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May 2014

A Fortunate Stroke of Serendipity

Yesterday, while botanizing in Kanagawa prefecture near Kamakura, I saw Zoysia japonica near the ocean and Miscanthus sinsensis near Daibutsu.


On a headland at the end of Inamuragasaki Beach, I saw a bit more zoysia and what appeared to be a viewpoint in a grove of pine trees. I climbed up to the grove, and there I saw a monument. From a distance, I could see what appeared to be some text in English. 


I was surprised (and pleasantly surprised) to see that this monument was erected to commemorate the visit of Dr. Robert Koch to Kamakura in 1908. You will be familiar with Koch's postulates, the four criteria that establish a causative relationship between a pathogen and a disease. Click the image to see a larger view of the inscription. 

How I came to have a Nittany Lion on my lawn in Bangkok


Thanks to the Penn State Turf Club, I received a Nittany Lion in today's mail. 

The Club selected our (Gelernter, Stowell, and Woods) article from the December 2013 issue of Golf Course Management for their Article of the Year Award.


We wrote Documenting your progress toward sustainability to

"help you and your facility measure and communicate concrete progress toward reaching sustainability goals ... 

Without the ability to measure it, sustainability remains a mushy, confusing and frustratingly unobtainable goal. Without quantification, evaluating the achievement of sustainability goals becomes wholly subjective — in the eye of the beholder. Although you may think you’re doing a great job, you have no way to communicate it or to prove it, unless you have some way to measure and document it.

In this article, we present several simple monitoring approaches that can help take the mush out of sustainability, and instead treat it as a measurable, science-based agronomic phenomenon. All of these procedures can easily be put into practice at your facility."

I'm thrilled that this article has been so well-received and that the Penn State Turf Club saw fit to choose this article for their award. Thank you! 

Identification & Management of Turfgrass Diseases

CoverThis guide is one that all turfgrass managers should have on their desk or in digital format: Identification & Management of Turfgrass Diseases. And it doesn't cost anything. It is a free download, as a 56 page full color PDF file.

Written by Barb Corwin, Ned Tisserat, and Brad Fresenburg, and published by the University of Missouri Extension, this guide begins with an overview of disease ID and control and proceeds to a 2-page section on each of the major turfgrass diseases.

I've found this guide especially useful, along with the Chemical Control of Turfgrass Diseases (also free!) by Vincelli and Munshaw.

If you want to see which turfgrass species are hosts to which diseases, or which fungicides can control which diseases, you will find that information in the opening pages.


Then comes a step-by-step guide to identifying diseases. After that are the 2-page summaries of each disease, covering Symptoms and Signs, Conditions under which the disease can occur, and Management.


What we discussed: an informal seminar with Korean golf course superintendents

Micah_golf_seminarI was in Korea a couple weeks ago for this seminar on putting green maintenance. That seminar lasted just an hour, and after lunch I spoke for a few hours with superintendents and course maintenance staff from the Golfzon County group.

The afternoon session was informal, and the questions were universally applicable. Here's what we discussed, with links to additional reading on these topics:

Of trees, turf, and tropical tournament golf

The Asian Tour is at the East Course of Wack Wack Golf and Country Club this week for the Philippine Open. This photo from pro Yoshinobu Tsukada is the par 3 8th, one of the classic short holes in Asia. One notices a lot of trees, with just a narrow corridor for play.

In a tropical climate, trees and shade can be a desirable feature on the golf course. Shade is certainly welcome, at least from the players' point of view.

Caddies and golfers at Bangsai CC north of Bangkok use umbrellas to provide shade on a sunny summer day

Not all grasses can handle the shade from clouds, combined with the shade from trees. At Wack Wack's East Course, there is manilagrass on the greens, and tropical carpetgrass on fairways and rough. These grasses, tropical carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) and manilagrass (Zoysia matrella), are the two species that can tolerate low mowing (less than 5 mm) under appreciable tree shade in a tropical climate.

If one wants to have grass, and have trees, then these are the grasses that work. And they require minimal inputs, can be mown as short as one likes, and they can be maintained to the highest level for international tournaments.

These species also work on the local courses that want to have good playing conditions, but may not have an irrigation system, or a big budget. 

The 1st at Khet Udom Sak GC in Chumporn, Thailand: manilagrass greens, carpetgrass through the green, no fairway irrigation

 And when it rains, these species can handle the tropical rains just fine. But most importantly, they are the species that tolerate low mowing in tree shade in a tropical environment. For more info, see the links immediately below this post.

The 7th at Pakasai CC in Krabi, Thailand: manilagrass greens (3.5 mm), carpetgrass through the green (8 mm on surrounds)

Why apply nutrients the plant won't need?

In the ShortCUTT podcast of 5 May, Dr. Frank Rossi talks about sustainable turfgrass management, the MLSN guidelines, the Global Soil Survey, and gypsum misconceptions. He summarized this in these seven words:

"Why apply nutrients the plant won't need?"

Listen to the podcast here. The relevant sections start at the 6:30 mark; gypsum is at 7:40.

More about gypsum, imaginary problems, and calcium deficiency from Dr. Rossi here.

