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Dr. Frank Rossi: Frankly Speaking


Things that Bug Me Part 1

Posted in On the Road 20 August 2014 · 2,711 views

Each year I grow in respect and admiration for golf course superintendents as professionals. They are problem-solvers, perfection-seekers, nature-lovers, or avid golfers with interest in producing a golf playing surface. From Florida to Vancouver, Portland to Portland and beyond the border in Canada, Europe, Australia and South America, golf course superintendents are getting it done.

 

As an homage to my superintendent pals, I see trends in management and golfer demands that bug me. I know for many superintendents I meet, these things that bug me are issues related to not enough investment in infrastructure for many years, business pressures, club politics, poor communication skills, course design, golfer skill level, etc.

 

In no particular order here's Part One

 

Bunkers (too many, poorly constructed, poorly maintained)

 

I dont have to tell anyone who is charged with producing high quality bunkers on a regular basis the constant vigilance required. There is no question the easiest way to reduce resources associated with bunker maintenance is to have them properly constructed to maximize drainage and minimize contamination. But steep faces still wash, ask the courses on Long Island that received 13" in two hours!

 

Steep grass faces are no bargain either, these need to be flymo-ed, line trimmed, fertilized, sprayed with PGR's, now sprayed for disease and insects regularly. You can go with the eye-brow approach but this is extremely penal and will surely slow pace of play.

 

Far and away the thing that bugs me about bunkers is the disproportionate relationship among original design, resources required for maintenance, and expectations of performance. Some courses (and bunkers) were built and designed with larger maintenance forces that now have been reduced 30 to 50 percent. Many have exceeded the original useful life and there is no amount of labor that will make up for bathtubs filled with silt and stone.

 

The "billy-bunker" concept of porous pavement is catching on with different twists, some are still using sod liners, some cloth liners. Be sure the options are well-researched and applicable to your situation, amount of water moving through, freeze-thaw, etc.. For steep faces, many are wetting and compacting to insure the ball wont plug in the face. I wonder why we don't apply "Dirt-Glue" or some other form of polymer to stabilize the sand. The military in the desert use these sand stabilizers to keep dust down when landing helicopters. Could save lots of time and energy with faces, but might not take the impact of the ball.

 

Andrew Green presented an interesting idea in a recent tweet where he showed the reduction of sand area AND improvement in targeting and purposing of the "Eden" hole on the Grace Course at Saucon Valley. Well designed and constructed with less sand to manage an excellent approach.

 

Many other courses should be questioning bunkers en-masse! What about simply removing some bunkers as a means of reducing sand area? Do our players even hit to where these bunkers are? I will argue as many have in the past, I'd rather have no bunker than a poorly maintained one.

 

Coming soon: Things that Bug Me Part 2: Time and energy spent in "low maintenance NATIVE areas"!

 




Turf Geek Day 2

Posted in On the Road 06 November 2013 · 2,207 views

The pathology papers are among the most popular at these meetings each year and this year was no exception. As I penned on Day One the the potassium effects on anthracnose was a highlight and it continued with an excellent presentation by Professor Ingugiato from UConn on Summer patch.

 

It makes sense that a root infecting fungi such as Summer patch would be worse when rooting is further restricted by compaction

 

Professor Ingugiato investigated the role of compaction, cultivation and Mn applications on Summer patch incidence and severity. It makes sense that a root infecting fungi such as Summer patch would be worse when rooting is further restricted by compaction and theoretically could be alleviated by hollow or solid tine cultivation.

 

It has been well established in wheat and bentgrass that Take-all patch restricts Mn uptake. However this is not well established for Summer patch.

 

The Mn angle was intriguing as it required one to know that the Summer patch organism that infects annual bluegrass is similar to the Take-all patch organism that infects creeping bentgrass roots. It has been well established in wheat and bentgrass that Take-all patch restricts Mn uptake. However this is not well established for Summer patch.

 

Interestingly, both cultivations provided some relief from Summer patch yet hollow tine was slightly more effective. Still neither cultivation programs provided the relief afforded by Mn applications. Therefore, a nice simple conclusion, if you have a history of Summer patch, of course work to alleviate compaction, but be sure your Mn applications are consistent.

 




Turf Geek Day One

Posted in On the Road 05 November 2013 · 1,664 views

The first day of scientific papers at the Turfgrass Science Division (C-5) is reserved for graduate student research presentations. Many of these bright folks are standing up in front of  their scientific peers for the first time. I sat for over 7 hours listening to the latest in turfgrass research in 15 minute snip-its (that is the allotted time each presenter is given). It was GREAT!

 

Presentations ranged from bio-informatics (using molecular techniques to decipher plant responses) and herbicide metabolism (how plants detoxify herbicides internally) to establishing clover into and existing stand of turf and the effects of potassium fertilization on anthracnose.

 

Properly evaluating the correct soil K level insured they had K deficiency in the plots. Therefore when K was applied regardless of source, anthracnose was reduced.

 

Of course I find all of the work fascinating in some way, but I was especially keen on the potassium fertilization work by Chaz Schmid with Jim Murphy and Bruce Clarke from Rutgers University. Researchers noted the use of potassium nitrate tended to decrease severity of anthracnose. So an experiment was designed to investigate the role of N and K on anthracnose incidence and severity.

