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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Spring into savings with BASF
      BASF has launched a summer holiday spray promotion that will help superintendents save up to 8 percent in earned credit on qualifying fungicide purchases.   The promotion, which includes Lexicon Intrinsic, Honor Intrinsic, Insignia SC Intrinsic and Xzemplar fungicides, will run through Aug. 31. BASF also is offering a Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth speaker with the purchase of one case of Lexicon Intrinsic fungicide.   To qualify, all purchases must be made by August 31 and registered by Sept. 18 at betterturf.basf.us/holidayspray.     Par Aide says spruce up those tees
      Par Aide has a few new products available to help superintendents easily spruce up the appearance of any golf course.   Such products include club washers, spike brushes and ball washers that are designed to keep golf clubs, balls and shoes free of debris.   Other standby items include customizable tree branch tee markers and benches for taking a load off for those times when everyone is not necessarily playing ready golf.   The Andersons buys Kay-Flo
      The Andersons recently acquired Kay Flo Industries, a South Dakota-based provider of field and crop nutrient products.

    The acquisition is part of The Andersons? plan to grow its wholesale and specialty fertilizer business within the Maumee, Ohio company?s Plant Nutrient Group.

    Based in North Sioux City, Kay-Flo is a consortium of family owned companies that manufacture high-performance crop and animal nutrients that has been in business since 1928 when it started as Kay Dee Feed Co. The company also has operational facilities in Iowa and Nebraska.

    Kay Flo, through its Nutra-Flo Division, is the leading U.S. manufacturer of premium liquid starter fertilizers and is also a leading manufacturer and formulator of micronutrient enriched plant nutrients. Nutra-Flo serves hundreds of growers, ranchers, and agribusinesses throughout the Western Corn Belt with these products along with its conventional fertilizers.

    The purchase includes a state-of-the-art research-and-development laboratory and three plant nutrient manufacturing and distribution assets with more than 100,000 tons of tank storage that produce more than 200,000 tons of liquid fertilizers. The animal nutrient portions of Kay Flo are not a part of the acquisition.   Irrigation Association offers training courses
      The Irrigation Association is offering a schedule of on-site classes to help irrigation professionals improve industry proficiency, advocate sound water management, and grow demand for water-efficient products and services.   Classes include irrigation technician training, landscape irrigation design, certified irrigation designer, and golf irrigation auditor training.   Irrigation technician training is scheduled for May 19-20 (Apopka, Florida), June 16-17 (Sacramento, California), July 21-22 (Pensacola, Florida), Sept. 15-16 (Walnut, California).   Certified irrigation designer training is set for July 13-14 (Tucson, Arizona). Landscape irrigation design is scheduled for May 21 (Apopka, Florida), July 23 (Pensacola) and Sept. 17 (Walnut).   Toro recognizes Reinders
      The Toro Co. presented Reinders Inc. of Sussex, Wisconsin with its 2014 Partner in Excellence award for Best in Parts Operations. Reinders has won the award three times in the past four years.

    The award is based on a variety of criteria including overall fill rate, inventory turns, distributor quarterly evaluations, and an on-site visit by Toro personnel. Reinders was recognized for its best business practices relating to order accuracy, delivery time, back-order fulfillment and increasing Toro parts market share. Toro's Partners in Excellence program provides guidelines which focus on key business processes for building a successful distributorship. Reinders' achievement was the result of dedicated efforts from a multitude of its teams ? customer service, operations, outside sales, inside sales support and administration.

    Established in 1866, Reinders, Inc. is the Midwest's largest full service distributor of products to the commercial green industry. The company provides turf equipment, parts, fertilizer, grass seed, pond supplies, landscape/seasonal lighting, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, irrigation products, landscape supplies, ice melt products and more throughout the Midwest with outlets Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Kansas.  
  • Not all winter damage on golf course turf is created equally.
