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November 2013

Inventions, Education, and Fun at Japan Turf Show 2013

Japan_turf_show_2013 2The Japan Turf Show is one of my favorite events of the year. In fact, I like the show so much that I wrote a remote report for the 2012 show that I could not attend. This year I did attend. I taught a seminar about ultradwarf bermudagrass and how it compares to creeping bentgrass as a putting green surface in Japan.

What are my favorite things about this show? For one, it is fun to meet with old friends. I saw Fujihira-san at the show this year. He and I worked together at Habu CC thirteen years ago, where he was the assistant equipment manager; he is now the equipment manager at a new course in Chiba prefecture.

There is also the education, with six seminar rooms offering concurrent sessions on a range of topics. On the afternoon of the first day, a packed crowd of delegates filled seminar room A to listen to a panel discussion about ultradwarf bermudagrass. The presenters were representatives from companies providing Champion, Miniverde, and Tifeagle in Japan. 

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Although ultradwarf is a subject of interest, most putting greens in Japan are creeping bentgrass. After my presentation, I had a look at some of the creeping bentgrass on display.

Another great thing about the Japan Turf Show are the products one can find only here. For example, there is the Yabuta Co. drop seeder that can precisely spread seed at rates down to 1 g/m2. That is the equivalent of 0.2 lbs/1000 ft2, and is especially useful for precise application of creeping bentgrass seed.

 Mr. Yabuta showed me one of his new inventions this year, the Cup Dr., which is available in small or large sizes for rolling the area around the cup after changing the hole location.

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Then there are the multitude of tines and blades for cultivation equipment. The 4 mm hollow tine (0.16 inches) is becoming quite popular.

Japan_turf_show_2013 1

With all these tine sizes available, there is no excuse not to calculate the surface area affected at each time of core aerification, and to try to optimize that in a way that will maximize surface area removal while minimizing disruption to play.



If I were a greenkeeper, I would look to remove 5% or more of the surface area at each time of coring, and to do that with conventional tine spacings it is necessary to use 10 mm or larger tines. The 4 mm tines have their place, but are not really useful for substantial removal of organic matter or incorporation of sand into the soil profile.

With all these fun things to learn about, I'm already looking forward to the 2014 Japan Turf Show.

"Control the K" on GCI Superintendent Radio Network

Kyle Brown and I spoke about potassium (K), sustainability, turf diseases and K, fertilizer requirements, conventional soil guidelines, and the minimum levels for sustainable nutrition (MLSN) soil guidelines in this interview on the Superintendent Radio Network.

For more information on topics discussed in this interview, see:

3 Reasons Sheep are Better Than Cows for Mowing Fairways

The 1st at Ootacamund Gymkhana Club (founded 1896) is strikingly reminiscent of the 10th at Augusta National. This long dogleg left plays steeply downhill in a wide corridor between tall evergreen trees. Unlike Augusta National, no mechanical mowers have ever been used on this fairway.

In the never-ending debate of which is best for fairway mowing — conventional 5-reel mowers, lightweight 5-reel mowers, triplex mowers, ground-driven gang mowers, PTO-driven gang mowers, sheep, cows, other ungulates, rabbits, rotary mowers, scythes, etc. — I look in this article specifically at the intriguing differences between sheep and cows. As you will see, sheep beat cows in three categories of critical importance to the greenkeeper: soil compaction, efficiency, and quality of cut.

Soil compaction: The average cow will weigh about 725 kg. A sheep is just 10% of that, and lambs of course are even less. When fairways are mown with cows, more cultivation activities must be undertaken to relieve soil compaction. Even after a heavy rain, sheep can be sent out to mow, but care must be taken with cow mowing after rain events and in poorly-drained areas. Note that in sandy soils, which are resistant to compaction, this advantage of sheep is negated, and cow mowing can be used with little fear of soil compaction.

Efficient sheep mowing

Efficiency: Fairways cover a large area, usually more than 10 ha for an 18 hole course, and efficiency is of utmost importance to prepare a course for play. Sheep can be herded into any arrangement to go down the fairway in unison. I like to send them in groups of 12, as shown above, with 9 in front to mow a 4 meter swath; the 3 sheep following immediately behind clip any blades not cut. Other turf managers may prefer a different arrangement, 7-2 being popular when fewer sheep are available, and 12-4-2 (sometimes called 3-row mowing) at higher budget properties. Regardless of the arrangement, sheep mow a fairway rapidly and completely.