 

Interestingly when soil K was adequate, there was no benefit from adding additional K.

 

A variety of K rates and sources were applied based on interpretation of soil test results from the top few inches of sand/mat layer above push-up native soil. Properly evaluating the correct soil K level insured they had K deficiency in the plots. Therefore when K was applied, regardless of source, anthracnose was reduced. N rate levels were below BMP rates suggested by previous anthracnose research, however when K was deficient (less than 50 mg/kg (Mehlich-3)) adding N DID NOT reduce anthracnose. Interestingly when soil K was adequate, there was no benefit from adding additional K.

 

Off to day 2!

 

 

 

 

 




What's in Your Wallet?

Posted in On the Road 02 November 2013 · 2,722 views

I am away from Cornell for the next five days in Tampa, FL at the Tri-Societies Meetings, i.e., Agronomy, Crops and Soils. This meeting will be attended by more than 5,000 scientists and professionals interested in the SCIENCE of crop production. You may wonder, what the hell are you doing at a meeting of Agronomists, aren't you in Horticulture?

 

I figure if I have a Ph.D., I have got to be a MAJOR turf geek!

 

Yes in NY, and when I was in WI, and many other states Turfgrass Science is in Horticulture. Yet when I was at Michigan State, Turfgrass Science was in Crop and Soil Science (Agronomy). This matters little, yet what does matter is this is the epicenter of "Turf Geekdom" for the next five days. I've decided since my blogeague (Dave Wilbur) has embraced being a turf geek, I figure if I have a Ph.D., I have got to be a MAJOR turf geek!

 

It is a time when I am able to immerse myself in my scientific discipline. It is my own professional development. As an Extension Specialist, I must be a resource for my NY constituents on matters relating to the science of growing turf. An interpreter if you will of the complex scientific principles that assist with improving decision-making and ultimately in hopes of enhancing turfgrass performance and management efficiency.

 

If you can't afford the National meeting, then are you looking for education, even outside of turfgrass management

 

Considering professional development, what are you doing to grow professionally. Do you take the time to attend meetings, or are you a slave to the sales folks who come to you? Are you engaged in the the TurfNet community or your local association?  If you can't afford the National meeting, then are you looking for education, even outside of turfgrass management, maybe you need some human resource training, some immigration labor training, communication during crisis training, etc.

 

If you think about professional development as putting money in your wallet, by improving your skills and value to your organization, then the question is, "what's in your wallet".




The Set-up

  Posted in On the Road 28 August 2012 · 1,405 views

Posted ImageI had the pleasure of working as a volunteer at The Barclays held on the Black Course at the Bethpage State Park. Getting up at 3:30am to assist set-up man" extraordinaire, Rich Roble, now with two US Opens and a FedEx Playoff under his belt.

 

Set-up at this level is a lesson in precision. Cut a level cup to the exact depth and replace the plug so that when passed over by a mower set at 0.085 it is neither high nor low. Any misstep and or inconsistency and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect at a game that can NEVER be perfected - it's a set-up.

Any misstep and you have provided the professional tour player with an excuse why they might perform less than perfect

Anyone who paid attention to the tournament this week saw the progression of commentary by golfers. It began with a course record -7  set on Thursday with gentle mutterings of how "soft" the course played to be followed by another -6 on Friday morning. Leaders went into the weekend at -8 and the talk was that a  dozen or more players would be double digit under par. Conditions were perfect for scoring for two days with little wind, friendly pins, 12 foot greens with mid 0.3s on the USGA Firmmeter, by any standard a firm and fast track.

 

With no rain in the forecast for the weekend, moisture meter in hand the course was brought to similar moisture and firmness. Instead of clouds we had a high dry sky, and contrary to Sir Nick Faldo's ridiculous commentary, firmness on some greens made it into the high 0.2s and most greens were in the 13 foot range, hardly beyond what most have played on an average tour course.

 

Sir Nick makes comments like "must be 17-18 feet on the Stimp", "this is reminding me of Shinnecock in '04, "Tiger this and Tiger that" and then I just want to run in the booth and take a three-wood to his head. I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew. He was so bad, and I can't believe I am saying this, I was praying for some Johnny Miller "grain-talk".

I don't mind informed criticism but Sir Dufus in his snooty British accent never once spoke to anyone with the Tour or on the Grounds Crew.

Posted ImageBeyond Sir Nick  the whining golfers like Ian Poulter decrying, also in a British accent, the inconsistency from day to day led me to conclude that we are victims of our own success. We set ourselves up for this by delivering conditions in a game played outdoors as if it were played in a dome. It's our fault. The whining that our golfers do at our own courses is because we have given them too much — it's one big set-up!

 

It is a great analogy that I have been part of the "set-up" crew in the golf turf industry for most of my adult life. As a part of a team that delivered tournament quality conditions for a weekend at the end of August in the New York City area I felt the sting of what many of you feel every weekend at your course. I am here to tell you it doesn't sound any better with an English accent. Whining is whining.








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