      Damage caused by harsh winter conditions typically is a concern throughout the Northeast and much of the Midwest, but what causes it and its severity can vary from location to location and year to year. And this year is no different, with superintendents in some areas reporting minor damage and others calling this year's damage the worst they've seen.   Now that spring finally has arrived, the USGA Green Section recommends adequate moisture on areas where turf is damaged but still alive, slit seeding those areas with weakened turf and reducing or eliminating traffic until such areas are repaired. A leading university researcher suggests reseeding severely affected areas with creeping bentgrass followed by a strict fertility program.   At James Baird State Park Golf Course in Pleasant Valley, New York, 16 of 18 greens were lost to winter kill, a problem that kept the course closed into May. The same can be said for The Golf Course at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, where superintendent Scott Ramsay, CGCS, called the damage the worst he has seen in his 31 years as a superintendent.   According to the USGA Green Section, there were several different causes for winter damage, including rain followed by freezing conditions in December and January that left exposed and dormant turf covered in ice for an extended period. At James Baird, an ice storm that rolled through Pleasant Valley in mid-January was to blame.   Copious amounts of snow in other areas left turf blanketed in snow so long that suffocation was a concern. Then later in March, turf in areas where standing water is a concern went through the thaw-freeze cycle. For other courses along the coast, wind was the problem, first removing snow cover and then blowing over exposed dry and dormant turf, resulting in desiccation.   While Green Section agronomists recommend reviewing programs and procedures, they acknowledge there is really little any golf course superintendent can do to prevent winter damage, other than to repair areas where standing water is a recurring problem.   That's the route Ramsay took at The Golf Course at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, where he said winter damage could have been much worse if not for a fall aerification treatment that prevented standing water from accumulating in low areas on greens.   The story is the same on Long Island, where long and persisting winter conditions have resulted in delayed course openings, tournament postponements and temporary greens, according to published reports. Normal playing conditions at many courses, especially those with annual bluegrass putting surfaces, are not expected until summer.   As usual, courses with predominantly bentgrass greens fared better than those touting mostly annual bluegrass, which is the area's primary putting surface.   In December, Kevin Frank, Ph.D., of Michigan State University delivered a seminar on winterkill during the annual Ohio Turfgrass Foundation conference and trade show.   The ability to recover depends entirely on the level of damage incurred, but such programs often begin with seeding bentgrass. Frank discussed    One such recovery program Frank discussed at OTF included seeding with bentgrass, followed by a starter fertilizer application at 0.75 pounds of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet, followed by a foliar program of 0.10 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 applied every four to five days through mid- to late May. That program also included delaying PGR use until mid-June.    Properly preparing the area for seeding to improve seed-soil contact also played a critical role in how quickly an area recovered.    Frank has had a lot of experience lately helping superintendents from throughout the Midwest deal with the aftermath of winter damage. Damage from harsh winter conditions throughout Michigan was worst in 2014, but was more widespread this year, he said.   A year ago, winter damage was concentrated mostly in the Detroit area, while this year courses northward into the state's thumb all the way to Gaylord are reporting dead or damaged turf. At least three courses in the Detroit area have filed documents in court against The Travelers Indemnity Co. for denying insurance claims associated with winter damage.
  • For those with severely sloped areas that are subject to high standards of maintenance, Jacobsen has launched its HoverKing lightweight hover mower.
      The HoverKing comes in two models, 16-inch and 20-inch mowing widths that weigh just 26 and 36.5 pounds, respectively.   "Hover mowers typically maintain the most sloped areas on a golf course where mowing is very difficult," said Chris Fox, product manager for Jacobsen. "We saw a real need for a lighter, more rugged hover mower that could be easily operated, maneuvered and transported. The HoverKing's lighter weight and ergonomic handle design make it easier to operate in all conditions."   With an ergonomic design for ease of use, the HoverKing features a padded handle and integrated handle mounts that stand up to the rigors of daily use.    "During our field research, superintendents told us that one of the most common problem areas on current hover mowers is where the handle mounts to the deck," Fox said. "Our engineers integrated the HoverKing's handle mounts into the engine mount, providing a much more durable attachment point that will hold up over time."   Both versions of the HoverKing offer a 3-inch height of cut, which is the highest in the industry. In addition, the HoverKing offers three cutting system options: metal blade, metal edge with nylon blade or nylon string.
  • TurfNet claimed 17 awards at the recent Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual Communications Awards contest.
