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June 2012

Webcast from the Australian Turfgrass Conference: Micah Woods on modifying the turf growing environment


The Australian Golf Course Superintendents' Association provide a great service by making so many of the presentations from their annual conference available for online viewing

At the 27th Australian Turfgrass Conference in Adelaide, I gave presentations about turfgrass nutrient requirements, about grass selection, and about managing turf in microclimates.

The talk on microclimates is really about turfgrass management in general, explaining how turfgrass managers can think about the growing environment of the grass and modify the environment to create the desired playing conditions. Watch the video at this link – my presentation starts at the 24:15 mark so to skip ahead to that just move the slider up to that time.

Productivity 2: my turfgrass information workflow

In a previous post, I wrote that because of the various writing, speaking, and research projects I do, combined with a continuous schedule of international travel, I have a particular workflow that helps me to get things done, ensures I am continually updated with the information I need, and ensures I am working on the right projects at the right time. That, in turn, maximizes my free time, and enables me to be highly productive with very little stress. 

Here is what I do. I've followed this system of workflow management since I read Getting Things Done as a graduate student.


1 list: On my computer, I keep a master list of all the projects I am working on. I use OmniFocus for this. For all the projects, I include the specifc next actions that must be taken to move the project along to completion.

Notebook_hilo2 notebooks: I use two notebooks to write down ideas, make calculations, and record notes. Why two? When I'm at my desk, I like to use the larger one as there is more space to write what I need to write. When I'm at a golf course, or a conference, or on a plane, I like to keep the small notebook with me – and it fits in my pocket!

My phones: I have Evernote on my phones. No matter what country I'm in, I'll have a phone with me, and I can record any ideas or notes using that software. Generally I prefer to put these into my notebooks, or directly into my master list (OmniFocus), but sometimes I'll be in a situation when it is easier to make a quick note on my phone. 

1 weekly review: Once a week, on Friday mornings if I can, otherwise at the next available opportunity, I review my notebooks, and my phones, transferring any new tasks or projects that I've added that week into my master list on OmniFocus. Emails that I don't respond to immediately are sent from my inbox to OmniFocus. During the weekly review, I'll assign those e-mails to a project, review all my projects, and all my next actions, dropping items that have been completed during the week, making sure the new items from my notebooks are assigned to the right projects, and making sure that all the things that I need to do are accounted for. 

Twitter: I make judicious use of Twitter. I'm able to share information about the articles I've written, or new information that I've made available for download, and I also find interesting articles and information from the people I follow. I don't read everything that comes through on the Twitter stream. There is no time for that. But what I often do, if I see a tweet with a link to an article that I want to read (as in the above), I'll send the tweet to Evernote, and when I do the weekly review, I'll see it again and make a decision on what to do with that information. 

Google Reader: I use this for RSS feeds to make sure I don't miss anything from websites or blogs that I follow. Rather than going to the sites to check if anything is new, the RSS feeds update the content at Google Reader, all in one place, so I don't waste time going to multiple websites looking for new information, and I don't have my e-mail inbox clogged up with a lot of these types of updates. What do I subscribe to through the RSS reader? Crop Science, Soil Science Society of America Journal, Agronomy Journal, blogs about R, blogs about LaTeX, and various turf industry and university RSS feeds. The advantage of using an RSS reader is that all this information is collected for me automatically. I can read it at my leisure. And I don't have to worry about missing anything. And this stuff doesn't come to my e-mail inbox, where it could be distracting. 

In summary: Everything I need to do is in one system, on my computer. It is not on multiple pieces of paper, and in my mind, with a note on my phone, and 27 e-mails that need to be responded to. I capture every idea, in my notebooks, and will add those to the system during the weekly review. All my projects and their associated tasks get reviewed weekly. And I know that I don't need to browse the internet to find information, for the important information I need to be aware of comes to me through Google Reader, with some in-the-moment stuff coming from Twitter. This reduces work-related stress, because I know that I've not forgotten anything, and it allows my mind to be free, focusing on what I want to focus on at the moment, rather than trying to keep track of everything I need to do.

It's not all work: I love my work, and learning new things, and writing, and data visualization, and turfgrass nutrition. Using this system, based on David Allen's Getting Things Done, allows me to be creative and productive, accomplishing a lot a work every year. And because this system works so well, I also have time to do a lot of other fun things. In 2011, in addition to all the work, I went skiing in the epic powder of Hokkaido, did some late spring skiing at Mt. Tremblant, ran a number of races at Thailand, including a half-marathon, spent a week at The Masters Tournament, spent a three week sabbatical in Phuket, went wine tasting in South Australia, went to England for The Open Championship, and watched a lunar eclipse while at Koh Phangan's famous Full Moon Party.

