Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pythium Blight

While playing in the past week and half you may have noticed #6, #15, and #16 tees have a fair amount of bare spots on the teeing surface. This was caused by an aggressive turfgrass disease called Pythium Blight. Sunday July 18th we received about 1.4" of rain followed by a warm day and a night that saw temperatures around 70 degrees. In order for Pythium to be active it needs warm temperatures (high night time lows or hot daytime temps.) and rain/high humidity. The fact that very little if any air movement is present in this part of the golf course made it a perfect breeding ground to get the disease. The saturated tees became a perfect breeding ground for this pathogen. The next couple of mornings Pythium blight was seen in the rough in many areas particularly on south faced bunker slopes. This can be concerning considering the fact that mowers and people can move the disease from place to place. It just so happened the course was closed and staff was directed away from the affected areas.

The greens at Ridgeway are sprayed on a preventative basis for Pythium Blight, however due to the high cost of spraying other areas (i.e. tees and fairways) they may only be sprayed if absolutely necessary. Because the night time lows continued to stay rather hot we did decide to spray low/wet spots on fairways and other tees that would present problems (tees with either poor drainage or air circulation). We have skipped mowing these tees a couple of times and will continue to over seed the areas to get them back into shape. Because these tees were so saturated with water we deep-tined these tees to get water to move off of the surface of the plants and down into the profile.

Ridgeway has a number of areas that present many challenges due to:

1. Poor drainage

2. Lack of air movement because of the number of trees that only provide a breeding ground for turfgrass diseases, numerous weeds (crabgrass, clover etc.), and make it difficult to dry turf off after heavy rain and high humidity.

3. High number of rounds that put a lot of stress on saturated turfgrass plants. In fact Pythium was the most severe in areas of high foot traffic between the tee markers.

4. Numerous trees that suck sunlight from turfgrass plants which make them weaker and increase the need for fertilizer, water, and pesticides.

5. Trees whose roots suck nutrients and water from turfgrass plants requiring more TLC and $ to make these surfaces "decent."

6. Heavy clay soil which holds water and has numerous problems in of itself: poor playing surface (too firm, too soft), poor drainage, make it difficult to mow in wet conditions, clay is a poor rooting medium for turfgrasses, whereas lighter soil (sand) is a much better rooting medium.

7. The combination of heavy soil, numerous trees, large number or rounds, and the recent weather make a great cocktail for diseases, weeds, less than favorable playing conditions, and anaerobic soil conditions (see earlier posts).

The weather is the one factor that is uncontrollable, however selective tree cutting, soil modification (sand topdressing), and good sound maintenance practices (i.e. aerification, verticutting, intelligent use of water, etc.) will help provide healthier and more playable playing surfaces. Years like this become a good litmus test for identifying all the challenges a golf course and its environment presents, we now have an excellent opportunity to rectify some of these challenges to help make Ridgeway better!