Slides and Handout from GCSAA Paspalum Webcast

On 7 March, I taught a webcast for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) entitled Today's Turf is ... Paspalum.

Paspalum_gcsaa_handoutThe GCSAA has made these slides and the three page handout available for download.

In the webcast, I discussed the two main reasons for using seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum): the excellent salinity tolerance of the grass and its beautiful visual appearance. I also showed where we find seashore paspalum growing in the wild, which has some implications for how we might best manage the grass on golf courses. And I discussed some of the challenges we face in producing fine seashore paspalum surfaces, specifically talking about dollar spot disease and bermudagrass (Cynodon) weed problems.

The GCSAA makes these webcasts, available on a range of topics sure to be of interest to golf course superintendents, free to their members the world over. This is just one of the many benefits of GCSAA membership

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.


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.

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 3

Costa_bravaAfter seeing so many grasses at the PGA Catalunya Resort, and then even more at Barcelona, I must say I was surprised again to continue seeing such a variety of grasses as David Bataller and I went botanizing at the Costa Brava and the Semillas Fitó turfgrass experimental station.

In addition to the ten turfgrass species I already listed from the Resort, a look at the grass around the revetted bunker reveals an eleventh - fine fescue


To those eleven species, I can add Stenotaphrum secundatum (above)which we saw thriving as a lawn grass in some parts of Catalonia, and also Zoysia matrella, which we saw on a few traffic circles.


At the Semillas Fitó turfgrass experimental station we saw seeded kikuyugrass and seeded Cynodon dactylon along with a variety of cool-season turfgrass varieties. I was especially interested in the Playa seed mixture which looked great on the research plots and contains seed from four different species: Cynodon dactylon, Festuca arundinacea, Poa pratensis, and Lolium perenne


And at Golf Platja de Pals, the first course on the Costa Brava, designed by Fred Hawtree, and site of the 1972 Spanish Open, the turf is almost all Poa annua, and one can even find pink snow mold (Michrodochium nivale) in the shaded areas there.


I think it is pretty amazing to see thirteen turfgrass species, all performing pretty well, and even in early December to see green Stenotaphrum secundatum and green Zoysia matrella and green Cynodon dactylon alongside Poa trivialis and Poa annua. If I had a lawn in Catalonia, I think I would plant the Playa mixture from Semillas Fitó myself, just for the novelty of having a mixture of warm- and cool-season grasses in the same lawn, and because the other types of Festuca arundinacea that I saw were performing very well. 

In Southeast Asia, there are just a few species of grass that work well as a lawn or as a sports turf. In northern Europe, there are just a few species that work. At Catalonia, I saw thirteen species, all growing, to some extent, very well. In Sydney, or in Brisbane, or in San Diego, or in Atlanta, we can have a wide range of species, but I don't think I've ever been anywhere where such a wide range of grasses were growing.

Turfgrass in Catalonia: 1

Occasionally I get to travel to places that have a tremendous variety of grasses. One of these is Hawaii – a wonderland of grasses. But at Hawaii it is a panoply of warm-season grasses. Recently I visited Catalonia, at the invitation of David Bataller, Golf Courses and Grounds Manager of the PGA Catalunya Resort. What I saw was really amazing! Almost every warm-season and cool-season turfgrass was growing in this region.

It is always interesting and a great learning experience to see so many types of grass. One thing that remains consistent about places where a lot of grasses, both cool- and warm-season species can grow, is this: these are among the most difficult places in the world to produce good year-round playing surfaces.


At this 36-hole facility, David manages primarily cool-season grasses, but there are also warm-season grasses – in fact, I counted ten different species of turfgrass, in total, being used on the property, plus lovegrass (Eragrostis) put to good use in many landscaping and out-of-play areas. In no particular order, they are:

  • Lolium perenne (C3)
  • Zoysia japonica (C4)
  • Pennisetum clandestinum (C4)
  • Poa annua (C3)
  • Poa trivialis (C3)
  • Poa pratensis (C3)
  • Agrostis stolonifera (C3)
  • Cynodon dactylon (and Cynodon hybrids) (C4)
  • Paspalum vaginatum (C4)
  • Festuca arundinacea (C3)

Why are there such a wide variety of grasses used for turf in Catalonia? If we look at a chart of growth potential through the year (Figure 1), it would seem that cool-season grasses would be a clear choice for this area. 

temperature-based turfgrass growth potential at Girona/Costa Brava, Spain

Figure 1. Temperature-based growth potential of C3 and C4 grasses based on climatological normals data for Girona, Spain.

