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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Few things are as disconcerting in this business as scouting the golf course first thing in the morning and finding signs of damage on putting greens that weren't there the day before. One thing that can intensify that stress and place a superintendent into a new level of discomfort, says Frank Wong, Ph.D., technical service specialist for Bayer Environmental Science, is to waste valuable time on a recovery program that doesn't work because the source of the damage was incorrectly diagnosed.
    "Timely diagnosis is important for understanding what you have and what you have to do about it next," Wong said during this year's Northern California Golf Association Assistant Superintendent Boot Camp in Monterey. "If you misdiagnose something, it can put you behind the 8-ball. Smoking craters on the greens don't roll very fast."
    Wong, who has worked for Bayer for the past three years and is based in Washington, D.C., spent 10 years as a turfgrass pathologist at the University of California at Riverside, so he knows a thing or two about turf damage on California golf courses. In fact, many West Coast superintendents still call him seeking his advice as well as for his diagnostic skills.
    Correctly diagnosing a disease pathogen can be the difference, Wong told a group of about 40 assistants from throughout Northern California, between becoming a successful head superintendent and looking for a new career. Wong, who told the group he prefers to be called Dr. Frank rather than Dr. Wong because the latter "makes me sound like a proctologist", suggests using a checklist of five criteria, along with establishing a relationship with a single pathology lab for identifying disease pathogens expeditiously and working toward a solution. 
    "I've seen a lot of guys dismissed from the captain's chair because of disease. You, as assistants, are fighting all the time to get to the captain's chair," said Wong. "Once you get there, having a good handle on disease recognition and how to deal with it right away is a good strategy for staying there."
    A relationship with a pathologist is important, because a single sample can contain many pathogens at the same time, but maybe only one that has manifested as a full-blown disease.
    "A good lab will tell you what you what's in there," he said. "A great lab will tell you what disease you have and how to manage it."
    In its 14th year, the NCGA boot camp is a two-day educational event for assistant superintendents that began in 2001 and includes seminars from industry experts on a wide variety of hot-button issues affecting golf course maintenance.
    Speakers at this year's event also included irrigation consultant Mike Huck, who is one of the state's most well-informed experts on water use; former superintendent Eric Greytok, who spoke on hiring, training and terminating employees; and Pat Finlen of The Olympic Club, who spoke on goal-setting and career advancement. 
    When he was a turf pathologist at UCR from 2001-2011, Wong said a list of five criteria - host, environmental conditions, cultural conditions, symptoms and signs - helped him zero in on the right pathogen when identifying a disease. Going through that list along with submitting a sample removes the guess work and results in an accurate diagnosis, which allows the superintendent to get on with the correct management plan and a path to recovery as soon as possible.
    "Some things aren't controlled by certain fungicides, and some things get worse with certain cultural practices. The worst thing you want to do is to be in a hole and dig yourself into a deeper hole," Wong said. 
    During his time at Riverside, Wong estimated that the lab received up to 5,000 turf and soil samples. About half of those samples submitted, he said, showed no signs of disease.
    "Other things can cause damage on turf. If you have a salt issue, but you think it's disease and you are spraying fungicides, you are going to stay behind that 8-ball," he said. "Making a correct diagnosis allows you to make the right management decision and buys you some time."


    If you know what species of turf you have, you have a good idea of what diseases could be affecting your stand, because certain diseases affect specific varieties of turf, says Wong.
    "Anguina (gall nematodes) are only on Poa, but there are other things like fairy ring that are across the board, it doesn't care; and gray leaf spot is only on perennial ryegrass or kikuyugrass," he said.
    "Everyone knows their species, but if you realize that every species has its own subset of diseases, you can eliminate all these other things you don't need to worry about."

    Environmental conditions

    Different fungi like different temperatures, and Wong says it is important to monitor daily temperatures, especially overnight lows, when concerned about disease pressure.
    For example, snow mold likes it cold, while other diseases such as Pythium and dollar spot like it hot, particularly when overnight temperatures are 68 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
    "It can be 120 degrees during the day, but it drops to 60 at night, you're good as far not developing Pythium, but if night time temperatures are above 68, there's something magic about that number, that allows Pythium to go out the door. When you look at the weather forecast and its going to be humid, or it's going to be wet and you have those high night time temperatures, that's a red flag for Pythium."

    Cultural Conditions

    Salts and nitrogen, Wong says, are factors that play a role in disease onset.
    Salt-rich soil, especially in times of drought, makes turf especially susceptible to rapid blight, as is the case this year in Northern California, according to boot camp attendees.
    "If it's salty, rapid blight is a possibility," he said. "If it's not salty, it's not going to be an issue."
    Other problems are tied to nitrogen levels, including anthracnose, Waitea patch and dollar spot, which like lean, thin turf. Still others, like brown patch and Pythium blight like turf that is "fat and juicy," Wong says.
    "Every disease has a distinct signature."

