Turfgrass Management

Five years ago I never would have written an article on the importance of nutrition and specialty products in turfgrass Management.  However, as more products are available that aid turfgrass through periods of heat and drought, I believe it's an important topic to create an awareness in. 

Abiotic stress in plants comes from non-living things such as high winds, temperature extremes, droughts and excessive moisture.  Earlier in my career I always felt that sunshine was critical to the healthy functioning, photosynthesis, and growth of plants.  Of course we know this is true, but I never realized until recently that this sunshine has the same harmful UV radiation to plants as it does humans.   If we can provide the plant with the nutrition and sunscreen protection it requires, the improved health of the plant is remarkable to say the least.  

The last two years were very difficult for turfgrass due to the extended drought period and extreme temperatures.   This resulted in a very trying summer for golf courses in the coastal BC area.  Much of the extreme heat was experienced during the months of June and July when photoperiods are at the maximum length, taking a toll on turfgrass health.  As a result, our turf care team in the Maintenance department carefully laid out an agronomy plan to improve the health of our turf on our fairways, tees, greens and surrounds.

In January we began a careful nutrition program on these primary areas in preparation for the inevitable summer stresses.  These applications continued on a monthly basis until March, at which time the application intervals were shortened to every fourteen days.  The primary component of this program was carbon based nutrition with limited nitrogen to improve the health of our soils and plants.  We then added a mineral oil and pigment to aid the plant in combating abiotic stresses from the summer sun and dry soil conditions.  We are thrilled to see that all our primary areas are holding up very well to the summer radiation from the sun. 

With approximately 8 weeks left of intense sunshine, we are encouraged by the improvement our abiotic stress management program has had.  The greatest example of this can be seen around our tee boxes and green surrounds that were built 25 years ago with a coarse sand cap of 6 to 8 inches.  In these areas, regardless of the amount of water applied to them, summer dormancy and turf loss would occur due to the dry conditions and intense sunlight.    

If you are curious about abiotic stress and the damage from sunlight, place an umbrella in the middle of your yard in the same spot each morning for 3-4 days during very hot weather.  I am willing to bet that the area shaded by this umbrella will be much greener, look far less stressed and will have grown more because the plant has not shut down.  Give it a shot and see for yourself!


Dean Piller