The chart shows that the cool-season growth potential is higher than warm-season growth potential throughout the year. But what we find growing are both cool- and warm-season grasses. This is similar to a place like San Diego, California, where we can find seashore paspalum and bermudagrass and kikuyugrass growing alongside perennial ryegrass, Poa annua, and creeping bentgrass. 

The reason warm-season grasses perform well in this type of climate is because of water. Warm-season grasses have better water use efficiency than do cool-season grasses, and warm-season grasses generally have better salinity tolerance than do cool-season grasses. So in a climate where the evapotranspiration is higher than the precipitation, and where the irrigation water has some salt in it, warm-season grasses will compete well with and may even outperform cool-season grasses.


During the winter season, the warm-season grasses go dormant, as we can see with the Zoysia japonica on the bunker slope, but it is not cold enough for there to be any winterkill. 

PaspalumThere was even a local type of seashore paspalum (seedhead at right) that grows well in this area, and in fact some of the older golf courses near the sea in Catalonia have this native grass.

After the vist to PGA Catalunya Resort, my head was spinning. We had seen so many types of grasses, seen sunrises over the frost-covered courses, had discussed the soil and water salinity challenges, and tried to predict how certain grasses would grow at different times of the year. Maintaining fine turfgrass in a transitional climate, especially one without much precipitation, is really a challenge. 


Turfgrass at Gran Canaria: high season traffic, growth potential, salinity, and radio interview

Rcglp_sun_dayDuring my visit to Gran Canaria, I visited all seven golf facilities on the island. It is interesting to consider how the different grasses are performing. Although Gran Canaria has an exceptionally salubrious climate for people, it actually can be a difficult place to manage turfgrass.

The main turfgrasses being grown on the golf courses are:

  • kikuyugrass (Pennisetum clandestinum)
  • seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum)
  • bermudagrass (Cynodon spp.)
  • creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)

The first three of these are warm-season grasses, meaning they grow most rapidly with an average temperature of more than 27°C. Creeping bentgrass is a cool-season grass, and it grows best at a temperature of around 20°C.

There are three interesting things that we can note related to the grasses and the temperature here. 

1. When we plot the temperature-based growth potential of cool-season and warm-season grasses based on climatological normals weather data at Las Palmas, we see that the growth potential for cool-season grass is higher than that for warm-season grass for each month of the year. For more about growth potential, see this article by Dr. Wendy Gelernter and Dr. Larry Stowell of PACE Turf.

temperature-based turfgrass growth potential at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Figure 1. The temperature-based growth potential for C3 and C4 grasses based on climatological normal temperatures from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 

2. The grasses on the golf courses of Gran Canaria are almost all warm-season, but the growth potential model predicts that the temperatures are ideal for cool-season grasses. Why is it that we find the warm-season grasses predominating?

It is because of water. The eastern and southern parts of the island, where the golf courses are located, receive very little precipitation. Supplemental irrigation is required to keep functional golfing surfaces, and that irrigation is both limited in supply and rather high in salinity. Some irrigation supplies on the island have an electrical conductivity of almost 4 dS/m. 

Warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass and seashore paspalum have lower water use rates than do cool-season grasses, and these warm-season grasses are also more tolerant of salinity. This allows the golf course turf to be maintained with a minimum of water. This benefit is enhanced by the rather cool temperatures during the winter months, and in fact, for seven months of the year at Gran Canaria, the warm-season grasses grow at less than 50% of their potential, which means they use less water. The relatively low growth potential for warm-season grasses mean they will use less fertilizer also.

3. The resort courses at the southern part of the island see high traffic during the months of October to April. This creates a challenge for greenkeepers because the very season at which traffic is highest is also the season at which the primary turf of bermudagrass or seashore paspalum has its slowest growth. 