Inefficient cow mowing

Cows, on the other hand, face in all directions and mow a patch here and a patch there. Fairways mown with cows take approximately 40% longer to cut completely, by my estimation, which often results in the cows interfering with approaching golfers, as mowing simply cannot be completed ahead of play.

Quality of cut: No matter how light the footprint, or how incredibly efficient a mower is, the end result must be a high quality of cut in order to produce the desired playing surface. This is where sheep really excel. Their self-adjusting mowing height produces the ideal height of cut (HOC) on any surface, and they cut precisely by biting off the leaves in a fluid scything motion (see video above). Cows aren’t able to mow at extremely low HOC, but do mow at a HOC acceptable to most golfers. However, the tearing action as cows mow (see video below) results in more damage to the grass, possibly increasing the grass water use and creating entry points for fungal pathogens.

IGU South Zone Greenkeeper Education Programme at Mysore

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The 3rd year of the Indian Golf Union's South Zone greenkeeper education programme was held last week at Mysore. 36 delegates attended, representing 19 Indian clubs and 3 clubs from Sri Lanka. This programme is put on by the IGU with support from The R&A. For most of the delegates, this was their third year to attend, and we quickly reviewed the 2011 and 2012 topics before studying new topics.

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Jayachamaraja Wodeyar Golf Club (JWGC) in Mysore hosted the weeklong educational session, and the delegates went to the course each afternoon to gets hands on experience with the content previously taught in the classroom. Our overall focus was on solving problems and improving playability. Some of the things we looked at on the course included soil moisture, the Holing Out Test, putting green hardness, dealing with tree shade, and measuring surface area of putting greens. 

The Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) provided training on irrigation and managing soil moisture, safe equipment operation, and ensuring mowers are set up to cut properly. Below, Mohan Subramanian from Rain Bird discusses irrigation and how to determine just how much water to apply.

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On Wednesday night, all delegates enjoyed dinner with IGU President Raian Irani, hosted by JWGC and their committee members.

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At the final session on Friday, we talked about nutrient application and made various calculations related to fertilizers. This was followed by a short video on the history of Indian golf. Delegates then enjoyed one final lunch before heading back to their clubs, carrying notebooks filled with turfgrass management information and hopefully with some practical advice as well that can help improve playing conditions at the facilities they manage.

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This IGU education programme continues at Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Jamshedpur in the next three weeks.

An Observation About Deep Rough on Tropical Golf Courses

Grazed native grass near Mysore, India

I'm sometimes asked what grass species should be used for a deep rough on a tropical golf course. Golf course architects or golf course developers sometimes want something that can provide a contrast to the highly-maintained fairways, yet still remain playable. "Something that looks and plays like fine fescue," I've heard.

In Southeast Asia the grass planted frequently in these areas is bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum). But one struggles to find a ball hit into this grass, let alone play from it, and I advocate a different approach.

Bahiagrass rough in Surat Thani, Thailand

I know this type of surface can be produced in a tropical environment. I've written about it in Golf Course Architecture magazine. But my approach involves management, not planting a specific species, and certainly not planting a monostand of bahiagrass.

Grazed warm-season grasses, primarily Chrysopogon aciculatus, in Bohol, Philippines

By looking at the landscape around tropical parts of Asia, one sees that this type of wispy rough, one which would provide a contrast to the maintained fairway, and one in which one could easily find and play a golf ball, is actually quite common. 

From fields grazed by sheep in India to fields grazed by cattle and goats in the Philippines and Japan, these grasses, no matter what they are, produce a wispy tall rough. These areas are not fertilized (except by the animals), are not irrigated, and clippings are harvested. On golf courses, a similar surface could be produced by simulated grazing. Withhold irrigation, don't fertilize, mow infrequently and remove clippings. If the grass grows too fast, slightly compact the soil to reduce the amount of water and soil nutrients available to the grass.

Grazed pasture at Ishigaki, Japan; low-growing grasses are primarily Zoysia and Digitaria species; tall grass clumps are Sporobolus indicus

Counting Down, Top 5 Posts of 2009

Banner_1I started this blog on 1 January 2009. After nearly five years of writing, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the most popular posts of each year. There is a lot of information in the back pages of the blog.

In 2009, almost no one read what I was writing. Now, there are more visitors to the blog on a slow day than there were on the busiest day in 2009.

So what were the most popular posts (as measured by pageviews) in 2009? Here they are.

  1. Mowing Patterns & Grass Color
  2. Core Aeration of Putting Greens ... how much is enough?
  3. Sodium Chloride for Weed Control
  4. Seeded Sea Spray Seashore Paspalum
  5. Turfgrass at Dubai

Coming up I'll share the most popular posts of the succeeding years. 