    Symptoms and Signs

    Turf managers often confuse these two criteria, or use them interchangeably, Wong says. But they are, indeed, two separate things.
    Symptoms are the plant's response to being diseased, which could include changing colors and patterns of diseased or dying turf.
    Signs, on the other hand are the physical manifestation of the pathogen itself, such as mycelia on a leaf blade.
    Although he no longer works in the UCR lab, Wong still receives calls from West Coast superintendents seeking help. Each time, he goes through his five-point checklist, and then offers his opinion.
    "I ask them all of these questions," he said. "You can usually guess within 90 percent of what someone has from 3,000 miles away by asking these questions. All our diagnoses at Riverside were based on these criteria."
    Having a relationship with a lab is just as important as asking the right questions.
    "You want to make sure what it is and that you make the right management decision," said Wong. 
    "One thing that amazes me is guys are happy to drop $300 on a fungicide spray instead of $100 plus $20 for shipping to really make sure they know what they are dealing with. 
    "Get in the habit of sending in samples so that when something big happens, it's not a crisis and you don't know who to send a sample to."
    Wong suggests taking a large sample that also captures the root zone. Before submitting a sample, he also recommends superintendents first sprinkle them with water and placing them in a gallon-sized plastic bag to learn more about what is going on.
    "Throw it on your desk overnight, nine times out of 10, if it's foliar, mycelia will pop out, or spores will be produced," he said. "If there's nothing there, you know it's not foliar and you need to focus on things that attack the roots, or the soil."
    That's why samples should include the rootzone as well. Samples also should be taken from active, diseased turf, not dead turf that might be rife with other problems. They also should be tightly packed for shipping in something breathable that also holds it together, but doesn't cook if left in the sun on a shipping company's loading dock.
    "It's a way of either identifying the fungi that develop, or excluding things that are not causing the problem," he said. 
    "We don't know if it's going to be foliar, or soil-borne or root-borne. I love a cup cutter-size sample. It's great to work with. If someone sends in a 1-inch-sized sample, it's hard to tell what's going on there. The easier it is for the diagnostician to find out what's going on, the easier it makes your job, so don't be stingy with the turf."
  • Terry Bonar, CGCS, can add Hall of Famer to his long list of career accomplishments.
    The 2009 USGA Green Section Award winner, long-time TurfNet member and former TurfNet Superintendent of the Year finalist, Bonar recently was elected into the Northern Ohio GCSA. 
    Bonar worked at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio from 1963 until his retirement in 2010. He was the assistant for 18 years and was named head superintendent in 1984. The only interruption in his tenure there was in the 1960s, when he served four years in the U.S. Air Force.
    During his time at Canterbury the course was the site of the 1979 U.S. Amateur and the 1996 U.S. Senior Open. It is scheduled to host next year's U.S. Senior PGA Championship. In recognizing Bonar's accomplishments the Green Section cited his efficient use of water and work mentoring employees. According to the Green Section there are more than 50 Bonar protégés who have moved up from the ranks of assistant or intern to work in other positions in the industry. Bonar also is a pioneer in the use of lightweight mowers to maximize turf health and playability.
    He is a past recipient of the Mal McLaren Award, presented by the Northern Ohio GCSA and the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Professional Excellence Award. He was a finalist for the 2003 Superintendent of the Year Award was won by Paul Voykin of Briarwood Country Club in Deerfield, Illinois. Three of Bonar's former instructors at Penn State, Burt Musser, Joe Duich, Ph.D., and Houston Couch, Ph.D., also are Green Section Award winners.
  • Bayer Environmental Science has recently retooled and relaunched its Backed by Bayer program that now includes access to a host of tools and resources for superintendents and others seeking solutions to today's most common turfgrass-management challenges.
    The overhaul includes an expanded mobile app and a redesigned Web site that features product updates, industry news, sales and technical support and more.
    "Our customers need solutions, business tools, and technical support to help them reach higher levels of success," said Jose Milan, head of the T&O business at Bayer. "We are constantly exploring new ways to help our customers accomplish their objectives and grow their businesses. Our vision with this revitalized Backed By Bayer platform is to communicate to our customers the idea that 'we have your back' by providing a highly relevant, robust program that delivers what they need to succeed and uses their input to help shape new and future solutions."
    The newly redesigned Web site features information on Bayer herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant growth regulators; a video channel; distributor finder; reference library that includes product guides and white papers; links to common turf problems and recommended treatment programs; a link to the My Bayer Rewards program home page and contact information for Bayer's Green Solutions Team.
    The Backed By Bayer mobile app is available for Mac devices on the App Store and Android devices on Play Store.
    That platform also includes similar tools for landscape management, industrial vegetation management, vector control and pest management.
  • Ignorance is bliss

    By John Reitman, in News,

    I've been duped.
    After all these years, I thought those hundreds of golf course superintendents I've come to know were part of a proactive industry looking for ways to reduce water consumption, pesticide use and the overall environmental footprint left by their respective course. Turns out, I've been wrong all this time.

