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December 2012
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February 2013

January 2013

Turfgrass Mystery: a spotted seashore paspalum green


This is a seashore paspalum putting green in Hawaii. You can click the photo to view it at a larger size. Can you identify the cause of the spots on the green? 

This looks a lot like dollar spot, which is common on seashore paspalum, and many people guessed that. The correct answer, however, was salt used as a herbicide to control Eleusine indica. Three people got the answer right, all at about the same time:

I described this in a post a few years ago, At Hawaii ... More About Salt Applications to Seashore Paspalum. And this is what the salt applications do to Eleusine indica without damaging the seashore paspalum.


Sand, Sodium, and Soil Structure

Abstract_sodium_hydraulic_conductivitySand rootzones are common the world over for golf course putting greens. Many athletic fields are also built with a sand rootzone, and in Asia, many of the tees, fairways, and even roughs are grown in a sand rootzone. Is sodium a problem for structure of these soils? The answer is a resounding NO. 

From the chapter Warm-season Turfgrass Fertilization by Snyder et al. in the Handbook of Turfgrass Management and Physiology, we learn that the "very sandy soils that often are used for golf greens and athletic fields have no structure and are largely unaffected by sodium."

Research presented at the 2012 Crop Science Society of America Annual Meeting by Obear et al. also showed that extremely high levels of sodium have no effect on the saturated hydraulic conductivity of sand rootzones. In this paper, Effect of Sodium On Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity of Sand-Based Putting Green Root Zones, sand, sand with various amendments, and a silty clay loam, were saturated with waters of varying sodium levels. The saturating solution with the highest amount of sodium had a sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) of 80, which is extremely high. 

But when the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the soils was measured, none of the sands, even those with the highest amounts of sodium, had a decrease in water movement through the profile

There are a few reasons to pay attention to sodium. In soils with appreciable levels of clay, soil structure can be negatively affected by sodium. If rapid blight is a possibility at one's property, then the soil sodium should be kept at less than 110 ppm. And one should be aware of the electrical conductivity (ECw) of the irrigation water and of the soil (ECe). Sodium can be a major contributor to that, and if the ECe approaches the threshold level for a species, steps should be taken to manage the soil salinity.

But sodium and soil structure in sand rootzones? That is not something to be concerned about.

My View About Grass Selection on new Golf Course Management website

Golf_course_management_randa-1The R&A have put together a new website rich in information about golf course management. The site, appropriately, is titled Golf Course Management: information, resources, and tools.

In the My View section I've written about grass selection for greens and fairways in Asia. My view is that when it comes to putting greens, because they occupy such a small area of the course and no matter which grass is chosen the greens will always receive intensive maintenance, a high maintenance grass is often the right choice. And my view for fairway turf, because fairways occupy such a large area of the course, is that it is best to choose a grass that won't die. When the grass won't die, then turfgrass managers are able to modify the playing conditions to create almost any type of surface. In Southeast Asia, these grasses that don't die are manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) and broadleaf carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus).

The site is packed with information including My View pieces by other golf course specialists, case studies, including those of courses that have used just those grasses. Read about Thailand's award-winning Banyan Golf Club with its manilagrass fairways and the amazing East Course at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Manila. This course, with carpetgrass fairways, was just selected as the best course in the Philippines.

There is also the Course Tracker, a new tool to monitor, analyse, and report on your course, and the introduction of the Holing Out Test for assessing putting surface reliability. In the video below, I demonstrate the Holing Out Test on creeping bentgrass putting greens in Japan.

Golf Course Management Blogging World


You may have already seen the impressive blog aggregator, Golf Course Management Blogging World. If you haven't, and are at all interested in golf course maintenance, you will want to check it out now and bookmark it for future reference. 


A blog aggregator brings all the latest posts from multiple sources into one place, and the Golf Course Management Blogging World site does a great job of compiling superintendent blogs, industry magazines, and university researcher blogs all into one attractive site.

It is, actually, too much information to read all at once, but when you are wanting to find out what is going on in golf course maintenance and how it is being done, this site is a great resource. It is put together by Steven Biehl, who himself works as a golf course superintendent.

Playing Golf in the Snow: more greenkeeping adventures from Japan

Twelve years ago, I was a golf course superintendent in Japan at a course near Tokyo. The first time it snowed, I was shocked to receive a call from the course owner asking when the course would be opening. Rather than waiting for the snow to melt, we were expected to prepare the course for play. 

Yesterday a relatively large amount of snow fell on the Tokyo area, and I was reminded of my adventures in trying to prepare the course for opening by this tweet from Albert Bancroft, superintendent at Tama Hills GC:

When I was working in Japan, we tried what seemed like everything, from water (not recommended!) to melt the snow, to charcoal ... Ano

to having caddies walk through the snow to possibly speed its melting on fairways ... 2

before finally settling on the only consistently effective solution: physical removal.