Monthly Turfgrass Roundup (October 2013)

What a busy month this was! In case you missed them, these articles and links from the past month are likely to be of interest to turfgrass managers in Asia:

I measured what happened to lawn grass surface temperature after syringing. The results were interesting.

KashimaThe fields in Japan's J.League are almost all bermudagrass. Here's a report on one that's not, with a look at optimum overseeding timing using the turfgrass growth potential.

The program, venue, and speakers for the Sustainable Turfgrass Management in Asia 2014 conference were announced.

Dr. Wendy Gelernter from PACE Turf explained what sustainability really means in this podcast.

I taught a live webcast for GCSAA on Nutrient Use & Requirements for putting greens. The recorded webcast is available for on-demand viewing and this supplementary handout provides even more information on this topic.

The PGA Tour played at Kuala Lumpur Golf & CC for the CIMB Classic. Golf course superintendent Mohd Nizam Othman will be speaking about tournament preparation at Thailand on 10 March.

If sandcapped fairways are so good, why must tournaments implement the lift, clean, and place rule?

I spoke at the Malaysia International Golf Symposium about grass selection and about nutrient requirements for grass in Asia. Slides and handout are available for download here.

I shared an article with this quote: “Why use and pay for nutrients that the grass does not need or the soil does not require?” That tweet got a big response. And here's the article.

On a visit to a golf course in Japan, I saw some interesting maintenance techniques and equipment. See videos and a description here.

This month's Turfgrass Mystery involved a striped green just below the Arctic Circle in Iceland. Learn more, and find out who solved the mystery.

Dr. Doug Soldat from the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin gave this splendid one hour seminar on managing soil to maximize plant health. Every turf manager should watch this, when you can find time. It's free, and availble for on-demand viewing courtesy of GCSAA and Bayer.

The video of my Predicting Turfgrass Performance seminar at Cornell University, along with the accompanying handout, can be seen here.

For more about turfgrass management in Asia, browse the many articles available for download on the ATC Turfgrass Information page, subscribe to this blog by e-mail or with an RSS reader - I use Feedly, or follow @asianturfgrass on Twitter. Link and article roundups from previous months can be seen here.

More data on just what happens -- or doesn't -- when turf is syringed

Measure_equipToday was sunny at Bangkok, and I decided to do an experiment on the lawn at the apartment complex where I live. For more on this topic, see this post on why I would not try to cool grass by syringing. That post drew a mixed and sometimes heated response.

It was was of the most viewed posts on my blog, ever, and some people wrote to say they agreed with me, and others wrote to say that I was wrong. With that mixed reaction in mind, I wanted to make some measurements myself. Here's what I did today:

  • the air temperature was 35°C, wind was negligible, there were no clouds in the sky, and the photosynthetic irradiance was 1970 micromoles m-2 s-1
  • this area of the lawn was in full sun and is primarily manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) with a bit of purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus)
  • the height of the turf was 5 cm
  • I marked 4 points on the lawn with a golf tee
  • I measured the surface temperature on both sides of each marked point using an infrared thermometer
  • Starting at 13:18, water was applied as a fine mist (a syringe) to one side of each marked point, with the water coming from a spray bottle calibrated to apply 40 mL m-2 to an area of 0.159 m2
  • Immediately after the water application, and again at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 minutes after application, the surface temperature was measured on a location within the syringed area and on a location outside the syringed area
  • The temperature of the water applied to the grass was 31.2°C

Here are the temperature measurements. Time is in minutes, with time 0 immediately before water was applied, and all other times in minutes after the syringe application.

##    Time Syringe No Syringe
## 1     0    33.2       36.2
## 2     0    36.6       34.6
## 3     0    34.4       37.2
## 4     0    35.0       34.4
## 5     1    33.4       32.8
## 6     1    30.4       36.6
## 7     1    31.0       37.2
## 8     1    32.8       34.2
## 9     5    33.2       34.6
## 10    5    38.4       35.4
## 11    5    33.4       37.0
## 12    5    37.2       36.2
## 13   10    34.6       30.2
## 14   10    35.6       33.6
## 15   10    34.6       35.8
## 16   10    33.2       33.0
## 17   15    33.4       31.2
## 18   15    33.8       33.4
## 19   15    32.0       37.6
## 20   15    33.4       33.4
## 21   20    30.4       29.6
## 22   20    33.6       34.4
## 23   20    33.2       34.8
## 24   20    32.4       31.2
## 25   25    31.8       33.8
## 26   25    35.6       34.0
## 27   25    34.0       37.4
## 28   25    36.8       32.8
## 29   30    31.4       29.0
## 30   30    34.6       32.8
## 31   30    31.2       36.4
## 32   30    31.8       32.4

