Golf Business Asia by clicking on the links below:

The Five (plus one) Basics of Turfgrass Maintenance

Stanley Zontek is the director of the USGA Green Section's Mid-Atlantic region and is one of the most experienced and respected turfgrass specialists in the world. Zontek is also the longest-tenured employee of the USGA, working for this organization for the past 38 years. So when Stanley Zontek has something to say about turfgrass maintenance, I listen, and he has just written a superb article for the Green Section Record, which I think it is worthwhile to discuss here. The article is entitled When the Going Gets Tough, Go Back to Basics, and is summarized in a five word declarative: Basic turfgrass management costs less.

Zontek writes that "basics cost less and probably will, in the end, help you grow better grass for the golfers to enjoy." I agree completely, and am baffled at times by the complicated and costly maintenance practices that are sometimes employed on golf courses with questionable effect on the playing conditions of the turfgrass. Zontek goes on to outline the five most important basics, as he sees them.

Grass and sunlight Sunlight: Grass requires light for photosynthesis. Anything that blocks the light, whether it be cloud cover or trees or other sources of shade, will cause a reduction in photosynthesis and reduced plant vigor. Zontek says that "Huge amounts of money can be spent and all sorts of different products, programs, and techniques can be tried, but there is no substitute for sunlight. If sunlight is limited, you have a problem." So remove the source of shade, if you can. If it is clouds that are blocking the sun, then I suggest pre-conditioning the grass for low light conditions by increasing the mowing height, applying trinexapac-ethyl, and reducing the nitrogen application rate.

Water: Of course grass needs water, but Zontek says that "too much water kills grass faster than too little water, and playing conditions suffer." And he also notes that "water and the electricity needed to pump it are expensive." Water management of golf courses can always be improved, and minimizing the amount of water that is applied to a golf course should be the goal. I have seen too many irrigation systems being operated when the soils are already wet and when the sky is cloudy and even when rain is falling. Application of water in those situations is nothing more than a waste of money -- don't apply too much water, ever!

Urea on zoysia Nitrogen: Don't be confused by complicated expositions of plant nutrition and biostimulants. Most golf courses could save a LOT of money by more careful attention to their fertilizer applications. Zontek asks "What fertilizer nutrient really is the most important? Where should you spend your fertilizer dollars? The answer is very simple . . .  absolutely the most important is nitrogen . . . Nitrogen is the nutrient the grass plant needs the most." I can assure you that if other required nutrients (such as phosphorus or potassium) are at sufficient levels in the soil, then application of nitrogen only will be sufficient to produce the desired playing surfaces. Grass leaves contain (on a dry weight basis) about 4% nitrogen, 0.5% phosphorus, and 2% potassium. When there is already enough phosphorus and potassium in the soil, don't add more -- it will not give any benefit beyond application of a nitrogen-only product. If phosphorus and potassium are at low levels in the soil, then do add more, keeping in mind that the nutrients are in the grass leaves in a 8:1:4 ratio, and an annual fertilization plan with approximately that ratio of nutrients will produce healthy turfgrass plants. Fertilization really is that simple.

pH: If fertilization is really that simple, there is another simple soil chemical property to be aware of, and that is pH. Zontek says that "grass grows best in soils with the proper pH. It's just that simple . . . get your pH right. It allows the soil to take care of itself." What pH should the soil be at for optimum turfgrass growth? The pH should ideally be at more than 5.5. (at a pH of 5.5 or below, soluble aluminum increases and can be toxic to turfgrass roots). And if the pH is much above 7, the availability of some micronutrients can be decreased. For the most vigorous growth, maintain the soil pH in a range between 5.5 to about 7.5. Do you know the pH of your greens? Of your fairways? You should.

Set Priorities: Zontek asks "What is necessary for your golf course to survive? Remember, the beauty of the game is that every golf course is different. It is imperative to determine what is important for your facility and the golfers who play there." So think about what the priorities should be at your facility, and how to create the best-conditioned golf course that you can possibly have.

Those are Zontek's five most important basics: sunlight, water, nitrogen, soil pH, and setting priorities. Note that three of those basics (water, nitrogen, and soil pH) all have something to do with the soil conditions. The reason grass quality declines when too much water is applied is because the soils become soft and air in the soil decreases, causing a shortening of the root system. Nitrogen is ultimately taken up primarily by roots in the soil. And the pH is obviously a soil property. So the soil conditions are very important, but I want to add one more "basic" that I think all turfgrass managers should remember, one that is related to the turfgrass surface.

Kentos golf club panda mow Mowing: That basic is mowing, which is something that is done almost every day. Care must be taken to always mow with sharp mower blades at the appropriate mowing height. And I would encourage every golf club to consider the mowing patterns used at their facility. Mowing the grass in a pattern can enhance the appearance of the course and additionally a simpler mowing pattern may save 20% or even 30% in time and operating costs compared to a more complicated pattern. Mowing is perhaps the most important maintenance activity we do to the grass, and doing the mowing right will enhance the appearance and health of the turfgrass stand.

What are the most important basics of turfgrass management for you? Do you have other tips? I would love to hear them.

August Turfgrass Seminars at UPLB & Orchard Golf

I was at the Philippines last week for a special seminar at University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and then to speak at the Federation Golf seminar at The Orchard. At UPLB I was the guest lecturer for the HORT 191 class on international horticulture, and I gave a talk on Ten Things You Should Know about Turfgrass in Asia.
Prior to the seminar I had lunch with Nicer Landas from Golforce and Dr. Amihan Arquiza from UPLB. Dr. Arquiza is the professor for the HORT 191 class.
After the seminar we had the local buko pie from Los Baños, a popular pasalubong, along with rambutan and mangosteens and coffee. Compared to the usual college post-seminar fare of cookies or vegetables or cheeses or pizza, I thought the buko pie and other fruits and local delicacies was a real treat.
On Friday the 7th of August I spoke about Turfgrass Management Challenges Amidst Climate Change. This was part of a Federation Golf event that also included talks by Matee Suntisawasdi about turfgrass management during the rainy season, and by Steve Wilson on protecting a club's investment in equipment through proper maintenance. We also visited golf courses in and around Metro Manila. Shown below during a visit to Manila Golf Club are Micah Woods, Matee Suntisawasdi (Pro-Crop Thailand), Denis Nuevo (Orchard Golf Club), and Bob Horan (Manila Golf Club). Manila Golf Club was renovated during the past few years and was sandcapped and planted to seashore paspalum.

Seeded Sea Spray Seashore Paspalum

Sea_spray_seashore_paspalum Sea Spray is a seeded variety of seashore paspalum available from Jacklin Seed. I have done experiments with this grass since 2005, first measuring how it grew in different sand types in a greenhouse experiment at Cornell University, and later measuring germination percentage of the seeds at Thailand and evaluating the grass for its general performance characteristics. At the our research facility near Bangkok, we have grown Sea Spray at both putting green height and at fairway height. The photo at right shows Sea Spray mowed at 4 mm during the Asian Turfgrass Field Day earlier this year.

We have tested the germination and the growth of this grass at Thailand and I have also seen it at Hong Kong. In appearance and in texture, the Sea Spray compares favorably with the vegetatively propagated seashore paspalum cultivars that I have seen. We have also observed, at Thailand, that pots of the Sea Spray that were allowed to go dormant from drought, upon re-watering the pots, recovered faster than did pots of Salam seashore paspalum that had also gone dormant. So there may be improved drought tolerance or faster drought recovery with this variety compared to the commonly used Salam variety.

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) have posted a video about Sea Spray use at a new course in Mexico at the GCSAA TV website: