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May 2017

The two green system usually means there are two bentgrass greens per hole

The idea that golf courses in Japan with the two green system have a summer green and a winter green is not quite correct. Nor is the two green system used exclusively with one warm-season grass green and one with cool-season grass.

image from
Trevor Dormer and I had a brief discussion about this.

Survey data I looked at some years ago showed 37% of courses in Japan use the two green system. That number will be slightly lower today. But I expect most courses with the two green system will have two bentgrass greens. It does vary; a busy course near Tokyo has one Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass green and one korai (Zoysia matrella) green. And there are courses with one bentgrass and one korai green. I've written about this a lot. A selection of posts on this topic are at the bottom of this page.


But for now, here's what I saw on a recent trip to Japan. When I visit golf courses and talk with greenkeepers, I often ask these questions.

  • How many holes, one or two green system, and what grasses?
  • How many maintenance staff do you have?
  • What is the number of rounds at this facility?
  • How much nitrogen do you apply per year to the greens?

Of the nine facilities I visited last week, here's the answers to those questions from the greenkeepers. Six gave the N rate. The minimum was 11 g N/m2/year, the maximum was 20 g, and the median was 13; 3 greenkeepers didn't have the number off the top of their head. The other data are in this chart.


The median staff was 15 people, and that includes everyone -- mechanics, part time staff, office staff, etc. This is actually a bit high for Japan. I was visiting facilities skewed a little to the high end. I think the nationwide average staff will be 12 or 13 people per 18 holes.


The median rounds were 44,000 per year. That seems about right. The course with 80,000 rounds has night golf and one can tee off until 21:00.

And how about the greens? I visited 9 courses. Of those, 2/3 had two greens. Of those with two greens, 1/3 had one bent and one korai, and 2/3 had two bent.


More about the two green system in these posts.

"It has been around 8 months since we started following the MLSN guidelines and ..."

Brad Revill wrote about his use of the MLSN guidelines, some of the adjustments he has made, and reports on how it is working.

"So it has been around 8 months since we started following the MLSN guidelines and we have been very happy with the results, not just from a turf performance point of view but from the financial side as well!"

That's the idea. Turf performance should be the same, or better, than with other methods, because MLSN recommendations are based on supplying the grass with all the nutrients the grass requires.

"Some of you may be asking 'What about root growth?' Well I can only tell you from my experience following the MLSN over the past 8 months is that we have seen a steady increase in root depth over the last 12 months"

I'm glad to hear that. Eli Rahz shared something similar last week:

And for cool-season turf, I'm reminded of the Poa annua roots Sue Crawford showed last autumn:

Good stuff. It's fun to see those results.

Soil test interpretation and more: 4 seminars in Australia

I was in Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane this week to discuss the MLSN approach to soil test interpretation in four seminars organized by Living Turf.

In these seminars, I explained that the use of the MLSN guidelines is as simple as planning how many beers to buy for an upcoming party. And at this party, I want to ensure that I don't run out of beer to serve my friends.


This is a quick summary.

1: Soil test calibration involves establishing different levels of nutrients in the soil, growing a grass in those soils, and then evaluating the grass response to different levels of that nutrient. It quickly becomes apparent that these calibrations will be specific to the soil type, grass variety, and climate in which the calibration is done. Doug Soldat called these tests "expensive and time consuming." On a global scale, the word I use to describe this is impossible.

2: Because doing such extensive calibration is impossible, the conventional turfgrass guidelines were developed by adjusting the ranges from agricultural crops and soils:

"Traditionally, ranges for various nutrients are based on the past 60 years of fertility studies, particularly on forages, agronomic and horticultural crops, with adjustments made to fit perennial turfgrasses based on studies and the judgment of experienced university turfgrass scientists."

In addition to that, the conventional guidelines have in some cases been set deliberately high. That's not because grass performance would be improved by more nutrients, but because "the cost of fertilization was not considered of primary importance for turf." And that quote is right from the textbook.

3: The minimum levels for sustainable nutrition (MLSN) guidelines for interpreting soil tests take a different approach by focusing on the way turf is managed in the modern era, and considering grasses and the soil conditions used for high performance turfgrass today.