My workflow is about getting things done, and about having lots of time to learn new things, so I can keep doing better work. With that comes more creativity, energy, clear thinking, and time.


Productivity 1: what's my workflow?

TeachingEarlier this year during the Asian Turfgrass Roadshow, Dr. John Kaminski and I led seminars in six countries over the span of just ten days, and in our free time – mostly on airplanes, I recall – we discussed productivity and what our workflows are, or systems are, to get things done. 

If I list out all the things I do, writing, teaching, researching, studying, traveling – it comes to be a rather extensive list. Dr. Kaminski encouraged me to write about my workflow, how I organize my time, and what tools I use to maximize my efficiency, suggesting that both the identification of the need for a workflow, and then an exposition of what works for me, may be informative for turfgrass managers.

In this post I'll explain why I need to have an effective workflow, and in the next I'll share some of the tools and techniques that I use.

As Chief Scientist at the Asian Turfgrass Center, my work involves turfgrass information. Getting new information by original research, or studying the results of research by others, and then sharing that information by writing, or teaching, or directly advising – that's what I do. In 2011, some of the things I did include:

  • wrote 14 magazine articles
  • made 35 presentations at conferences, meetings, and universities (those presentations were in 7 countries on 3 continents)
  • wrote 60 new posts for this site, and 10 for Turf Diseases
  • made more than 20 charts showing climatological data
  • collected data from 220 putting greens in 6 countries as part of a research project to characterize playing performance 
  • traveled to 15 countries in total, flying 94 times, almost all international flights, an average of one flight every 3.9 days

Plane_ticketsIt is that flying and travel that really makes it difficult to keep track of what needs done, what has been done, what I'm working on – in short, for me to keep up with turfgrass information, I need to have a functional workflow. 

I need to make sure that I keep up with my own research projects, that I don't miss new developments in turfgrass science from around the world, that I can meet deadlines for magazine editors and conference organizers, all while collecting enough boarding passes that I can completely cover my desk with them every year. And, in the case, for example, of the climatological data and associated charts, I had to learn how to use some new software in order to present the data as I wanted to.

So what is my workflow to keep track of all this, and keep producing new work, all while feeling relatively little stress, and being confident that I am spending my time efficiently? I'll explain my simple system in the next post. You'll learn that it involves:

  • two notebooks
  • Google Reader
  • judicious use of Twitter
  • occasional use of Evernote
  • one list of work to do, which I review and update once a week

Do you have a similar system? This works great for me, and while everyone will necessarily have a different workflow, it is interesting to think about effective workflows for the most efficient use of one's time.


Golf Course Maintenance at Japan: week 3, rolling, multi-course facilities, and the best zoysia course in the world

During my third consecutive week at Japan, I gave a seminar about turfgrass nutrient requirements, visited five golf clubs in four different prefectures, only one of which had less than 36 holes, and saw lots of interesting course maintenance equipment and grasses. Here are the highlights.

Let's start with this Asahi self-transporting roller. Here it is in action, rolling a green.

Now that the green is finished, the operator puts it into transport mode.

And then it is off to the next green. 

This type of roller is common in Japan. The Hatsuta model (which seems to have replaced the Asahi) weighs 500 kg, which puts it on the heavy side for lightweight rollers, and similar in weight to a battery-powered Tru-Turf roller.

During my three weeks in Japan I visited sixteen golf clubs with 33 eighteen-hole equivalents. Just last week I visited five clubs, but actually went to fifteen courses, if we count them in eighteen-hole equivalents.

  1. a 36-hole club at Hyogo prefecture
  2. a 54-hole club at Shiga prefecture
  3. a 36-hole club at Shizuoka prefecture
  4. an 18-hole club at Nagano prefecture
  5. a 126-hole club at Nagano prefecture!

World-amateurThat's right, the Karuizawa 72 Golf Club has a lot of courses. Actually, the club recognizes itself as having six courses, but there is a seventh course, owned by the same company, and maintained out of the same maintenance facility, with the same superintendent, so for the purposes of golf course maintenance, it's seven courses. The club hosts a Japan LPGA event each summer and will host the World Amateur Team Championship in 2014.

classic zoysia green at Kawana

When it comes to grasses on Japanese golf courses, the majority of courses have creeping bentgrass greens, manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) tees and fairways, and Japanese lawngrass (Zoysia japonica) roughs. Some courses, most notably the Kawana Hotel's Fuji course (above), have manilagrass greens as well. 