    All those pesticide programs, those acres of native plantings, that history of leading the way in developing BMPs that other industries have adopted for their own use. It's all been a ruse.
    At least that is the conclusion I reached after reading Why the Decline of Golf is Good News for the Environment, which appeared Oct. 12 on a pseudo-scientific Web site called Decoded Science. According to this story, the declining interest in golf ultimately should be good for the environment because superintendents still are wanton polluters, not stewards, of the environment.
    I knew superintendents were a clever bunch, but to maintain golf courses so irresponsibly and disguise it as environmental stewardship? I have to hand it to you; that was brilliant.
    Tongue, meet cheek.
    I hesitate to draw attention to the above-mentioned story, but it is so filled with unsubstantiated claims and errors of fact, and even leans on the anti-golf sentiment of a late stand-up comic to make a point, that it deserves to be called out for what it is - drivel.
    After reading this story, it's time for me to throw down the gauntlet. And you should too.
    The story takes issue with several common turf maintenance practices to reach the conclusion that "since the goal of golf course maintenance is to have a pristine stretch of grass that more closely resembles Astroturf than anything from nature, best ecological practices are not necessarily a priority.
    "Golf courses keep the grass short, well-manicured and free of any living organisms by spraying generous amounts of herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and mowing frequently."
    Specifically, this story calls out the use of pesticides, practices that it says promote runoff and erosion, and mowing frequency as being bad for the environment.
    In targeting pesticide use, the story fails to cite specific data other than to say "golf courses are historically known for their overuse of herbicides and pesticides," that is except for a tourism study from Georgia Southern University.
    It does mention that the GCSAA has partnered with others to reduce pesticide use, but then discounts any industry efforts by citing a passage from Beyond Pesticides, a not-for-profit entity whose mission is an eventual pesticide-free world, that says the industry isn't doing enough to eliminate (not reduce, but eliminate) its reliance on pesticides.
    Golf courses also promote erosion because, and I'll be you didn't know this, "golf course maintenance commonly involves deforestation and clearing native species of vegetation, which in turn causes gullying and soil erosion, leading to sediment runoff into nearby bodies of water." 
    Runoff from golf courses, the story says, also "provides excess nutrients to bodies of water that can cause out of control downstream algae blooms." It references iron-clad proof, like last summer's bloom in Lake Erie that contaminated potable water for more than 400,000 people. You might remember that story, it's the one in which scientists placed blame squarely upon runoff from agricultural land surrounding the lake.
    According to this story, "another problem not addressed is excessive mowing. ... a typical golf course mows every day and recommends frequent mowing to improve turf quality. Since golf courses tend to use riding mowers fueled by gas, this translates into a lot of fuel burnt to cover massive amounts of land - repeated on a daily basis."
    The story even goes so far as to say, as per the late George Carlin, that a better use for golf course acreage would be to build low-cost housing for the homeless.
    I don't even know what say about that.
    Forget all the strides superintendents, equipment manufacturers and chemical companies have made in the past several decades. Forget the facts. Forget the scientific research to the contrary. Forget that superintendents are educated professionals who know more about pesticide use than graduates of the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department at the University of Wisconsin. Forget that the majority of products used on golf courses, according to the USGA, have sister products also used in agricultural food production. And it's not just the USGA talking. It cites study after study from Iowa State University, University of Nebraska, University of Georgia, Michigan State University and the University of Massachusetts when making its claims. Forget all that, because apparently none of it is enough to satisfy the scientists at Decoded Science, and it has data from a tourism study out of Georgia Southern University to prove it.
    These types of stories occur too often, go unquestioned, facts go unchecked and people believe them. And that makes it more difficult to communicate the real truth about the state of the golf industry.
    I, for one, am tired of reading opinion-based nonsense like this from those who don't know the difference between a niblick and a mashie passed off as real journalism. As a member of the profession being attacked, you should be weary of it too.
    To quote Howard Beale from the 1976 Hollywood film Network:
    And neither should you, so get up from your chair ... .
  • A fire that started on a Southern California fairway is a reminder that a golf course's responsibilities for ensuring the safety of others might not end at the ropes.
    A lawsuit filed Oct. 10 in the San Diego Superior Court blames the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad for a fire that burned about 600 acres, destroyed 25 structures and damaged 26 more.
