Monday, July 11, 2016

Timing is Everything........Or is It?

This is a picture of the 6th hole taken last summer.  I took it early in the morning when there was a good amount of dew because you can clearly see by the dew pattern that we had some serious pitting of the turf caused by disease.  This next picture is a close up of one of the most infected areas and you can see that I removed a sample of turf.  That sample was sent to a diagnostic lab and the test results showed that we were fighting a serious outbreak of fairy ring and waitea patch.
Now this is when I'm supposed to show you a picture of the golf course today and of course our turf today should be disease free because of what we learned last year.  Well this is a picture of some of our fine turf today.
Here's another picture of some of our fine turf today.
And here's another.
So again we have disease.  Again I sent samples to the lab and this time there is no waitea patch, only fairy ring.  So things are better but certainly not great.  In fact I started writing this post a couple months ago because I was going to show just how great things are today due to the timing of a preventative fungicide application to the fine turf.  We did everything we were supposed to do.  We monitored soil temperature and applied a preventative fungicide twice this past spring and things were definitely looking good through May and into early June.  The preventative applications work best when applied at the right time based on soil temperature and we feel like we "nailed it" in regard to timing.  After all, timing is everything right?  Well, some hot, dry weather hit us in June and we started to see the disease pop up.  Some of it got so advanced that we started to loose turf.  Needless to say my team and I are very frustrated with the persistence of the fairy ring.  Spraying more fungicide is not something we want to do and it's not something we can afford to do.  We have spot treated some of the worst areas with additional fungicide but it would cost about $9,000 to spray all the fine turf areas.  The operating budget can not accommodate an application like that and even if it could, there is no guarantee that another application will solve the problem.  So where do we go from here? I can sum it up in one word.........cultivation.
 This is what I mean by cultivation.  You might say this looks like aerification and of course it is.  So why am I calling it cultivation?  Let me explain.  Aerification is the process of punching a hole in the ground.  This increases gas exchange.  It also provides a cavity which can be filled with sand or some other type of amendment in order to modify the soil profile.  If you punch a hole with a hollow tine, some of the soil and thatch is removed during the process.  But, there's more to it than that.  When you punch a hole with a hollow tine, soil is brought to the surface and this is what I want to emphasize.  When soil is brought to the surface, inevitably some of it is left behind and then gets incorporated back into the turf.  When soil is removed and returned it is basically tilling which can be referred to as cultivation.   So how does cultivation solve our fairy ring problem? To best understand it I encourage you to go online and type "fairy ring control" into any search engine and read up on it.  I'm certain you will find a lot of information and many of the articles will say the same thing.  You'll read that fairy ring is common and becoming more common as we try to reduce inputs into the turf system.  Fairy ring favors a lean, dry condition and all of us are trying to reduce our fertilizer use and water less.  You'll also read that fairy ring is one of the number one "hardest" diseases to control.  You might also read that fungicides have been very ineffective at controlling the disease.  If you read an article published by a chemical company, you will probably read that their fungicide does control fairy ring.  One things for sure, no matter how many different articles you read about fairy ring, all of them will say that aerification is one of the ways to alleviate the symptoms.  Well we aerify the fine turf twice a year and some areas are aerified 3 times annually.  Why then are we still seeing fairy ring?  I believe it's because we are only aerifying, and NOT cultivating.  We've been using solid tines for the past 5 years and solid tines punch nice clean holes without bringing up any soil to the surface.  When turf is cultivated using hollow tines, the soil gets turned over and mixed together.  When soils are mixed together, the fairy ring fungi are mixed together and they cancel each other out.  Fairy ring fungi produce compounds that are antagonistic to other fairy ring fungi.  So to sum it up, we are going back to hollow tine aerification and we are going to try as much as possible to break up the aerification cores and return the soil back into the turf system.   As much as this will antagonize the fungi, I know it will also antagonize the golfer.  For this I am sorry but we had a good run with the solid tine aerification.  We proved that you don't have to punch with hollow tines to manage organic matter.  Unfortunately mother nature again has revealed its complexity and now it's time to go back to the basics and let nature work it's magic.  I imagine after a season or two we can go back to periodically punching with solids without any serious consequences.  Want more info on fairy ring? click HERE, or HERE, and HERE

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