Micah-honke-kawanaI'm a big advocate of manilagrass, particularly in China, India, and Southeast Asia, where manilagrass thrives, producing equal or in many cases even better conditions than it can in Japan, and I'm reminded when I visit Japan of just how good manilagrass is as a golf course turf.

It was a real treat for me to visit Kawana, to meet again with the recently retired (but still working half-time) greenkeeper, Honke-san, who has decades of experience working at Kawana. In Golf Magazine's latest ranking of the world's top 100 courses, Kawana is #76, making it the best course in the world with zoysia greens!

Golf Magazine's list includes three courses from Japan – Hirono, Kawana, and Tokyo – all of which have manilagrass fairways. These beautiful playing surfaces should be used more in other parts of Asia where manilagrass is a better-adapted species than bermudagrass or seashore paspalum. 

Mt. Fuji from Kawana

Calcium deficiency in turfgrass, an imaginary problem?

Short_cutt-1The inimitable Dr. Frank Rossi from Cornell University spoke about supplemental calcium for turfgrass in the 28 May 2012 ShortCUTT podcast, saying it is time to stop worrying about "imaginary problems." So is a shortage of calcium really an imaginary problem? Basically, yes.

The new MLSN soil nutrient guidelines, a joint project of PACE Turf and the Asian Turfgrass Center, include a soil calcium level of 331 ppm (Mehlich 3 extractant) as a guideline – if the soil has less than 331 ppm calcium, add enough to increase the soil to that level.

But in almost all turfgrass soils, even in the low cation exchange capacity sands used for many golf course putting greens or sports fields, the soil calcium will be more than 331 ppm. Using the MLSN guidelines, we can say that calcium is not required as fertilizer in that situation in order to produce high quality turfgrass. Let's make a few calculations to show why.

Actively growing putting green turf may produce on average about 100 g of dry matter per square meter harvested as clippings each month. 

If the dried clippings contain 0.5% calcium, a more than sufficient amount, that is a monthly harvest of 0.5 g calcium per square meter per month. That is what the grass is using. And that is how much calcium the soil must supply.

Calcium, of course, is primarily supplied to the roots by mass flow, moving to the roots with water, dissolved in the soil solution. The water use of the grass can be estimated by evapotranspiration (ET). The ET varies with grass type and weather conditions, but let's assume the ET averages 5 mm per day. That is equivalent to 5 L of water used per day per square meter of turf. 

With 5 L of water per day, and 30 days in a month, we have 150 L of water used per month, and that water needs to contain at least 0.5 g of calcium to supply what is harvested through clipping removal. What is that concentration then, in soil solution? It is 0.5 g / 150 L = 500 mg / 150 L = 3.3 ppm. What is the typical range of calcium concentration in soil solutions? About 40 to 400 ppm. So there is typically a much higher (by a factor of about 10) level of calcium in soil solution than the grass requires. 

That is why Dr. Rossi can call calcium deficiencies or perceived shortages of calcium an imaginary problem.

For more about calcium and turfgrass see these links:

Understanding Turfgrass Nutrient Requirements

A New Look at Calculating Calcium Requirements

Calcium for Turfgrass: is there enough in the soil?

How Much Calcium Does Turfgrass Require? with video

And here is a recent video that poses the question, is supplemental calcium necessary?

Understanding Turfgrass Nutrient Requirements

Seed-links-6fwyIn the summer of 1998, I moved from Oregon to Shanghai to work as the assistant golf course superintendent at Shanghai Links, a Jack Nicklaus Signature course then being constructed on reclaimed land beside the East China Sea. The tees were sandcapped, the fairways were sandcapped, and the greens, built to USGA specifications, were also built with sand.

During my employment there, first as assistant and then as superintendent, I became quite interested in nutrient availability and nutrient requirements for turfgrass, particularly in sand rootzones. We were able to create good turfgrass conditions, but I wanted to learn more.

Links-3I subsequently had the opportunity to study nutrient availability at Cornell University, and at the Asian Turfgrass Center I have continued these researches, most recently through a collaboration with PACE Turf in the development of Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition (MLSN) guidelines.