    Fire officials determined that the May 14 blaze, dubbed the Poinsettia Fire, started on the La Costa's No. 7 fairway, though the cause of the fire was not determined. According to reports, the fire destroyed 18 condominiums, five houses and two commercial structures. Another four houses and 26 homes were damaged in the incident that is blamed for causing $12 million in private property damage. It also is estimated that it will cost another $8 million to restore native habitat destroyed by the fire.
    The lawsuit blames the golf course for not taking the necessary steps to prevent fires when high winds and a heat wave that sparked nine wildfires throughout the rain-starved San Diego area this year.
    Plaintiffs, including homeowners, business owners and renters, are seeking unspecified damages for the loss of property, businesses, mental anguish, cost of temporary housing and unspecified injuries. A homeless man also was killed in the blaze.
    The attorney for the plaintiffs alleges that a spark from a gas-powered utility vehicle might have started the fire.
  • The numbers 94, 39, 50, 88 and 96 are not this week's winning lottery numbers. Instead, they represent a much safer bet.
    The numbers represent the percentage of Global Soil Survey participants whose potassium (94 percent), phosphorus (39 percent), calcium (50 percent), magnesium (88 percent) and sulfur (96 percent) inputs fell below the levels proposed in conventional soil nutrient guidelines for turf. The survey shows they saved money and increased environmental sustainability without compromising turf quality.
    The Global Soil Survey for Sustainable Turf is a collaborative effort of turf managers and researchers whose goal is to refine nutrient guidelines so that turf managers can apply precisely the nutrients the turf needs. To accomplish that goal, turf managers from around the world joined the survey and collected soil samples of healthy turf and submitted them for analysis in 2013. The results were evaluated by scientists at the Asian Turfgrass Center and PACE Turf, who compared them against both conventional soil guidelines, as well as against the newly developed Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition guidelines.
    "The first year of results from the Global Soil Survey (GSS) have broken new ground," said Larry Stowell, Ph.D., of PACE Turf. "The data shows that good-performing turf can be produced at nutrient levels much lower than conventional guidelines suggest."
    Stowell said the survey data have been added to the database of thousands of soil samples that were used to create the MLSN guidelines. 
    "The addition of the Global Soil Survey data to the large database that derives MLSN makes us even more confident that the MLSN guidelines are robust and can be used successfully under a wide variety of conditions, said Micah Woods, Ph.D., of the Asian Turfgrass Center. "We are also very proud that the survey is an open science project. In other words, we don?t only share the charts, tables and reports with the public, but we also share the underlying data analysis scripts and code involved. This allows anyone who is interested to check out what we have done, how we have done it, or to even to use the data for their own purposes."
    The Global Soil Survey will continue to run for at least another year. 
    "Our current conclusions are based on almost 4,000 soil samples from good performing turf, but we hope to increase the number of samples even more with the help of additional Global Soil Survey participants," Stowell said. "We will constantly improve the MLSN guidelines based on the data we receive."
    The Global Soil Survey will continue soliciting turf manager participants for the foreseeable future. Soil survey participants receive a kit that contains all of the materials needed to package and ship three soil samples from their facility. The samples will be analyzed by Brookside Laboratories, and the data will be interpreted by Woods and Stowell. 
    "Each person receives a full report on their results, as well as an analysis of where each of their nutrients falls on the sustainability index," Woods said. "Turf managers have found the index to be really useful, because it gives them a numerical way to monitor where they are now and to track how they are improving over time."
    - Gilliam and Associates and PACE Turf
  • It's not uncommon for golf courses to turn to municipalities for supplemental water when supplies are running short. Cities turning to golf courses for water under those same circumstances occurs with far less frequency.
    In drought-stricken Southern California, the city of San Juan Capistrano has been pumping water from wells that supply San Juan Hills Golf Club, and it's going to court to protect what it says is its right to do so. The golf course, however, believes the city taking water from underneath the course infringes on its rights as cities and businesses scramble to find and secure enough water to function at even the most basic levels.
    According to the Orange County Register, a judge recently rejected the club's motion to prevent the city from taking water from wells underneath the golf, saying the city's actions did not adversely affect the golf course.
    The decision is a reversal of the judge's initial decision to side with the club and prevent the city from pumping from the two wells.
    Most of California is in the throes of a drought that is at least three years long and that some experts predict could last for decades to come. In an attempt to recharge the San Juan Basin that feeds water to the area, the South Coast Water District on Sept. 8 closed a groundwater recovery plant, and the San Juan Basin Authority then closed two wells in mid-September because they weren't producing water.
    The case is scheduled to go to trial next Aug. 31.
  • Confounding critter