4: Use of the MLSN approach involves making an estimate of 100% of the nutrients that the grass can use, and increasing that by an additional amount to keep as reserve in the soil. One then compares the sum of the use estimate and the reserve quantity to the amount actually present, and the result of that comparison is the minimum fertilizer recommendation.

You can scroll through the slides below, or view or download them here.

After my seminar about MLSN, Daryl Sellar showed a demonstration of the TurfKeeper system. One can read about it at the website, and how it "becomes the home of all turf management planning, actions, and facility history." It starts with a job board and goes from there, with the tasks, costs, product usage, and application records all linked in a way that impresses me every time I see how TurfKeeper is used. I was recently listening to a podcast about turfgrass innovation. Dave Wilber and Kevin Hicks discussed the direction of the industry, and Kevin mentioned that there is a lot of data out there, and a lot of systems that do a good job of handling one aspect of the data. TurfKeeper puts it all together in a way that few others do.


The MLSN approach is suitable for any grass, soil, and use, because it involves both a site specific estimate of nutrient use plus a reserve amount to keep in the soil. I enjoyed seeing a range of turfgrass sites and grasses on this trip, and discussing with so many turfgrass managers the practical use of MLSN to interpret soil tests in those conditions.


That's kikuyugrass at Eagle Farm race course in Brisbane. For a good story about something that happened at Eagle Farm in 1984, read about Fine Cotton.


This is Legend green couch (bermudagrass) overseeded with perennial ryegrass at Suncorp Stadium.

A post-conference assortment

I made a few notes at the recent Philippine Golf Course Management Conference. I was there to speak about irrigation water and soil test interpretation.


The conference program was excellent and I learned a lot. Things I noted, which will perhaps be of interest:

  1. Do you know about this sand calculator from Purdue University?

  2. One of the speakers showed how the Turf Tracker improves the precision of product applications to the golf course.

  3. I was intrigued by the Zero Carbon Resorts program, and especially the Demonstration Cottage.

  4. There was some discussion of the Philippines Köppen climate classification.

Turfgrass roundup: April 2017

Easily identify four tropical grasses.

Paul Jansen on a "Sustainable by Design" tour.

Photos and presentations from the R&A Sustainability Seminar in Japan.

Website visits by computer, phone, or tablet.

The GP Avatar app from PACE Turf.

Andrew McDaniel set off a long conversation with this tweet:

An MLSN refresher.

K in phosphite/phosphonate products.

Snow at St. Andrews from Gordon McKie:

Spring, cherry blossoms, and a 1200 year time series from Kyoto.

Andrew McDaniel went inside the ropes at the Masters with Yuta Ikeda:

Update from Oregon: S, Ca, and microdochium patch.

Ricardo Llorca prepares a multifunctional facility:

A map of MLSN newsletter subscriptions in 33 countries.

Are you subscribed to the ATC updates mailing list? Or the MLSN newsletter list? For more about turfgrass management, browse 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 are here.

What's my workflow? 2017 edition

Five years ago I wrote about my workflow to keep up with turfgrass information. From 2012, Productivity 1: what's my workflow? and Productivity 2: my turfgrass information workflow

In the first part, I explained that I used

  • two notebooks
  • Google Reader
  • judicious use of Twitter
  • occasional use of Evernote
  • and one list of work to do.

Then in the second part I explained how I did it.

A lot of things have changed since then. I generally use just one notebook now, Google Reader doesn't exist anymore, I still use Twitter, I haven't used Evernote for years, and I still keep one list.


Here's what I'm doing in 2017.

I want to accomplish as much as possible, and I want to keep up with turfgrass information. I don't want to miss anything I should be aware of, and I also want to keep track of what I'm working on and keep that work moving forward.

I'm still using the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach.

1 list: On my computer, I keep a master list of all the projects I'm working on. Five years ago I was using OmniFocus for this. Now I use Org mode.

1 notebook: I keep a small notebook with me for ideas, calculations, and notes. I still have a large notebook that I use when necessary, but I often leave it at home. Then I transfer the notes from my notebook to the master list on my computer during my weekly review. I've been using small notebooks from LEUCHTTURM1917 for the past couple of years. I like them better than the Moleskine notebooks I had been using.

