by Dr. Brian Horgan
July 23, 2012
So, let’s put this into perspective. Central Indiana golf courses are under a severe drought designation that restricts water usage on non-essential areas. Citations are being issued for those watering lawns. Since May 1, West Lafayette has received only 1.1″ of rain with blistering heat and high humidity. Some courses are closing and plan to reopen when conditions improve.
The U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Michael Scuse has stated that 71% of the corn crop in Indiana is in poor to very poor conditions due to the heat stress and drought. Farmers typically experience surface drying of soils to 12-18″ at this time of the year. This year, parts of Missouri don’t have adequate moisture at 60″. These same trends exist throughout the Midwest. Mark Seeley, professor and climatologist in MN, says to expect the heat to last through August and the long-range models suggest that we will be above average in temperature through October.
In Minnesota, we have a few counties that have been designated recently as being in a drought. For the most part though, our droughty conditions started 20-30 days ago. We are far from our eastern and southern colleagues that are 60-75 days into their drought.
Flashback to 2011, we had similar temperatures and dew points. The big change for 2012 is the lack of moisture. This means that golf courses are seeing the poor irrigation coverage, wilting turf, traffic patterns and exacerbated turf stress.
Remember, our turf needs water but water is a conductor of heat. In other words, you can cause more problems by adding too much water, thus heat, to the root zone. Soil temperatures that exceed 88 degrees mean protein degradation and root dieback. If you are watering and still seeing the wilt, you are probably watering too much and for the wrong reasons. Replenish water loss with your irrigation systems at night and early in the morning. Cool your turf through syringing during the day to prevent wilt. Hottest time of the day is early to mid-afternoon. Syringing is not intended to replenish soil water but to cool the turf. One syringe a day may not be enough.
Golf course personnel are tired. Our season started early this year and it looks like it is going to last. Chasing isolated dry spots and wilting turf is a tedious process. You can help your cause by reducing wear and unnecessary stresses. Simple practices like rotating traffic patterns, use of wetting agents, alternating mowing and rolling, staying current with your fungicides and syringing. Most golf course turf is under regulation; take advantage of the lack of growth by reducing mowing frequency and maintaining putting green consistency through rolling. Notice I didn’t say green speed. This should not be a primary concern. Consistent putting greens and greens that are alive are more important than any stimpmeter reading!