This week, I gave a seminar in Japan entitled Understanding Turfgrass Nutrient Requirements. The eight page handout for this seminar, available for download in English or in Japanese (eleven pages, expertly translated by Mr. Yukio Ueno), explains some important aspects of soil pH, cation exchange capacity, nutrients in the soil, nutrients in turfgrass leaves, and temperature-based turfgrass growth potential. This handout helps to explain the background of the MLSN guidelines and how they can be integrated with expected plant uptake to determine fertilizer requirements.


Golf Course Maintenance at Japan: week 2, core aerification with no clean-up required

The maintenance equipment used on Japan's more than 2,400 golf courses is usually the same as is used in other parts of the world, but sometimes the equipment is quite different – the Yanmar helicopter comes to mind.

Last week at Hokkaido I saw the self-collecting fairway aerifier in action, and was again surprised at how fast the fairways can be cored, and at how clean the finish is.

The cores are collected in central drums and are emptied in about a minute beside the fairway.

After that fast and clean coring of the fairways, sand topdressing is applied, and these creeping bentgrass fairways are better prepared for the upcoming summer season.


Golf Course Maintenance at Japan: week 1, remote controlled golf carts, large patch, and the two green system

I'm in the midst of three weeks at Japan. Some of the issues related to golf course maintenance and golf in general at Japan are so interesting, and so challenging, that a few updates about course maintenance here will surely be interesting. First, though, the ghost cart, that ubiquitous remote-controlled cart that is found all over Japan.

You'll have noticed another interesting thing in the video. I've taken the video while standing on one green that has recently been core aerified and topdressed, while the golfer is playing to another green on the same hole. Many courses in Japan use this two green system. Of the eight golf clubs I visited last week, five had 18 holes, one had 36 holes, one had 54 holes, and one had 72 holes. That's a total of fourteen 18 hole equavalent courses.

But, in Japan, there is more to it than that, because eight of those fourteen courses use the two green system, with two greens on each hole. So at the eight clubs that I visited, there were actually 396 greens, not counting practice greens or nursery greens. Japan has a large golf industry, with more than 2,400 courses, but when it comes to maintenance requirements for putting greens, the most highly-maintained area of any golf course, there are much more than 2,400 courses worth of greens, because so many courses use the two green system. Golf_course_near_Tokyo

The image above (from Google Maps) shows a 36 hole club near Tokyo with the two green system, so there are 72 creeping bentgrass greens at this club. This image also shows the course in two seasons, with the holes at left in summer, when the Zoysia matrella fairways and Zoysia japonica roughs are green, and with the holes at right showing the dormant zoysia in the winter.

Large_patch_kyushuJapan is very much in the transition zone, and that means large patch (Rhizoctonia solani) is a problem on the zoysia, particularly on the Z. japonica. It is worst in areas with poor drainage and in areas with moderate to high thatch. In this swale in the rough of a golf course, the large patch is thriving.

Another problem on many of the courses I visited was moss. I saw moss on Zoysia matrella (korai) greens. When we take a close look at the green, we can see that in the areas in between the korai leaves, the moss is growing. 


Moss is even more of a problem on creeping bentgrass greens in Japan, and I saw plenty of that as well.


Of course, the climate in Japan is quite a challenge for growing creeping bentgrass, because of the high temperatures during summer. We can look at the climatological normals and see that the city of Fukuoka in West Japan (in yellow on the chart below), the temperatures throughout the year are similar to Atlanta (in blue), with Fukuoka being a bit hotter during the summer. With those types of temperatures, it would seem that ultradwarf bermudagrass may be a good choice in that part of Japan, and many golf courses are now testing ultradwarf bermudagrasses such as Miniverde or Champion Dwarf. 

However, although the temperatures are similar at Atlanta and Fukuoka, Atlanta has a lot more sunshine, as can be seen in the chart below. Ultradwarf bermudagrasses can grow well at Japan but because of the limited light for photosynthesis, the management of the grass requires substantial adjusments from the way it is managed in the Southeastern United States.


At Atlanta, there are more than 250 hours of monthly sunshine from April to September, on average, while at Fukuoka there are only 150 to 200 hours of sunshine each month during that same time period. This difference in light has a big effect on the performance of bermudagrass. 

Clouds-plane-japanWith all the challenges of the climate for creeping bentgrass, the challenging climate in general because of low sunshine combined with high temperatures, the possibilities of using ultradwarf bermudagrass, the large number of putting greens relative to the number of courses because of the two green system, and just the sheer number of golf courses, Japan is an exciting place to study (and work) about golf course maintenance. And there is a lot of unique maintenance equipment too. More about that coming up in another post.