Micah Woods, Alejandro Nagy, and Fernando Suarez on a seashore paspalum tee at Maspalomas Golf


As I spoke with greenkeepers around the island, and as I mentioned in my radio interview with Chicho Morales on Bajo Par Canarias, the most important thing in managing good turf on Gran Canaria is water. Applying the right amount of water to the turf, and managing the salts that are applied in the irrigation water, by leaching, will lead to the best possible turfgrass conditions. 

Listen to the radio show here, with extended comments from me starting at about the 10:00 mark, some good questions from host Chicho Morales, and translation and additional remarks on my visit by Alejandro Nagy and Daniel Carretero.

For more information, I wrote about the golf courses and grasses of Gran Canaria in this post, and you can see photos of the different grasses and golf courses at Gran Canaria here.

Golf Courses and Turfgrass on the "Miniature Continent" of Gran Canaria

panorama from Pico Bandama

I visited Gran Canaria and its seven golf courses this week, choosing this island in particular because of its many microclimates and consequently the chance to study a variety of grasses in different environmental conditions.

Location (in blue) of the 7 golf facilities on Gran Canaria

 I also have friends (*see below) on this island, which made it an even more appealing place to visit. The north side of the island sees more clouds, and the south side of the island has more sunshine, and in general, it is a rather dry island. At the airport, near Telde in the East, the average annual rainfall is 134 mm. Contrast this with Bangkok, where grasses, many of them the same as at Gran Canaria, grow in a climate with almost 1,500 mm average annual rainfall. In fact, at Bangkok, there are six months of the year, each of the months from May through October, that have average rainfall more than the 134 mm annual average at Telde.

putting green irrigation

That lack of rainfall makes irrigation crucial to the performance of any turfgrass as a sporting surface at Gran Canaria, and because almost all of the courses are irrigated with treated wastewater, which is rather high in salinity, careful attention to water quality is just as important as water quantity, as is choosing the grass species that can tolerate such salinity. 

At the seven golf clubs on the island, there are nine courses. Salobre is 36 holes, and Anfi Tauro has a short course. The grass breakdown is this. On greens, four courses are creeping bentgrass, four are seashore paspalum, and one is bermuda. Through the green, one course is kikuyugrass, four are bermuda, and four are seashore paspalum.

There is some Poa annua growing, mixed in with bentgrass on some greens, and as a weed in some fairways. I also saw some perennial ryegrass, although it was not thriving. And there was Stenotaphrum secundatum (St. Augustingrass in the USA, buffalograss in Australia) growing well in a few parks, but I did not see it on any golf courses.

Cynodon dactylon in dry soil

At Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas, some unirrigated picon areas between tees and fairways have drought-tolerant bermudagrass growing in these dry conditions. The tees and fairways, which receive irrigation, are covered with kikuyugrass. A collection of photos are posted at Flickr (and below) where you can see the grasses and the golf courses of this diverse island.

*Alejandro Rodriguez Nagy, who arranged the schedule this week and introduced me to the greenkeepers at each course; Daniel Carretero, who played on the golf team at the University of Portland (my hometown) and worked at Augusta National GC where I met him during the 2011 Masters Tournament; and Oscar Sanchez, who I caddied for at Waverley CC when he played in the 1993 USGA Junior Amateur Championship.

Científico Jefe: a note on cool job titles, translation, and some upcoming seminars

I used to call myself the Research Director of the Asian Turfgrass Center. Then I decided that Chief Scientist would be a fun (or a more rakish?) job title, and I am glad that I did, because Científico Jefe has a nice ring to it. At the invitation of La Asociación Española de Greenkeepers, I'll be speaking at the 34 Congreso Anual de Greenkeepers (Spanish Greenkeepers Congress) in Madrid at the end of this month on the topic of Nutrición y Requerimientos reales para greenes en España (Nutrient Requirements for Putting Greens in Spain).

I'm also giving a seminar for the Thai GCSA on 13 November. The topic on that day is putting green performance and will go into some detail about soil moisture, surface hardness, and how the organic matter in sand rootzones can be managed to optimize surface conditions. That seminar will be translated into Thai.

Ueno-micahIn February, I'll be giving seminars at Tokyo and Japan about ultradwarf bermudagrass management and in India about techniques that can be used to improve course conditions. Then in March at Thailand I will be teaching about turfgrass nutrient requirements, and I'll also be providing an online seminar (webcast) about seashore paspalum for GCSAA.