      TurfNet's haul included seven first-place awards and 10 merit entries. One first-place award, a video by Jon Kiger, also earned a Gardner Award as a best-in-show winner.   Kiger claimed two first-place awards and four merit winners. He took first place in the Best CD/Audiovisual Presentation category with "TurfNet on the Global Stage - Preparing for the World Cup" and Best Short Video/DVD with "East Lake Golf Club: Individual Tool Lockers." "TurfNet on the Global Stage" also was named a best in show winner.   TurfNet's John Reitman won two first-place awards and two merits. He won first place for Writing for Website for "California's Water Story Needs a Hollywood Ending" and "Like Pulling Teeth."   Randy Wilson took first place in the Best Use of Editorial or Opinion in Video/DVD for "Straight Talk and Common Sense: Mike Young," Kevin Ross, CGCS, claimed first place in Best Long Video/DVD for "2014 On Course Awards Presentation," and Hector Velazquez won with "When is it Time to Replace That Reel?" in Best Instructional Video/DVD category.    Results of the contest were announced May 7 at the TOCA annual meeting in Milwaukee. Award entries reflect work completed during the 2014 calendar year.   Merit winners include:   > Best CD/Audiovisual Presentation: "Preparing for the Ryder Cup," Jon Kiger; > Best Instructional Video/DVD: "Rockaway Hunt Club - Quick Modification to Tandem Trailers," Jon Kiger; > Innovative Use of Social Media: "TurfNet Ryder Cup Video Tweet and Share Promotion," Jon Kiger; > Writing for Video/CD/Audiovisual Presentation: "TurfNet on the Global Stage Ryder Cup at Gleneagles preview script," Jon Kiger > Blog: "Greenkeeping - The Next Generation," Peter Braun; > Blog: "Home is Where . . ." Paul MacCormack; > Best Writing for Publication: "Show Me the Light," Paul MacCormack for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland (international category); > Overall Media Kit Design: "TurfNet 2014 Media Kit," Peter McCormick; > Headline Writing: "California's Water Story Needs a Hollywood Ending," John Reitman; > Miscellaneous Special Publishing Project: "2014 Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar," John Reitman.   In its 26th year, the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association is a 200-plus-member organization of editorial, advertising and marketing professionals who work in the green industry.
  • The face of golf in California is about to change - forever.
      In response to a directive last month from Gov. Jerry Brown, the California State Water Resources Control Board approved on May 5, measures designed to reduce urban water use statewide by 25 percent through June 2016.   To meet that goal, the CSWRCB has placed each of the state's 411 urban water suppliers into an 8-tier system, each with different conservation standards. Reductions will range from 8 to 36 percent of 2013 water use figures, depending on per-capita use within each district. For individual users within districts, cutbacks ultimately will be determined by local suppliers.    The rule gives water suppliers a wide berth on how to interpret and implement the rule - as long as their prescribed numbers are achieved. Suppliers can set different reduction standards for different users within the same district and can develop and implement their own contingency plans to help individual users meet localized needs.   For example, the San Jose Water Co., one of the state's largest water suppliers, is in Tier 5, which means that during the next year it must reduce the amount of water it delivers to its customers by 20 percent compared with its 2013 use data. How it reaches that number is up to the water company. Some customers might be asked to save less than 20 percent, while some might be asked to save more. It is largely expected that customers who already have exhibited low-use practices will be asked to reduce their use by a lesser percentage and those with higher per-capita use rates will get hit hardest.   That same latitude applies to all 411 urban water suppliers throughout the state.     Mike Huck, a former golf course superintendent in Southern California and one of the state's leading irrigation consultants and water experts, expects some golf courses might be told to reduce water use by as much as 40 percent.   "The reasoning is the only available water savings are primarily going to come from outdoor landscape irrigation," Huck said. "There isn't much water left to be saved indoors due to water-saving appliances like low gallons-per-flush toilets, low gallons-per-wash clothes washers, dishwashers and low flow shower heads and faucet aerators."   Superintendents still unsure of what the new rule means to them are urged to contact their water supplier.   Californians get their potable water from several sources, including the Colorado River, local groundwater and recycled water from water-treatment plants. And then there is the State Water Project, which channels surface water from sources such as Sierra Nevada snowpack to provide water for nearly 70 percent of all Californians. The project is a system of 700 miles of canals, aqueducts and pipelines that channel water from 34 reservoirs to more the 25 million users throughout the state, including large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco.   With California entrenched in a four-year drought, Brown has pleaded with residents to voluntarily conserve water use.    Some took those pleas seriously. Golf course superintendent Steve Agin has cut water use at Ruby Hill Golf Club in Pleasanton, east of the San Francisco Bay area, by more than 20 percent since then.   "It wasn't mandatory," Agin said. "As a superintendent, I use the bucket analogy, and there is only so much water in the bucket before it runs out."   Not everyone was as proactive. According to the CSWRCB, voluntary cutbacks resulted in a savings of only 3 percent statewide in March, far below what state officials had hoped for. With no end to the drought in site - some reports had Sierra Nevada snowpack this past winter at 5 percent of normal - Brown decided it was time to get serious.   On April 1 he announced a mandate that would result in the state's cumulative reduction of water use by 25 percent through next June and threw the ball into the water control board's court to develop and implement a plan that would make that directive achievable.   Since the 25 percent-reduction rule went into effect May 5, many superintendents around the state have been thrust into panic mode as they wait to see how the rule will affect them.  
