I am finishing a conference call with some key superintendents from the NY Metro area when I ask a simple question about early season annual bluegrass seedhead suppression. At least three of the seven superintendents chime in saying, “I wouldn’t know I’m bentgrass”. Immediately my mind began racing, “what if everyone was bentgrass, what if there was no annual bluegrass”. It is hard to imagine the differences, but as John Lennon Said, “it’s easy if you try”.
Immediately my mind began racing, “what if everyone was bentgrass, what if there was no annual bluegrass”.
We would spray fewer pesticides with no annual bluegrass. This is not to say creeping bentgrass has no disease issues. There will still be dollar spot and brown patch, take-all patch and snow mold. But one of our major problems basal rot anthracnose would be a minor if not extinct issue due to the adaptation of creeping bentgrass to northern climates especially summer conditions.
Beyond the reduction in pesticide use, I would argue there would be reductions in fertilizer use for nitrogen as well as most other nutrients. Research with the bentgrasses consistently indicates a more substantial root system and increased nutrient use efficiency when compared to annual bluegrass.
one of our major problems basal rot anthracnose would be a minor if not extinct issue due to the adaptation of creeping bentgrass to northern climates especially summer conditions.
Water use would be reduced. This is where science meets behavior. The shallow root system of annual bluegrass and the general idea that even the perennial types of annual bluegrass are imposters. When push comes to shove annual bluegrass allowed to dry down too far will find a reason to become an annual again. As a result of this we have a generation of impulsive managers growing a plant that in their mind is not resilient, not reliable and consequently we live in constant fear of catastrophic failure. I haven;t even brought up the whole concern for winter injury that goes away with bentgrass in most northern areas.
To be sure creeping bentgrass is not a free-ride. early season growth is as slow as Sergio Garcia’s pace of play, i.e., painfully slow. It is not very traffic tolerant and often succumbs to mechanical damage from mowers. It can get thatchy in a way that annual bluegrass does not and will not be forgiving of improper organic management that skimps on sand topdressing.
I know this is a dream not simply because of the biological challenges, but like shifting to renewable forms of energy there will be resistance from every corner of the industry that will feel threatened. We will need new infrastructure that helps overcome bentgrass weaknesses, we will need some different stuff and we will likely need much less of it.
To be sure creeping bentgrass is not a free-ride. early season growth is as slow as Sergio Garcia’s pace of play, i.e., painfully slow.
Finally, in my travels bentgrass requires discipline. Discipline to be willing to withhold inputs to allow the plants to adapt and become more stress tolerant. With a true perennial like bentgrass, not a poser such as annual bluegrass, you can stress it and not worry you are walking the razors edge next to death.
I know it is hard to imagine but with pending chemical legislation, rising fuel costs, water withdrawal permits, nutrient management restrictions,we need plants that are partners in aiding our quest for efficiency, plants like creeping bentgrass. If we don’t begin to imagine the world without annual bluegrass and begin to work toward that goal, this will be the beginning of a nightmare with no end in sight. Don’t take my word for it-ask the guys who are bentgrass.