Summer Check Up: Possible Turf Problems on the Golf Course
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Summer Check Up: Possible Turf Problems on the Golf Course
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Posted on Friday, March 6, 2020

Summer’s heat and humidity are just around the corner – and so is the potential for various insect infestations and turf diseases that can wreak havoc on your golf course’s appearance and playability.

Some of the most common diseases that affect both cool-season and warm-season turf are dollar spot, brown patch, anthracnose and Pythium blight or root rot. Red thread and/or pink patch are cool-season turf diseases often seen in the spring that can carry over into early summer. Fairy ring, rust and leaf spot are additional concerns. And, as if the opportunity for turf diseases isn’t enough, insect activity is also at its peak during the summer months.

“Plant pathologists often refer to the ‘disease triangle,’” says Eric Miltner, Ph.D., research agronomist for Koch Turf & Ornamental (Koch). “In other words, three conditions must be met for a disease outbreak to occur: a susceptible host, a pathogen (organism) and conducive environmental conditions. The host and pathogen are always present, and the pathogen is simply waiting for those prime environmental conditions – warmer temps, moisture, humidity and poor nutritional status, for example – to take hold. And, as we all know, many of these conditions are characteristic of the summer season.”

Water – in the form of natural precipitation or irrigation – plays a significant role when it comes to plant disease. Most summer turf diseases are caused by fungi which require moist conditions to thrive. Managing moisture in the plant canopy, thatch and root zone is critical to keep diseases at bay.

“Balance is important, because turf obviously needs adequate moisture to stay healthy,” Miltner says. “And, healthy turf is better equipped to tolerate or recover from diseases or infestation. That said, turf that receives too much water can become more susceptible to fungal pathogens.”

Insects can take over turf in the summer months simply because of their life cycles, with reproduction, growth and maturation taking place during warmer temperatures. Simply keeping a close eye on your turf and watching for the pesky little creatures is one of the most important preventative measures you and your staff can take. Look for any insect species that has caused problems on the course in the past, as those are most likely to return.

“Every superintendent is going to have to deal with pests at some point,” Miltner says. “That’s why good, sound agronomic practices are necessary year-round. Maintaining turf and plants in the healthiest possible condition will help it tolerate pests and recover from injury when it occurs.”

Keeping turf healthy includes maintaining balanced nitrogen (N) conditions. Some diseases thrive when N is too low; others thrive when N is too high. Keeping nutrients at an intermediate level will prevent favoring disease pathogens over the host turf.

“Koch’s slow-release or controlled-release fertilizers can meter nutrients into the soil, conserving labor and resources,” Miltner adds. “Adequate nutrition is also key in tolerating insect infestations. Healthier turf can tolerate higher threshold insect populations before damage reaches treatment levels, and healthier turf also recovers more quickly.

“Find the right balance based on your course, environment and conditions. Following the recommendations for your region based on turf species is a good start.

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