    Since the 25 percent-reduction rule went into effect May 5, many superintendents around the state have been thrust into panic mode as they wait to see how the rule will affect them...
      A day after the plan was approved, Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association and another of the state's experts on golf course water issues, was meeting with operators of four golf courses in Orange County who are nervous about how they will be affected.   The rule applies to well water use also, regulation of which was noticeably absent in previous water-conservation efforts, with the rule stating: "Commercial, Industrial and Institutional properties that are not served by a water supplier (or are self-supplied, such as by a groundwater well) also must either reduce water use by 25 percent or restrict outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week. No reporting is required but these properties must maintain documentation of their water use and practices."   While the CSWRCB is responsible for implementing the governor's directive, penalizing those who fail to comply with the order is up to the individual water districts. And they have a wide range of discretion in levvying fines.   Cutbacks Those utilizing recycled water are exempt from the reduction rule, but that doesn't mean they are not feeling the effects of the drought.   Bob Zoller of Monterey Peninsula Country Club and superintendents from six other courses in Pebble Beach, are approved to draw as much as a combined 2.5 million gallons of treated water per day from the Forest Lake Reservoir in Pebble Beach. But conservation efforts on the Monterey Peninsula, the water utility there is able to produce only 1.3 million gallons per day.   "Golf is at a crossroads in so many areas," Zoller said. "Out here, water is more important than it is in some other areas. It's difficult at this point to look down the road and see what is going to happen."   This is part of a multi-part series of golf and water in California.  
  • This past winter might have been cold and wet throughout the country's northeastern corridor, but it was warm and dry in many other areas.
      In fact, while Boston set a record this winter for the most snowfall ever (110.6 inches), the winter of 2014-15 actually was the warmest on record, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. And the effects of those unseasonably warm conditions were felt, in part, on golf courses around the country.   According to industry analyst Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp., the number of golf playable hours, his measure of the total number of daylight hours compared with factors that influence play, such as precipitation, humidity, temperature, etc., were up by 24 percent nationwide in March.   Year-over-year rounds played were up by 1.3 percent in March, compared with the same month last year, according to Golf Datatech. Year-to-date rounds played are up by 1.1 percent through the first quarter of the year when compared with the first three months of 2014.   Participation outpaced golf playable hours in many locations, especially in the Midwest. Play was up by 50-60 percent in places like Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Other states experiencing a double-digit hike in rounds played included Illinois (20 percent), Oklahoma (18 percent), Wisconsin (13 percent).   The biggest losers in March were found primarily in the Southeast, Northeast and the eastern edge of the Midwest, including: all of New England and Maine, where there was virtually no play at all in March; New York (down 62 percent); New Jersey (down 39 percent); Arkansas (down 34 percent); Mississippi (down 27 percent); Delaware, D.C., Maryland (down 26 percent); Pennsylvania and Tennessee (down 23 percent); Alabama down (16 percent); Louisiana (down 15 percent); Indiana, Kentucky and Texas (down 14 percent); Ohio (down 12 percent); and Virginia (down 11 percent).
  • Turfgrass education has never been a one-size-fits-all field. Superintendents have long demonstrated success when armed with certificates, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in turf management; business degrees; or even a diploma from the school of hard knocks.