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Scientists have learned a lot about annual bluegrass weevils since they first were reported on managed turfgrass more than 80 years ago. But researchers admit there still is much to learn.
    Growing to only 3 or 4 mm in length in the adult phase of its life cycle, this minute pest causes big problems in managed cool-season turf in the northeastern quadrant of the country. And unlike other turf pests, ABW follows few patterns of predictability. 
    Overwintering adults die and give way to a new generation of adults in late spring or early summer. In some years there are just two life cycles, while in other years there might be three. What sparks an early reproductive cycle from the season's new adults is unknown.
    "They're hedgebetters," said Ohio State University entomologist Dave Shetlar, Ph.D. "Some years some go for an extra generation, while others hang onto their eggs and wait until next season."
    Likewise, populations in some parts of the northeast have developed resistance to common chemistries, including bifenthrin, while turf managers in other areas still enjoy a full complement of management tools.
    "With white grubs, there is one cycle a year, and we always know when it's coming," said Steve McDonald of Turfgrass Disease Solutions. "With annual bluegrass weevil, there might be multiple life cycles in a year, or there might be one, and we don't know exactly when they're coming. 
    "And there are other chemical pesticides out there that control other pests that are not effective against annual bluegrass weevil. It's a very dynamic pest and there are no absolutes. It breaks all the rules."
    According to Cornell University research, ABW first was recorded as a turfgrass pest in 1931 in Connecticut, and its range was limited to metropolitan New York City until the 1990s.
    Today, it is considered a turfgrass pest as far west as Ohio and southward to North Carolina. It has been found as far away as Colorado and Oklahoma, but doesn't pose a major problem on golf courses and thus is not considered a nuisance in those areas, said Shetlar.
    Emerging typically in late winter or early spring, ABW can persist well into autumn, making it a season-long problem on many golf courses.
    The overwhelming percentage of adults overwinter in woody areas, with a smaller number spending the winter in the thatch layer of high-cut turf, says Ohio State's Shetlar.
    Historically, they first appear when forsythia are in bloom, but Shetlar said watching for daffodils to burst from the ground might be an even better indicator of ABW activity.
    "It can be 40, 45 or 50 degrees," Shetlar said. "It doesn't have to be warm. Sunlight is enough to keep them warm, even if it's still cold out."
    Once active, ABW migrate into shorter cut turf, and they prefer fringe areas, such as where fairway meets rough and where collars meld into putting greens. Leaf blades in those areas are thicker, and that is believed to be their preferred meal, Shetlar says. There, they lay their eggs, usually between one and four, in the leaf sheath. 
    "There is something about the way Poa is managed that they find highly attractive," Shetlar said. 
    Egg-laying adults soon die, and by the time the newly hatched larvae reach the third instar stage they are too large to stay inside the sheath, and move to and eat around the crown, eventually resulting in the plant's death. Symptoms typically manifest as yellow or browning turf that Shetlar says resembles anthracnose to the untrained eye. 
    In Ohio, larvae typically develop into adults by late June or early July. In New England, a third generation, if there is one, might appear by late July or early August.
    Given the irregular nature of their behavior it's not uncommon to see adults and larvae at the same time, and that can make controlling them a challenge.
    "Superintendents panic when they see adults and spray like mad," Shetlar said. 
    "Some years they double-pump it and there is another generation. No one really knows why it is one way one year, and another way another year."
    McDonald recommends scouting weekly during times of potential activity, including use of soap flushes to detect adults. He also recommends online tools like Syngenta's Weevil Trak, that uses real-time updates from superintendents to monitor weevil activity.
    Several products are labeled for ABW control. Shetlar said the pest has developed resistance to bifenthrin in the Northeast with some locations also reporting resistance to chlorpyrifos. Combination products containing chlothianidin and bifenthrin, however, have proven to be very effective, Shetlar said. 
    "The reality is when you combine two modes of action, often regain efficacy of both molecules, even if there is resistance to one alone," he said.
    Shetlar said that legendary Ohio State professor Harry Niemczyk, Ph.D., has conducted research that shows early insecticide applications before the reproductive cycle begins in the spring have been shown to be an effective method of control overwintering adults before they lay their eggs.
    "The success rate is about 70 to 80 percent, which is very good control," Shetlar said.
    "I don't know of any program that provides 90 percent control 100 percent of the time."
  • IA, Cal Poly team to offer education
    The Irrigation Association has partnered with the California Polytechnic State University Irrigation Training and Research Center to offer a series of online courses.    Each new course qualifies for continuing education units. Topics include: Basic Soil-Plant-Water Relationships (2 CEUs); Distribution Uniformity & Precipitation Rate (1.5 CEUs); Evapotranspiration (1 CEU); Irrigation System Components (3 CEUs); Landscape Irrigation Auditor (4 CEUs); Scheduling for Auditors (2 CEUs); Landscape Sprinkler Design (8 CEUs); Scheduling for Sprinkler Design (1.5 CEUs)   Each course includes interactive videos, reading materials and online quizzes. Users complete courses at their own pace and receive credit after completing each track's online exam. The North Carolina Irrigation Contractors' Licensing Board and the New Jersey Landscape Irrigation Contractor Examining Board have approved these courses, allowing licensed individuals in these states to earn CEUs or CECs.   Visit store.irrigation.org for course descriptions, pricing and to register. It's early order time
    Syngenta recently implemented its new GreenTrust 365 Rebate Calculators designed to make participating in the company's early order program easier than ever.   The 2015 Syngenta GreenTrust 365 rebate program provides customers with rebates through 2015 of up to 10 percent off qualifying purchases (minimum $5,000) made during the 2014 early order period that runs Oct. 1-Dec. 8.   The new tool automatically configures order quantities and allows users to create multiple GreenTrust 365 worksheets, which are saved for future reference.   The program offers savings on pallet and multipak orders, SummerPay extended terms, GreenTrust rewards points that can be redeemed for gift card options through Syngenta's online catalog, or for GCSAA credits. FMC
    Turf managers can buy FMC turf and ornamental products now and defer payment until late spring through the company's early order program.   Running through Dec. 12, FMC's early order program allows customers to secure current pricing but delay payment on products such as Triple Crown, Solitaire and Echelon until June 10.   The program applies to these FMC products: Dismiss, Dismiss South, Dismiss CA, Blindside, QuickSilver, Echelon, Solitaire, Xonerate and SquareOne herbicides; Triple Crown, Onyx, OnyxPro, Aria and Talstar insecticides; and Disarm fungicides.   The EOP also allows customers to build their own flexible and customizable rebate programs. Nufarm
    Superintendents can earn rewards through the Nufarm Americas early order program. And the sooner they act, the more rewards they can earn.   Qualifying orders on products from Nufarm, Cleary Chemical and Valent USA made through Nufarm distributors through Oct. 31 are eligible for the largest rewards of the season, although superintendents can continue to earn valuable distributor credits through the completion of the program on Dec. 12.   Online registration is required to receive rewards.   Macro-Sorb names new VP
    Macro-Sorb Technologies recently named Michael Kubinec as vice president. He also will serve in the same capacity for Macro-Sorb's sister company, SMS Additive Solutions.   Macro-Sorb is a provider of amino acid-based products, while SMS Additive Solutions offers a line up of surfactants, spray adjuvants and tank mix additives.   With more than 15 years of industry experience, Kubinec will be responsible for all operational activities for both companies, including sales, distribution, marketing, research and new product development. He is based in Pittsburgh.  
  • Bent on success

