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October 2013

Program Announced for Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014

The conference program is now set for Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014, to be held from 10 to 12 March at Pattaya, Thailand. Download the conference brochure here (371 kB, PDF).

The Thai GCSA have been working hard to plan an extraordinary conference, and based on delegate feedback from previous years, we have made some exciting improvements. Some of the highlights of the 2014 conference include:

  • a new and larger venue, and a wider range of hotel room options 
  • superintendent speakers from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar
  • more intensive seminars, of 3 hour duration, on zoysiagrass management from Dr. Milt Engelke and on management of putting green speed from Dr. John Sorochan
  • educational seminars on a range of topics sure to be of practical use to all delegates
  • an expanded AGIF Turfgrass Management Exposition with equipment and product demonstration and education organized by the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) in partnership with the Thai GCSA
  • much more, including a chance to meet and share information with hundreds of friends and colleagues from 20 countries around the region

The conference is organized by the Thai GCSA and Asian Turfgrass Center on behalf of the Thailand Golf Association, with support from The R&A.

What Does Sustainability Really Mean?

This question comes up a lot, and Dr. Wendy Gelernter of PACE Turf gives a straightforward answer in this podcast from Golf Course Industry. She explains how the MLSN guidelines and associated sustainability index (SI) for each nutrient can be used to track quantifiable progress towards fewer inputs, all while producing the same high performance turfgrass surfaces.

Dr. Gelernter also talks about the Global Soil Survey for Sustainable Turf in this interview. This exciting new citizen science project will change the way we think about turfgrass fertilization, all while helping golf course superintendents to demonstrate quantifiable progress toward more sustainable use of fertilizers.

GCSAA Webcast on Putting Green Nutrient Use & Requirements

Last week's seminar for GCSAA on putting green nutrient use and requirements is now available to watch as an on-demand webcast. In the seminar, I explained how practical experience and a review of many research projects show that conventional soil testing guidelines are broken. What I mean by that is conventional guidelines tend to recommend fertilizer additions when we do not see any benefit to the turfgrass.

I introduced a solution to this problem. By estimating nutrient use and uptake, combined with the new minimum levels for sustainable nutrition (MLSN) guidelines, a turfgrass manager can be confident that just the necessary amounts of each required element are being applied -- and no more. This is an optimum approach for producing high quality turfgrass.

I prepared this supplementary handout as a webpage with links to articles and guides mentioned in the seminar. Even if you don't watch the seminar video, you are sure to find useful information in this handout.

During the live webcast, there were some questions, which I attempted to answer at the time, and which I add to my answers with additional information here.

  1. Could modifying the nutrient supply help control dollar spot on creeping bentgrass? As far as I know, only nitrogen will have an effect on dollar spot. With a more rapid growth rate due to more N, dollar spot severity should be less. With a slow growth rate at low N, the dollar spot could be more severe. I did a search at the turfgrass information file (TGIF) for "dollar spot" & "phosphorus", "dollar spot" & "potassium" and "dollar spot" & "calcium." I didn't turn up anything showing any relationship with disease, except for this study showing application of high rates of potassium on Cynodon can increase disease.
  2. There was a question about saturated paste extractants. These are useful for research purposes and for assessing soil salinity. For putting green management, however, it is impossible to interpret the results to determine if an element should be added or not. Don't use them to determine what fertilizer to apply. I wrote about this for Turfnet Monthly in 2004. Carrow et al. wrote about this for Golf Course Management in 2003
  3. There were questions about nutrient availability and nutrients possibly being bound in a way in the soil that could cause them to be less available. I wrote about why this is not a problem if we follow the MLSN guidelines, explaining the unambiguity of nutrient availability indices
  4. Another question concerned leaching, and whether we need to account for leaching loss in the calculations. In most cases, we do not need to worry much about leaching. I've described this previously for examples of potassium, calcium, and sodium.

Fairway sandcapping revisited: why I still think sand topdressing is often a better option

Woods_fairway_sandcap_agb_jan08I wrote Do Fairways Need a Sand Cap? in 2008, arguing that sandcapped fairways require more fertilizer and more irrigation, resulting not only in higher costs, but also in unmanageable (for the average golf course) organic matter production. Surprisingly, this article was rather controversial, and I've had people in the golf industry tell me they wish it had not been published. 