In summary what happened was this:

  1. The surface temperature before application of water was about 35°C, the same as air temperature.
  2. 1 minute after water application, the surface temperature had dropped to 31.9°C, which was close to the actual temperature of the water. There was a 3°C reduction in temperature immediately after applying water, but keep in mind that the water temperature was 31.2°C.
  3. Using a t-test to compare the mean value of syringed vs. non-syringed turf at 1 minute after water application, the probability that such a difference in temperature was due to chance was 0.04. Clearly, the water application reduced temperature for about a minute, maybe a little more.
  4. At 5 minutes after application the surface temperature was back up to more than 35°C, a higher temperature than before water was applied. And then at 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 minutes after application, the surface temperatures ranged from about 32 to 35°C, but there was never a significant difference in surface temperature between the syringed and non-syringed turf.

These results are remarkably similar to those I described in the controversial blog post. Today's data were collected on a lawn, and the higher mowing height increased (I think) the variability in the measurements. If the weather stays like this, I will try to collect data from a putting green to see what type of syringing effect I can measure.

J.League Division 1, Grass Types, and Overseeding

Kashima_cornerOf the 18 clubs in J.League Division 1 this year, just 3 play on cool-season (C3) grass pitches. One of these clubs is Kashima Antlers, and on two recent trips to Japan I had a chance to visit their home ground, Kashima Soccer Stadium, and see their training grounds in Kashima.

The J.League season runs from March to December. With the high temperatures across most of Japan in summer, it is difficult to keep C3 turf alive, let alone in acceptable condition for professional football, so most pitches are C4 hybrid bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon x C. transvaalensis) overseeded in autumn with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Kashima Soccer Stadium is unique in having a field of kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and hybrid texas bluegrass (Poa arachnifera x P. pratensis) for improved heat tolerance.


The stadium and training ground for Kashima Antlers are maintained by I-G-M, and they also maintain the Japan National Training Center in Osaka. When I visited Kashima in early September to meet with Mr. Suzuki and the team from I-G-M, I was impressed with the condition of the pitch. Even at the end of the hot summer, there was still an extensive root system. I also saw the impressive (and invisible until the sprinkler system was turned on) turf-capped sprinklers. 


When I visited again on a game day in mid-October, the turf was even stronger, and was fully recovered from the heat stress of summer.


It is a great atmosphere in the stadium. The Antlers fans came into the stadium more than 4 hours before game time and were cheering loudly before the game had even started.

At the Kashima Antlers training ground, there are three pitches, each being hybrid bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass. We visited on 19 October, right in the middle of the overseeding process. One field had been overseeded, mown once, and was being painted in advance of use in two days. The second field was being overseeded and topdressed while we visited, and the third field was to be done the last week of October.

The overseeding process at Kashima; a) bermudagrass scalped and spiked, perennial ryegrass spread at 70 g/square meter; b) field topdressed with sand after seeding; c) the field after 1 mowing, about 2 weeks after seeding; d) painting the field 2 days before it will open to the team for practice

In 2013, October is the optimum time to overseed at Kashima. We can identify that time by looking at the temperature-based turfgrass growth potential. The turfgrass growth potential was developed by Wendy Gelernter and Larry Stowell at PACE Turf as a way to improve the success of overseeding. It is also a useful tool for predicting turfgrass nitrogen use.

I calculated the growth potential for C3 and C4 grasses based on temperatures at Kashima from early August to the end of October this year.


The temperature-based turfgrass growth potential from early August to late October 2013, using temperature data from Kashima; the lines on the chart show the average growth potential.

The best time for overseeding is when the C3 growth potential is significantly higher than the C4 growth potential, and when there are still many weeks of a relatively high growth potential for C3 grass to establish. The average C4 growth potential dropped below 0.5 right about 1 October, just as the C3 growth potential was reaching a peak. The optimum time to overseed in these conditions would be in the early part of October, which is just what was done at the Kashima Antlers training ground.

It is interesting to note, at the left side of the chart, just how poor the temperatures are during summer for C3 grass, and how good they are for C4 grass. Seeing those data makes me even more impressed that I-G-M are able to produce such a fine pitch at the stadium. One can understand why almost all the J.League teams play on C4 turf.