    By John Reitman, in News,

    During his ten years at Mr. Nicklaus' Muirfield Village Golf Club - including five as superintendent - Mike Takach learned a thing or two about bentgrass.
    "The biggest thing I learned about bentgrass at Muirfield is just how far you can push it," said Mike. "The challenge is always trying to keep a balance between playability, aesthetics and the health of the turf."
    Mike has been superintendent at the Pinnacle Golf Club located near Columbus, Ohio since it opened in 2005. The course is almost wall-to-wall bent, with L-93 covering everything but the rough. The Ohio climate serves the grass well, except for July and August, when the heat and humidity is especially stressful to the turf.
    Click here to read the rest of the story
  • It didn't take long for members at Westmoor Country Club to alleviate Bryan Bergner's concerns about whether raising bees on the golf course was a good idea.
    Instead of raising protests, members at this private club in suburban Milwaukee have been overly curious about the bees and, once they learn more about them and why Bergner is raising them, vigorously supportive of his efforts.
    "I thought I'd get a lot of complaints and people being concerned about getting stung," said Bergner, who had a custom hive built smack in the center of the golf course near the No. 15 green. "I've heard nothing but great things. The members have been very positive and supportive."
    Bergner's curiosity was piqued earlier this year while attending a rooftop cocktail party in downtown Milwaukee. The party went on while bees came and went freely from a large bee-shaped hive on the same terrace. 
    "Bees were flying around everywhere," said Bergner. "I couldn't believe no one was getting stung."
    The only thing Bergner knew about bees then was that they are threatened by pesticides, parasites and loss of habitat. He thought raising them, to promote their comeback rather than start a second business producing honey, would be a good golf course project that helped the bees, the club and its neighbors.
    "I thought if they could thrive on a downtown rooftop, they'd probably do really well on a golf course," he said.
    So Bergner set out to learn all he could about bees with the help of local expert and hive builder Charlie Koenen.
    In May, Bergner stocked a hive from Koenen's Beepods.com with 3 pounds of bees. Since then, Bergner estimates, the colony has grown nearly 10-fold. Although the thousands of bees living at Westmoor (Bergner plans to establish two more colonies next spring) help keep wildflowers at the club healthy and vigorous, bees have a working range of up to 7-10 miles, so their benefits are felt well beyond the walls of Westmoor.
    Bergner says he has yet to be stung, and insists the bees are more concerned about producing honey and maintaining their colony than they are stinging intruders. While Bergner was conducting a routine hive inspection late on a Sunday afternoon, a half-dozen golf-playing members stopped by to ask questions and learn more about the bees, and all were genuinely enthusiastic of the project. The bees, on the other hand, were content to ignore everyone and while hundreds buzzed about the air, not one sting was recorded. Even when thousands of bees swarmed to follow the queen when she left the hive this summer, onlookers were in awed, not afraid. Instead of asking whether they were in danger of being stung, members visiting with Bergner during his recent hive examination asked him if the bees would survive the winter in the Beepod contraption.
    While wild bee populations have survived harsh winters for thousands of years, a manmade hive does not adequately protect the bees from the elements, especially strong winds accompanied by sub-freezing temperatures, so, Bergner soon will transport the hive to the shop's cold-storage room, where they will live until spring.
    Together, Koenen and Bergner conduct fear-alleviating educational sessions for members that the superintendent calls beesentations.
    He also has reached out to nearby residents, who have responded positively after learning the source of the influx of bees that are helping area gardens to thrive.
    The project has proven to have multiple benefits for Bergner as well, including serving as a stress reliever during the rigors of the golf season.
    "It's been a lot of fun," he said. "I wish more golf courses would do this."
    It also has been fulfilling to know he's doing something to help the local bee population. He's even adopted a nighttime spraying program to prevent drift from reaching the colony, which is not active overnight.
    "We're a golf course and we spray pesticides. I spray things that would wipe bees out," Bergner said. "But, I haven't killed any bees yet, so I know I'm doing something right."
  • Autumn is a bittersweet time of year for golfers. Leaves changing color make a great game even more enjoyable, but fall typically means aerification time, a semiannual ritual that golfers everywhere despise yet do not fully understand.   Recent research conducted on bentgrass greens in the Northwest, however, shows that while golfers might not like aerification time, the practice might not as disruptive as they like to think it is.   In fact, researchers came away from the study, the results of which were published in 2013, recommending a combination of pulling cores with quarter-inch tines (at a depth of 3 inches) and verticutting for providing key agronomic benefits and improving putting green playability while also resulting in relatively low disruption.   Conducted from 2008 to 2010 on T-1 bentgrass greens at Palouse Ridge Golf Club and Washington State University's turf research facility, both in Pullman, the study examined the effects of six agronomic programs: coring with half-inch tines (also at 3 inches); venting; verticutting; coring with half-inch tines and venting; coring with half-inch tines and verticutting; and coring with quarter-inch tines and verticutting.   The research team of Proctor, Johnson, Golob, Stahnke and Williams from Washington State University acknowledged that core aerification was disruptive on its face, but recuperation was relatively rapid compared with other treatments. And when coring with quarter-inch tines was followed with sand topdressing and combined with verticutting it resulted in a low number of total days of disruption (35 days in 2008, 38 days in 2009, 68 days in 2010). Coring with quarter-inch tines and verticutting resulted in statistically significant fewer total days of disruption than other treatments on most data collection dates, which occurred on multiple dates each month from April through October. The average daily high in Pullman in October is 67 degrees and the overnight low 25, according to the National Weather Service, and the research showed that turf did not recover from cultivation treatments performed after Oct. 15.   The study also examined whether sand color (tan vs. black) affected the turf's recuperative abilities, but found no statistical difference regarding sand color.   Researchers noted they were concerned with the potential for increased soil temperature with the use of black sand. But the study showed no negative effects in the turf's ability to recover after aerifying and verticutting with the use of black sand for topdressing.
  • Statistical paralysis

