It's been a fairly quiet month with many sitting in very cold weather and some under snow cover since the end of December!
No golf, no grass, no staff!
The extended snow cover has caused some problems - John at Dufftown GC has shared these images with me on Twitter, worth saying that none of our products were used in this programme. The cold temperatures going into the snow covered period were not enough to hold Microdochium at bay.
I guess it's been so long since we had a period like this that many of have forgotten the challenges involved with managing snow covered turf.
I've had quite a lot of feedback on my monitoring suggestions recently, as an avid reader of this blog (thank you!) you'll be aware that I'm encouraging people to sheet 1 sq meter plots to evaluate the numbers of leatherjackets they have in their rootzone to help them make good agronomic decisions.
I've had lots of feedback that it's too cold - that's good news! The process of monitoring is all about gathering the facts, if it's cold and they are not active, we need to learn at what temperature they become active. We really are missing the many pieces of this puzzle. So keep sheeting and keep telling me what you find. It may feel like a waste of time but this really is essential to understanding how we solve this problem.
Don't expect too much either - remember that even 8 leatherjackets per square meter can equal 4000 on a green!
But this is a monitoring method only and a useful exercise to establish when best to do some large scale sheeting. This can be very effective but isn't a one hit solution it will need constant work throughout the spring to have any effect. So small sheets to monitor and establish where problems are can reduce your workload when the temperatures are in the right range.
Will the cold temps kill them?
I was talking to Dr Pat Vittum of Massachusetts Uni about this - she sees frosts down to 1.5 meters and they survive, not sure if they dig deep below or just survive?
Cold temperature will certainly slow feeding and reduce impact, probably have a knockdown on a % of population but it's unlikely to wipe an entire population out.
Bird pecking has started
From experience I suspect pecking birds is more about the available alternative food sources drying up, eg farmers field with seed or insects going into hibernation. I think they just go for the easiest food source so even if you have low populations it may well be the simplest source of food for them when the cold weather has caused there last food source to disappear. It's not necessarily related to a high populations. There's lots of scaring devices available but they all involve careful rotation and a fair bit of work.
GDD - Base temps
A few people thinking ahead and looking at GDD based programmes - I put something together for them on why I'm now suggesting using 200 gdd at 0c base temp rather than 150 gdd at 6c for a base temp.
Rye grass in greens
Myself and Dan did a presentation on the future of ITM for the Continue2Learn programme and the thing that seemed to trigger a response was my suggestion that part of the longterm solution could be Ryegrass into greens.
Now I'll be straight here, I have very little experience and I know it would have some challenges but here's why I think it's a goer and what I'd try.
Germination speed - this is the big winner, the challenge of getting any seedling to growing a sward at the cutting heights we maintain whilst trying to present a surface to golfers is huge. By extending that period to probably 11 months of the year rather than the 7 bent allows use and probably 5 that fescue permits increases the window of opportunity to utilise the winter period successfully.
The quality of rye - in my career the rye cultivars have improved significantly, that process will continue and at some point we'll reach the tipping point.
Disease resistance - whilst no turf species is resistant to all diseases Rye does seem to present a higher level of tolerance to the regular challenges we face.
How would I do it - you know me I love trial, Split your Chipping green in half and give it a go for a few years, really commit and watch to see the benefits and challenges over a few seasons. If you see no results in 3 years then it's probably not worthwhile, if in 3 years the unseeded half presents less management challenges then you know it was the wrong thing to do.
DON'T jump in feet first, take your time, evaluate and decide for yourself.
The few greens I have seen that were sown to Rye / fescue / bent from day one were stunning though!
There's been a bit of activity on the fairy ring front this month. The green stimulated growth you see is a result of last years fungal activity and I suspect we've seen a few pop up due to the leaner winter turf and the less "normal" turf treatments we apply when we are fully staffed.
I've put a couple of blogs together on this subject this month check them out here........
TurfCareBlog questions blog......