Why is all this done, you might ask? Well, as best as I can tell, it is related to two things, business and customer service. First of all, the golf courses are reliant on revenue from green fees, so the course must open in order to collect that revenue. Second, in Japan I notice a strong ethic of customer service, and the idea is that if the customer has made a tee time, then the business should provide the service, namely an open golf course, for the customer to play.

Now as to why golfers actually play in this type of weather, that's a question I'm not able to answer!


The R&A Holing Out Test: measuring the probability of making a putt

The R&A Holing Out Test is conducted by rolling 10 golf balls in a direction and at a pace so that the ball should, if the roll is not disrupted by irregularities, fall into the center of the hole. From the number of the balls that actually do fall into the hole, out of 10, one can get some idea of the smoothness, trueness, or reliability of the putting surface. This video gives an introduction to this test and shows balls being rolled from the Greenstester

This is an exciting new measuring tool that I just started using this week. The stimpmeter is one thing, and it is interesting to know the green speed. A Clegg Hammer or Tru-firm or Yamanaka Tester is interesting also, to get a measure of green hardness. The R&A Holing Out Test is an important addition to the evaluation of putting green performance, because it allows us to measure something that is very related to the game.

If we make a perfect stroke, is the green reliable enough that the ball will go in in the hole? The stimpmeter reading and the green firmness reading don't even attempt to answer that, but The R&A Holing Out Test does.


Putting greens that are reliable, meaning that the ball goes where it is intended, are sure to reward good putters with more birdies. I, for one, am excited about that prospect.


Soil and Water Testing for Turfgrass: valuable tool, or absurd pretense?

Glaring errors on soil and water test reports are a source of frustration and concern. Soil nutrient analyses (soil tests) and irrigation water analyses (water tests) can be a valuable tool, but sometimes they are more like a charade. Errors on these reports are more common than one might think, although I expect that a number of report templates will be changed after reading this.  

Error-phosphorousHere are the top 3 errors I've commonly found on soil and/or water reports. Surprisingly, one can find these errors on reports from multiple laboratories, from multiple companies.

1. The misspelling of phosphorus as phosphorous. Phosphorous is an adjective and is not the element P, which is spelled phosphorus. Phosphorous, in fact, means phosphorescent, glowing. How much can we trust the results if one of the major macronutrients is not spelled correctly? Might there be other errors in the report? 

2. Sodium adsorbtion ratio. Wrong. Sodium absorption ratio. Also wrong. Let's try sodium adsorption ratio. That's right. How is it that laboratories can misspell such an important irrigation water quality parameter? It is not like there is an option of how to spell this. It is either right or wrong. Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) is one of the most important parameters to look at when evaluating water for irrigation suitability. Sending out reports and water quality guides with such errors makes one wonder about other possible errors in the report.

3. How about irrigation water tests that don't report SAR? That is not very useful at all. The two most important parameters on an irrigation water suitability test are the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) and the electrical conductivity (EC). The total dissolved solids (TDS) are an analog of EC. If you get a water report without SAR, or without EC, you are not getting the data you need. 

Then, of course, there is the really big error, which I won't write about in detail here, but for turfgrass, the classification of soils as being high, optimal, or deficient in a particular element is usually quite far from correct. I don't know exactly what is correct, but the best approximations I know of are the Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition (MLSN) guidelines. I've been working on these with Dr. Larry Stowell from PACE Turf over the past year, and this ongoing project aims to refine turfgrass nutritional guidelines. If you are really interested in this, you can read more about it here.

ATC in 2012, by the Numbers

AnaIn keeping with previous year end reports from 2011, 2010, and 2009, I've prepared some of the interesting numbers associated with the work of ATC in the past year.

This blog had visitors from 143 countries, there were 90 new posts published on a range of topics, and there was a substantial increase in readership, with a 90% increase in unique visitors compared to 2011.

The soil and water testing services that we provide to select clients in Asia continued to grow, with a 19% sample volume increase in 2012.

Climate_woods_golf_peopleI made more than 30 presentations in 11 countries, which I think for geographic range is a new personal high. In doing that, and in visiting 13 countries for various turfgrass studies, I flew 97 times, which comes to an average of one flight every 3.8 days. Keeping in mind that these are almost all international flights, I suprised myself by finding the time to write 14 magazine articles, or about 16,000 words, in English, before these articles were translated into Japanese, and Chinese, and Korean. 

I made a number of charts about climate and developed a new website, Asian Turfgrass Climate Charts, in which those charts are available for viewing. With Dr. Larry Stowell of PACE Turf, I also recorded 4 videos discussing light, turfgrass potassium requirements, and the new Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition (MLSN) that we developed in 2012. Dr. Stowell presented this MLSN research in 2 co-authored presentations at the Bouyoucos Conference on constructed rootzones in Philadelphia and at the Crop Science Society of America Annual Meetings in Cincinnati.

I also collected data on putting green performance in 7 countries and made more than 500 measurements of photosynthetic irradiance across Asia and in Spain. The research I have been doing in those areas was summarized in these reports which are not coincidentally filled with numbers.

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