At this week's CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour, and often at other tournaments played on sandcapped fairways in Asia, they must play lift, clean, and place, due to soft conditions and mud (organic matter) on the ball. Is that such a success for sandcapping?

Rather than sandcap fairways at the time of construction, which invariably results in an undesirable high water holding capacity layer (the surface organic layer) overlaying a coarser material (the sandcap), I suggested that fairways be topdressed with sand. This results in just the opposite, a desirable coarser and drier zone (the sand topdressed zone) overlaying a zone with higher water holding capacity.

Bud White wrote an article this year entitled Sand Capping Solves Everything ... or Does It? giving a balanced view of this topic. See A Decade of Piling it On by Larry Gilhuly for more about fairway topdressing.

Presentation slides and handout from Malaysia International Golf Symposium 2013

Woods_malaysiaAt this year's Malaysia International Golf Symposium, I spoke about grasses, how they perform, and their nutrient requirements. 

This presentation handout contains additional information and links that supplement the material presented at the symposium.

Click here to download the presentation slides on Nutrient Requirements for Golf Courses in Asia.

Click here to download the presentation slides on Selection of Grass.

"Remember, extra nutrients in the soil will not make turf extra healthy"

Rarely does an article contain so much practical information for turf managers, along with a wealth of common sense quotes. This, of course, is Does the Grass Know the Cost?, an article about turfgrass fertilizers by Zontek et al. from the 2010 Green Section Record. And rarely does a tweet about turfgrass fertilizer generate such an extensive response.

This article is also on my list of Five More Articles Every Greenkeeper Should Read. What turfgrass articles do you find most useful?

Not the usual everyday maintenance ...

... unless one is in Japan, in which case these things are all in a day's work. Last week I visited Ryugasaki Country Club in Ibaraki prefecture near Tokyo. I had a chance to observe some of the maintenance work, and I thought it would be interesting to share a few things that are in many ways unique to Japanese course maintenance.

Like many courses in Japan, Ryugasaki uses the two green system. Two greens are not ubiquitous, but they are common. Above is the 18th alternate green, and in the background, with the aerification cores on it, is the 18th main green. There were 33 groups on this day, about 125 golfers, and they were able to play on smooth greens while the main greens were being core aerified. More about the coring below.

At Ryugasaki, there are two bent greens. It is not just "summer" greens and "winter" greens; many courses have two bent greens.

Detailed drawings from course architect Seiichi Inoue are on display in the clubhouse. This is a classic Kanto area course that has hosted the Japan Open and the Japan Women's Open.

I'm not generally a fan of two greens, and no greenkeeper I have talked with is a fan either - two greens require a lot of extra work - but on a day like this, when the greens are being cored, it does allow the course to operate normally and charge a full green fee and provide a fine putting surface to the members and guests. 

The Hatsuta sweeper does a fine job in collecting the cores after aeration.

And there was even a Shibaura fairway mower with the vacuum box to collect all the clippings.

 These machines are really useful in Japan, not only because they work so well, but also because they are efficient. Ryugasaki CC, with its 18 holes, has 2 greens on every hole plus 4 practice greens. So that is 40 bentgrass greens to manage.

I spoke with the greenkeeper, Mr. Watanabe, and he explained that this is all done with a full time staff of 12, including himself. There are 4 part-time staff who work a few hours each day. With a relatively small staff to maintain so much turf, the automated machines are almost essential.

Mr. Watanabe would prefer to manage just one green, but as it is, he is managing two. The main greens are 007 creeping bentgrass, and the alternate greens are CY-2. How difficult is it to manage creeping bentgrass here in the summer? I looked up the daily temperatures from 1 May to 19 October of this year - for Ryugasaki, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

One can see that the high summer temperatures come to the American cities first, but from mid-July through September, it was hotter this year at Ryugasaki than it was in Atlanta.