    By John Reitman, in News,

    There is a reason Vin Scully is known as one of the best broadcast professionals in all of sports. Known best for his work as the play-by-play man for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Scully dabbled in a host of other sports, including golf, and he has a way with words few can match.   As a sportscaster, Scully often must recite volumes of statistics. He also has a keen insight as to their significance, as he once said: "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost; for support, not illumination."   The golf business too is filled with statistics on weather impact, rounds played, spending at the golf shop and in the restaurant, and equipment sales, as those who make a living studying these numbers attempt to decipher their meaning and how they are relevant to the state of the industry today and where it is headed tomorrow.   According to the National Golf Foundation's mid-year report card, rounds played in 2014 are up 2.4 percent per day open through July, compared to the same period in 2013. We're not sure how that works, since Golf Datatech, NGF's partner in delivering reports and statistics through the PGA Performance Trak package, reports that nationwide rounds played for the same period are down 1.4 percent. Nonetheless, we actually were a little optimistic about this report until we contacted Jim Koppenhaver, who told a different story.   Granted, an abnormally long and cold winter in much of the country adversely affected rounds played for the first quarter of the year. But that brutal winter and ensuing cool, wet spring eventually were followed by a mild summer that has been quite conducive to attracting golfers and growing grass.   In fact, since closing out that first quarter of the year, rounds played in the following four-month period have been as follows: down 1.5 percent, up 0.9 percent, down 2.8 percent and up 1.1 percent. When one figures that the monthly drop in play during the first quarter was 3.6 percent, 4.6 percent and 4.8 percent, again it's hard to get a grasp on that increase of 2.4 percent per day open.   NGF says its measure of golf playable days was down 4.1 percent through the first half of the year compared with the first six months of 2013. And the foundation is predicting an overall mild autumn that could allow for a late rounds played rally.   Koppenhaver, whose Pellucid Corp. has always played Bear to NGF's Bull, says the foundation isn't far off, but off nonetheless. Koppenhaver tracks golf-friendly conditions down to the hour rather than the day, and he says GPH are flat through July.    NGF and PGA Performance Trak, which utilize Weather Trends International, are predicting an extended autumn with favorable weather conditions. Koppenhaver, who uses Weather Bank Inc., disagrees.   "No major meltdown," Koppenhaver says. "But, according to our crystal ball, we've peaked in the weather comeback and will give a little bit of it back."   That's bad news at a key time of year for an industry that is in need of recovery, yet is projected to shed another 35-75 18-hole equivalents in 2014.   Regardless of what the statistics say, this much we know: no industry growth initiative is worth its salt if it doesn't work for you. It doesn't matter much to you what works for the course down the road. Recovery must happen on a site-by-site basis by implementing initiatives that improve pace of play, make the game more appealing to those who don't have 4-5 hours to spend on golf, and more friendly to those who have been scared off during the past decade.   Early reports indicated that even foot golf is resulting in increased revenues. , and the industry is facing several more years of contraction before this ship is righted, which brings to mind another Scully quote.   "You can almost taste the pressure now."
  • Like pulling teeth