Sea Turtles and Turfgrass, Natural Golf and National Parks

16th green and 17th hole at Tublamu Navy Golf Course

If you didn't know it was there, you would miss the right turn off Thailand's National Highway 4. There's no sign for the golf course on the main road. 10 hours drive and 775 km south of Bangkok, one comes to the town of Tublamu. Just south of the Khao Lak beaches and the jungle of Khao Lak - Lam Ru National Park, Tublamu is home to the Phang-Nga Naval Base and the office of (as well as departure point for boats to) Similan Islands National Park. Following the signs to the navy base, and passing through the security checkpoint at the base entrance, one finds an amazing golf course.

For a country with so much coastline, Thailand doesn't have many oceanside golf holes. The Tublamu Navy Golf Course has 5 holes where the ocean comes into play, and one can see the Andaman Sea, usually a deep and shimmering blue, from nearly every hole.


Damage to the former 1st green after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

There used to be more trees and undergrowth, but the 2004 tsunami washed much of that away. 

This GOLF Magazine article tells the story of what happened at the course that morning when the tsunami tore across it. The course was rebuilt in 2005. Walking the course today, or looking out from the clubhouse, one doesn't see any sign of the tsunami.

But just beyond the first nine holes, at the southern end of the navy base, one comes to a tsunami memorial. There is a large navy patrol boat, on its side, hundreds of meters from the ocean. This boat was washed ashore during the tsunami and is left in place as a memorial, along with various explanatory plaques, maps, and name lists. 



Turtle_rightThe Sea Turtle Conservation Center has a hatchery and nursery to raise and release 10,000 sea turtles each year into the Andaman Sea. These are primarily green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).

At the golf course, they take special care to minimize inputs. There is infrequent irrigation, use of native grasses to minimize mowing, and insect pests on the putting greens are dealt with not by using pesticides, but by applying a soapy rinse to the green surface and then collecting the insects from the surface. 

High budget resorts sometimes get the environmental accolades in the golf industry. This type of low-input and natural golf course is worthy of accolades too.


Here's a video of the young turtles at feeding time.

And here's a video of the older sea turtles at the conservation center.

If you are traveling to the resort areas of Phuket or Phang Nga and are interested in golf and the environment, the Phang Nga Naval Base, the small town of Tublamu, and the golf course and sea turtle center are something you will want to see.

Approach to the par 5 16th at Tublamu Navy Golf Course with the Andaman Sea just over the green

A note on light and grass selection in warm-season areas

In this chart, I plotted the mean daily light integral (DLI) on days when the mean temperature is ≥ 24°C (75 °F) against the accumulated warm-season (C4) growth potential on those same days. That is, I selected only the days of the year when it is relatively warm, and then estimated the average amount of photosynthetically active radiation that will fall on the ground on those days. 

Why am I writing about this today? Because I think this chart can be used to help explain something that I've received a couple inquiries about. And that is the locations at which I suggest manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) would perform better than bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.). I only recommend manilagrass as the preferred species when the light is low.

Take Dubai and Florida, for example – and these were the locations I was asked about. The light there is relatively high, and I would suggest the default species be bermudagrass, rather than manilagrass, unless there were contributing factors such as tree shade that would appreciably reduce the light.

I've written about manilagrass as the fine fescue of the tropics, and by that I mean places that have a tropical climate. All the cities at bottom right of the chart have a tropical climate, and some of the cities on the left side of the chart have a tropical climate. What is particularly distinctive about most places with a tropical climate is the lower amount of light available for photosynthesis during the time of the year when temperatures are warm, compared to the amount of light in locations with a different climate.


In locations on this chart with mean DLI less than 42.5, I expect there to be some challenges with growing bermudagrass as a closely-mown turf, due to the lack of photosynthetically active radiation. In most of those places, manilagrass will outperform bermudagrass. 

In locations on this chart with mean DLI more than 42.5, I expect bermudagrass to outperform manilagrass, due to the relatively high amount of photosynthetically active radiation. 

Turfgrass Mystery: the case of the island incident

This mystery comes from the Westman Islands. For an overview of turfgrass in Iceland, see this report and these photos.

When I visited the Westman Islands GC, most greens looked as above. The grass was healthy at the end of summer. But there were a couple greens that had some bare areas, as shown below.


A closer look at the bare areas revealed this appearance.


The mystery is this: what caused the grass to fail in some areas? I wouldn't wish this pernicious problem on anyone.

The answer is nematodes, and Dr. Brett Morris identified exactly what has happened:

 Partial credit for a right answer goes to Nadeem Zreikat from Campbell Chemicals, who guessed disease or nematodes, which I didn't think was specific enough. If you click on the photo above, you will see the bare area has Festuca rubra growing in it but not Poa annua, although one can see a few plants of Poa annua in the surrounding areas. 

In looking at the root system of the Poa annua, one can find root galls caused by Subanguina radicicola.


The nematode damage to the root system of the Poa annua makes it more susceptible to stress, especially when the grass is maintained with low nitrogen applications to favor the desired Festuca rubra.