That is a lot to prepare for, on various topics, and we will see materials translated into Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. I'll share these slides and handouts as much as possible once they are available. 

For a list of upcoming seminars and conferences that may be of interest to those who work in the turf industry in Asia, see the ATC Calendar. I keep that calendar updated with relevant industry and educational events and although I'm not speaking at all of these events, I will be at some of them.


A Turfgrass Mystery on Seashore Paspalum in Tamil Nadu


Last week I visited a golf course in Southern India and saw these symptoms on seashore paspalum turf. The general symptoms are shown above, and a close-up of a single patch is shown below. 

Can you identify the cause of these patches? 


This one was quickly solved by three people. Did you have the same answer?

Elephant_crossing_zone_tamil_naduThat, of course, is the correct answer, as this course, right up against the Western Ghats, is visited frequently by elephants. 

If we take an even closer look at one of the elephant footprints, we can see that the patch seems to include some dried mud that remains on the leaf, along with some bruising from the weight of the elephant.

These footprints should not be confused with the autumnal disease of Zoysia japonica in Japan, caused by Rhizoctonia cerealis, and known by the common name of elephant's footprint.


Hopefully this information will help you to identify elephant footprints on your turf the next time they occur, and you will easily be able to distinguish the real elephant's footprint from the one caused by R. cerealis.

The Real Price of Fertilizer

The two mineral elements used in the largest amount by turfgrass plants are nitrogen and potassium. In seeing what some premixed fertilizers sell for, compared to the actual cost of nitrogen and potassium if one were to mix one's own fertilizer, it never fails to surprise me to see some turf managers struggle to get funds for necessary equipment or other products, when so much money could be saved by a switch in what fertilizers are used.

If money is not an issue, then you don't need to read any further. But if you would like to see how to get this quality of green, without wasting a penny on fertilizer expense, then you will want to read on. Or, as you'll see below, if you are spending more than $1,000 per year to fertilize greens, this information may be of interest.

T-1 creeping bentgrass in Japan

All the turfgrass surfaces pictured in this post were produced by using the most basic forms of fertilizer nitrogen and potassium – urea, ammonium sulfate, potassium sulfate, potassium chloride – as the primary sources of those elements. 


This works for creeping bentgrass, it works for ultradwarf bermudagrass, and it works for seashore paspalum. 

seashore paspalum green at Vietnam

To estimate the cost, I've checked current fertilizer prices in Canada, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Then, I've used the growth potential model, as described here, to estimate the monthly nitrogen requirement for different grass species in different locations, based on local weather data. Adding together the monthly nitrogen use of the grass gives us an annual total.


We will apply potassium at half the nitrogen rate in our hypothetical situation here to ensure the plant has enough potassium, but in many cases (this can be determined by a soil test), potassium in the soil is already sufficient to meet all the needs of the grass.

So how much does this all cost? Let's assume the putting green surface area at each of these locations is 10,000 square meters - 1 hectare. Using current prices and exchange rates for Canada, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, we can supply the total annual nitrogen and potassium for 1 hectare for:

Canada, bentgrass, CAD $630, or USD $644

Japan, bentgrass, ¥81,119, or USD $1,036

Thailand, bermudagrass, ฿23,302, or USD $754

Vietnam, seashore paspalum, VND 17,058,800, or USD $826

Miniverde bermudagrass in Japan

For annual fertilizer costs to supply all the nitrogen and potassium needed by the grass, we go from a minimum of $644 at Canada to a maximum of $1,036 at Japan. That is the approximate range of cost for fertilizer. But just because we pay a low price for fertilizer, it does not mean that the turf conditions suffer. Not at all.

Nitrogen is nitrogen, and potassium is potassium, and if you are wanting to save money in your turfgrass maintenance, and if you are spending more than $1,000 per hectare per year on the most highly-maintained turf that you have, you might look at the use of urea, and ammonium sulfate, and potassium sulfate, and even potassium chloride as a way to produce the same or better quality turf, while saving funds for another use.

Penncross creeping bentgrass in Japan

For more information about turfgrass nutrient requirements and fertilizer requirements and cost, see:

Turfgrass Nitrogen Requirement and Growth Potential

How to Save 60% or More in Turfgrass Fertilizer Cost

Understanding Turfgrass Nutrient Requirements