How's the trend, then, in Japan, for converting bentgrass greens to ultradwarf bermudagrass? There are a few courses in Japan making the conversion, or recently converted. Certainly it would seem that a course with 2 bent greens might be an ideal candidate to change at least one green to bermuda. 

One challenge to the use of ultradwarf bermudagrass is the close proximity of trees to many of the greens. There tend to be a lot of trees on older golf courses in Japan. And with cool-season turf, or with the korai (Zoysia matrella) and noshiba (Zoysia japonica) turf used in Japan, the trees can be tolerated. With ultradwarf bermudagrass, however, the midday shade, as I saw on many greens, would be less than ideal.

A common disease of noshiba rough at this time of year is the splendidly-named elephant's footprint (Rhizoctonia cerealis).


Two greens, growing bentgrass in weather hotter than Atlanta, specialized machines, relatively low maintenance crew sizes, lots of shade, and unusual turf diseases - these are all a part of everyday maintenance in Japan.

And one more thing that is an everyday occurrence on Japanese golf courses is this: lunch. Golf is played for nine holes, then one stops for a full lunch in the clubhouse, and goes back for the second nine holes, for which one is assigned a second tee time as well, with a full stomach.


Turfgrass Mystery: the case of the subarctic stripes

Last month I went to Iceland, visiting 11 golf courses and speaking with the Icelandic Green and Groundskeepers Association. If you would like to see more, I put together this set of amazing photos of those grasses and courses. Those links provide good background information on the climate, grass types, and other turfgrass management issues in Iceland.

This mystery is at a golf course near Reykjavik. Have you ever seen turf look like this? There are stripes going across the green. I had never seen anything look quite like this.


Here is a closer look.


This striping was not evident on other greens on the course. I saw it only on this practice putting green near the clubhouse.

Can you solve the case of these subarctic stripes? This was quickly identified as lines related to sod, and then to be different varieties of grass (in this case, fine fescues), causing the stripes.

2_fescueCongratulations to Tom Margetts for solving this mystery in record time.

A close look at the turf from the different areas shows it to be primarily fine fescue, a mixture of slender creeping red fescue and chewings fescue, with the color differences caused by blends of different varieties within those species, producing swards of different density and color. One can see a few plants of Poa annua in there as well.

Thanks to everyone who helped to solve this mystery. To see all the turfgrass mysteries from this blog, starting with this one, click the Turfgrass Mystery tag below.

An Excellent Seminar from Doug Soldat on Soil Management

This webinar from soil scientist Doug Soldat contains a wealth of information about soil management. 

He discusses the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils in this seminar, and gives practical advice for turfgrass managers on these topics. According to Soldat, the physical properties are the ones that may require the most management. He discusses, among other things, drainage, a fascinating exposition on heat capacity of soil, soil test interpretation, fertilizer recommendations, the MLSN guidelines, new cutting-edge research, classical research, microbial supplements, and much more. All are related back to plant health or turfgrass performance. 

Predicting Turfgrass Performance: video, slides, and handout from Cornell University seminar

Cornell_micah_seminarToday I spoke about Predicting Turfgrass Performance for the Horticulture Department seminar series at Cornell University. What do I mean by that?

I explained how I use a temperature-based growth potential to predict the effect of temperature on turfgrass growth and how that can be related to turfgrass nitrogen use. This is important in understanding and optimizing turfgrass performance in parts of the world (which is most of the world, actually) where there are not extensive turfgrass research field trials. Then I discussed how sunshine hours can be related to grass species selection, and I closed by talking about a method for determining turfgrass nutrient requirements.

Download the presentation handout (87 kB, PDF)

Download the presentation slides (3.9 MB, PDF)

Grad_student_lunchAfter the seminar I had lunch with the Horticulture Department graduate students to discuss graduate school, horticultural research, and careers.

I explained that I have continued to study after finishing graduate school in 2006, with my research into photosynthetic irradiance an example of something that I didn't know much of in graduate school. My study of this subject over the past few years has really helped me to understand turfgrass performance in subtropical and tropical areas. During the seminar I demonstrated the similarities between Hilo, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janeiro, showing how they differ from the climates of Miami and Honolulu. Here's the chart.

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