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Whether it was during the 45 years he spent standing over a dentist's chair or the four decades he has been actively promoting golf to his patients, Charles Spragg has always considered himself to be a man of action.    When other dentists in Findlay, Ohio were too busy to take walk-in patients suffering from acute pain, Spragg made time for them. In the meantime he built a lucrative practice because people knew they could depend on him. Likewise, as an avid golfer, he recognized years ago that there was a need to promote the game to area kids as he watched interest in other youth sports soar. So he started a series of clinics and tournaments that got kids off the couch and onto the golf course.   Although he retired and sold his practice four years ago, Spragg still is the defacto Godfather of youth golf in northwestern Ohio. The Findlay Area Golf Association he started for local kids is celebrating its 40th year, and at age 74, Spragg is in his inaugural season as boys golf coach at Findlay High School.    Despite his efforts to promote the game, Spragg has watched golfer participation slip consistently, not only among adults but also in the youth league he founded 40 years ago. Participation at the high school level also is down, and there is a dearth of talent in the junior high ranks. In a refocused effort to generate interest in golf, Spragg, in mid-September, started an after-school program that offers clinics and lessons and a chance to play nine holes on a donation-only basis. No experience is needed, nor are one's own clubs. All Spragg wants in return is for kids to give the game a fair chance and to have fun while they are there.  He solicited his junior varsity coach as well as the girls high school coach to help him teach kids how to hold the clubs properly, how to putt and chip and how to strike the ball.   "We just want campers. No experience, no clubs," Spragg said.   "We don't even want the money. We want the players. At any skill level."    The clinics are held at Shady Grove, a par-3 facility with a large practice area as well as a putt-putt course. Shady Grove owner Scott Malloy, who was a state qualifier on Findlay High's golf teams in the mid 1970s, provides kids with various clubs and more than 4,000 balls to hit from various putting, chipping and hitting stations around the practice area.   "Dr. Spragg and I have been talking for a while about trying to do something to get kids interested," Malloy said. "He told me when he took over the golf team that it wasn't doing well, and there aren't a lot of good players in the pipeline.   "We have to do something to get the kids interested, and this is the perfect course to do it at."   Only six players showed up for the first rain-plagued event, and they were unceremoniously sent home. The next day, Spragg's high school team was en route to a match when he discussed fading interest in the game among children with the driver of the team's van. The driver, who also is a sixth grade math teacher at a Findlay junior high school, drafted a flier and had it distributed to students in three middle schools throughout the city. Since then, the program attracted 61 kids in two weeks. Some are accomplished players, and some never have held a club before.   "You can tell a lot of the kids have never played before, and that's OK. That's who we want," Malloy said. "We've seen some coming back on other days, either on the driving range or even playing golf, and of course, that's what we're really looking for."   As the founder of the Findlay Area Golf Association, which has been providing local children of all ages and skill levels with clinics and instruction, nine holes of tournament play and even a hot dog lunch for less than 15 bucks ($18 for 18 holes), Spragg has had a hand in promoting the game to hundreds of kids with varying levels of interest. The program even provides scholarship assistance for graduating high school seniors who have played in the system for at least three years. And the list of players who have gone through the program includes former PGA Tour player and current University of Cincinnati men's golf coach Doug Martin, former University of Michigan women's coach Cheryl Stacy and dozens of others who have gone on to compete at the high school and even college levels. Despite his efforts, Spragg has watched golfer participation slip consistently, not only among adults but also in his own youth league, prompting him to team with the owner of a local golf course in an attempt to rejuvenate kids' interest in the game.   Why does a retiree, who divides his calendar between northwestern Ohio and Bradenton, Florida and has the time and resources to play as much golf as he wants to, spend his time motivating and teaching other people's children?   Part of it is self-fulfillment. He also figures if he doesn't do something to help revive the game, who will?   "You ask why. I answer why not?" Spragg said. "I'm not knocking those that run, own, teach, or in any way are connected to golf. But, I've been talking to these people all over the country for a number of years. They all want The First Tee or someone else to do the work. If a golf course loses rounds of play as they have; do you just talk about it? If a teaching pro just looses clients/students; do you just talk about it?   "When I was in practice as a dentist, I constantly did things to attract new patients. I took toothache patients when my office was full and found a way to take care of their problem. I had a really good practice and sold it to a young dentist who thinks the same way I did."   His spirit of giving back is something that his parents instilled in him years ago when Spragg was growing up on the family dairy farm in Bridgeport, Ohio.   "I believe that when you get up in the morning you need something that makes you feel needed in this world," Spragg said. "I have never been one to join clubs, hang out with the guys. I was trained early in life to be a doer; to help others; and to make the place you live a better place than when you arrived."
  • If education is power, then learning more about smart water management should wield a lot of clout in the turf business.   From October through next May, Rain Bird Training Services will conduct more than 80 irrigation training events nationwide for irrigation professional from throughout the turf industry.    These classes are open to irrigation professionals at all experience levels, including contractors, distributors, designers or architects. Those who attend Rain Bird training classes are eligible to receive continuing education units from the Irrigation Association.   Rain Bird Training Services offers two primary types of training tracks designed to help irrigation professionals enhance their skills and improve their career prospects. Rain Bird Factory Trained Classes provide comprehensive training on Rain Bird products that help attendees become experts on installing, managing and maintaining Rain Bird irrigation systems. Rain Bird Academy Classes provides best-in-class, general irrigation skills training on products from many manufacturers, as well as courses for Irrigation Association exam preparation.   Golf-specific training classes are scheduled for Oct. 6-10 at The Villages, about an hour north of Orlando, Florida; Dec. 15-19 in Las Vegas and Jan. 12-16 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Several other classes will be available on selected dates throughout the country.   Beginning in December, Rain Bird Training Services also will offer a newly developed preparation class for the Irrigation Association's Certified Irrigation Designer exam.     "We have had a lot of requests from contractors and landscape architects to help them prepare for the IA's CID exam," said Robert Pfeil, marketing group manager for Rain Bird Services. "We listened to those requests, and we've carefully developed a class that we believe will help many irrigation professionals better prepare for this important examination."   The Irrigation Association recently designated the four-part Rain Bird Academy Boot Camp as part of the IA Select program for quality irrigation education, a first for an external training services provider.
  • As water becomes more scarce and users search for more ways to conserve it, micro irrigation in specific areas has become more prevalent.    For those who now use or are contemplating separate drip irrigation systems in problem areas such steep bunker faces, Toro recently introduced its Aqua-Clear fiberglass sand media filter product line for flows ranging from 50 to 400 gallons per minute.   Aqua-Clear filters are corrosion-resistant, designed for drip irrigation systems operating up to 75 psi, and are available in 18-, 24-, 30- and 36-inch systems.    Features of the system include AC and DC options to automate filter backwash on any site; automated systems complete with all valves, controller and hydraulic connections; English and Spanish language?detailed and illustrated operation manual; double-chamber backwash valve for reliable, low?head loss operation; solid-state controller backwashes on both time and pressure differential; and expansion modules for simple addition of a single filter to an existing system.
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