My phone: It's not easy to write or do my work with a phone. I use my phone for communication and a little bit of reading. I don't bother with Evernote anymore. I use the built-in notepad app to make a note if I have to, and if I don't have my notebook. Then, I transfer the note to my master list during my weekly review. No Facebook on my phone. Notifications from all apps pretty much turned off. No e-mail on my phone. Well, I can get to my e-mail if I have to, but through webmail, which is such a hassle that I won't check it unless it is an emergency. I have Twitter on my phone, and Buffer. If I have things I want to share on Twitter, I'll sometimes share immediately, and sometimes use Buffer to post them later. I get a lot of questions about things I've written about on my blog, and I figure that if one person has a question about something, others may also. So I sometimes set an old blog post to post sometime in the future using Buffer, when I have used that blog post to answer someone's question in a private conversation.

1 weekly review: Once a week, on Friday afternoons if I can, and otherwise at the next available opportunity, I review my notebook and phone, transferring any new tasks or projects into my master list. During the review I go through all my active projects and update what's been done and what my next actions are.

Twitter: This is still pretty much the same as I wrote in 2012:

"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."

What's different now? I use Tweetdeck on my computer, and Buffer on both my computer and phone. With Tweetdeck I can see the stream for a few hashtags -- among them #MLSN and #turfchat, and searches for zoysia and for paspalum. Then with Tweetdeck I can quickly see the latest tweets in those categories.


Feedly: I used Google Reader until it was killed, and now I use Feedly for RSS feeds. When websites update, it goes to Feedly. Then I can read the update at my leisure, or delete it. I don't have to go searching for information. The information comes to me, just like e-mail, and I can read it when I'm ready. Turf researchers find the TGIF feed of recently added articles especially useful. I don't have to remember to check any of the sites I follow. I don't have to check Twitter feeds or sign up for e-mail alerts to find when a new blog post is up. It all comes to Feedly.

Google Scholar alerts: I have a few Google Scholar alerts set up. For new citations of my articles, keywords like "turfgrass and potassium," some grass species, and new articles by a few other researchers. I then get a notification e-mail with a link to the articles as soon as Google Scholar adds them.

That's my workflow at present. And when I am working on my computer, I'm generally using RStudio. I wrote the MLSN paper in RStudio, make most of my presentation slides in RStudio, and do all data analyses in RStudio. I wrote this post in Emacs Markdown Mode. I write reports in Emacs LaTeX mode.

MacKenzie's fundamental principle of greenkeeping

I taught two seminars yesterday at the Philippine Golf Course Management conference. The first was about irrigation water requirement. The slides are here, and I made this Shiny app with data from 2013 through 2016 for Manila, Cebu, and Baguio.


In the second presentation I spoke about MLSN after 5 years. I explained what soil test interpretation is, why the MLSN guidelines were developed, and explained how they work.

This surprised me

I was making some calculations today about irrigation water requirement. I looked at Manila, where the normal annual rainfall is 1877 mm, and Cebu, where the normal annual rainfall is 1260 mm. These data from Manila are the 30 year average from 1961 to 1990, and at Cebu a 20 year average from 1971 to 1990.

For my calculations, I was looking at the past 10 years, from 2007 to 2016. I wanted to show the variation in irrigation water requirement at both locations, based on a calculation of the daily soil water balance.



I was able to get the daily precipitation from the GHCN (Global Historical Climatology Network) daily summaries by using the rnoaa package in R. For Manila, the annual precipiation (summed from the daily amounts) for the past 10 years ranged from 1381 mm to 2932 mm, with a mean annual amount of 1908 mm. That's pretty close to the normal of 1877 mm. For Cebu, there wasn't as much rain. The lowest year of the past 10 had 682 mm, the most was 1713 mm, and the mean was 1276 mm. Also pretty close to the normal of 1260 mm.


So what surprised me? Cebu gets less precipitation than Manila. The year with the most precipitation (in the last 10 years) at Cebu still had less rain than an average year at Manila. With those kind of differences, I expected the irrigation water requirement to be more at Cebu than at Manila. It rains less at Cebu, so more irrigation should be required, right?

The calculations don't work out that way. The reason is the way the rain is distributed through the year. Manila has more pronounced dry seasons and wet seasons. Cebu has dry and wet seasons too, but the dry seasons have more rain than at Manila.

For more, see the full presentation.