Monday, November 15th, 2010

Course Conditions
IMG_1325It is November and the course is getting softer. The course looks great but if we drive where we aren’t supposed to be, you may leave a mess behind. The right of five is a good example of this. We pushed the rough mowing a little to far and it tracked up pretty bad. All superficial of course and will disappear soon.
We fertilized the greens on Friday. We will be increasing the iron rates as we get into the winter months. Many of the courses that escaped the winter wrath last year all had higher iron rates in common. I feel the iron will help harden off the grass and will enable it to tolerate the colder temperatures better. Last year we were using higher iron rates and we did in fact come through the December cold snap without any problems. We are also targeting some residual silver thread moss as well. We treated a few weeks ago with Quick Silver so now we are just treating it with the iron to avoid another herbicide application.
Poa  Transition
As I was changing cups the other day I couldn’t help but notice the Poa annua invading thePronghorn bent greens. It seems to be the fate of most all putting greens that I have ever been around. If it were possible, and didn’t require all kinds of chemical interactions, I would most definitely prefer to manage creeping bentgrass greens. Many golfers are fans of Poa greens by the fact that it is all they have ever played. This summer I happened to play some of the finest bentgrass greens I have ever set foot on at Proghorn Golf Club. Personally I would take those greens over Poa any day. The benefits of bent over Poa are many. First off, bentgrass has a far better disease resistance. In the time of reduced pesticide programs this is important not only for reduced inputs but the costs of a fungicide program to prevent common Poa annua diseases can cost up to $20,000 a year. Another benefit of bentgrass is its deep rooting ability. The deeper the roots the less dependent you have to be on water during the heat stress times of the year. This saves water and labor costs.

Enough about bentgrass. Poa annua is eventually going to be our new grass on our putting surfaces so lets learn a bit about it. Poa annua is one of the most widely distributed weeds  that turf managers face today. It contaminates home lawns, sports fields and golf turf freely around the world and in all climates. In my travels I have not seen anything immune to its wrath. I even saw it growing in the artificial sports turf at the Oregon City High School football stadium! Why is it so hard to control? The answer is its distribution. Poa seeds and reseeds prolifically. The seeds are easily spread by golfers shoes, wind and even pets. Poa produces a massive seed bank and the seeds can survive for years in the soil and will germinate once the soil is disturbed.
There has been much research on PoIMG_1304a annua over the years. It has been found that Poa’s greatest advantage is its genetic diversity. We refer to it as a single variety but it is really a compilation of thousands of biotypes. This is why you will see two patches of Poa annual growing adjacent to each other yet one looks tight, has a dark color and the other may be light green and has more seed heads. This photo to the right was taken last week on our fifth green which demonstrates this perfectly.
Here at Stone Creek the green are going through a transition which may not be pretty. Rest assured that as time goes the greens will become more populated with Poa annua and the stronger biotypes will eventually IMG_20100819_161543dominate the stand. It is common to observe variable biotypes under various management regimes (Cline, 2001; Wu, 1991). This is why when you visit older courses such as Columbia Edgewater, Royal Oaks, or Orchard Hills, you will notice that their Poa greens aren’t seeding quite as much and their stands will seem more uniform. These greens have evolved over time and are now beautiful putting surfaces. Pictured to the left is Orchard Hills. These greens were amazing to putt on. By far the best Poa I played all year.
Growers have tried to develop a seed variety that can be harvested and planted like bentgrass but it has come at limited success. The first challenge is harvest. How do you harvest a seed from a closely mown biotype that has quality turf characteristics, as apposed to a biotype that grows taller and allows seed to be harvested and the growth characteristic, under closely mown conditions, is acceptable? It just doesn’t happen. The only way to have a true Poa putting surface is to let it evolve.
The tenth year of a putting green is usually the turning point where the Poa starts taking over exponentially. This is what the Oregon Golf Club experienced so I expecting similar conditions. We are preparing for the transition by increasing ourIMG_1305 fungicide applications in the coming years. Up until now we have allowed the anthracnose to be a natural Poa control. This year we experienced wide spread anthracnose on much of our Poa populations to a point where it affected the ball roll. Anthracnose will be our main summer issue where Michodochium Patch or Pink Snow Mold will be our main winter issue. Both of which were none existent in our stand until now. 
My point is, we are heading into an awkward phase of transition and we will work to make it as smooth as possible. Our philosophy is to provide the finest putting surfaces possible and we will intend on doing just that with what ever grass we have to work with. The Poa may look awkward at times but we will continue to provide quality putting conditions.

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