      Since the advent in 1998 of Penn State's World Campus, which brings online education to students around the world, the face of turfgrass education has been in a state of constant change. Today, the World Campus offers bachelor's and post-graduate degrees in turfgrass management, and a host of other schools offer online certificate programs, including the University of Georgia and Ohio State University.   The online horticulture certificate program at Florida Gateway College, formerly Lake City CC, is a flexible educational program that meets the changing needs of non-traditional students, many of whom already are working somewhere in the green industry and recognize the benefits of expanding their education.   Launched three years ago, the online program at FGC offers 18 credit hours through a curriculum of six 3-credit hour courses: Principles of Plant Growth, Soils and Fertilizers, Agricultural Chemistry, Landscape Plants, Golf and Landscape Irrigation, and Turfgrass for Golf and Landscape.   Initially, only about 10 students were enrolled in the program, and that number grew to a dozen last year. Today, there are 30 students in the program, says John Piersol, executive director of FGC's business, industrial and agricultural programs.   The curriculum is intended to supplement the knowledge base of those already working in golf or sports turf or the landscape industries, but lack a plant science background, Piersol says.      Many superintendents lament a lack of business education. Piersol said he recommends to those who wish to be a golf course superintendent or sports turf manager, the FGC online horticulture program coupled with a four-year degree in business administration.   "We are taking advantage of modern technology to deliver our golf, landscape, and sports turf related education to the working student," Piersol said. "This is what students want, and Florida Gateway College had to change to meet their needs."   The program has been promoted in regional turf publications and also by word of mouth as turf managers throughout the Southeast recognize the growing need for a non-traditional educational program that allows working students to earn while they learn.   Piersol says future plans could expand FGC's online offerings even more if there is a demand.   "The combination of hands-on site learning, our basic plant science certificate, and a business degree will work," he said. "I have a concept for a 30 credit online advanced certificate and a possible new all online (associate's) degree, but these will only be developed if there is strong demand for them."
  • Strutt your stuff

    By John Reitman, in News,

    When Lee Strutt was a lad growing up in the United Kingdom, his parents, like most, told their son always to strive to be at his best in anything he did. It's safe to say that young Lee listened.
      Today, at age 45, Strutt is not a kid anymore, but he's still following his parents' sage advice. As golf course manager at gWest International Resort in Perthshire, Scotland, Strutt holds a post-graduate degree in turf studies and certifications in three professional associations. Strutt, who in 2008 earned a master's degree in Sports Surface Technology from Cranfield University in England, has attained status as a master greenkeeper through the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, certified golf course superintendent through the GCSAA and master superintendent through the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association. He is believed to be the only superintendent anywhere in the world who is certified in all three associations.   "I don't think it is necessary to have so much training to undertake the role of superintendent. However I remember growing up that my parents always encouraged me to do my best," Strutt said. "I encourage others to their best too and maximize their full potential. I guess I was fortunate and able to take it to level no had achieve before."   Strutt also is very particular about the way superintendents are perceived by others.   "I am also passionate that superintendents are shown as the true professionals and guardians of the most important asset of the business and treated as professionals," he said. "So hopefully this helps raise our profile within the golf industry."   Even with all of that training and certification in hand, Strutt says the issues he and other superintendents managing cool-season turf in the U.K. are pretty much the same as those faced by his U.S. counterparts. The most common diseases he faces, Fusarium patch, dollar spot, take-all patch and red thread, are common foes of U.S. superintendents as well. And, although the UK has fine turfgrass teaching institutions, those schools generate little turf research, so when Strutt and other European greenkeepers are looking for answers to common turf problems, they typically consult the same U.S. university research cited by superintendents in this country.   What does change is how superintendents manage those challenges.   "We are exposed to all the same cool season diseases, but again our approaches can be very different," he said.   "There are differences between warm- and cool-season management, but the greatest difference I have noticed are generated from different cultural backgrounds. Very similar to the way English is spoken in the U.K. compared with U.S. and Canada. Even though we speak the same language, expressions and tones are very different. Turf management has distinct roots on how it has been developed and expressed in our own culture. But overall I feel the U.S. market is more results driven with the use of trial data from universities, and the U.K. market is more driven by proven historic practices."   Superintendents in the U.K. also are subject to golfer scrutiny, but not to the same degree as American greenkeepers. But that trend, unfortunately for turf managers in Europe and the UK, is changing, and it's not necessarily for the better.   "There is a lot of pressure to undertake more and deliver a better standard on the golf course," he said. "Superintendents need to get away and see other courses, continue with their education, network with their peers to help improve their golf courses and businesses. Their families at times get completely excluded from their time and suffer a lot because of this time away. There have been some moves to encourage superintendents with their families to get together during events such as barbeques, etc. to help bridge the gap of time away from their families and bring the greater community together. I'm still not sure where the happy work/life balance is, but inclusion and not exclusion is the key, not only to support your family but to engage the family to support the industry and hopefully lead to this better lifestyle balance."   For example, Strutt says he believes his colleagues in Europe and the UK are more focused on prevention because chemical costs are higher in Europe and regulations governing their use typically are more restrictive.   Whatever the method, one thing superintendents on both sides of the ocean have in common, says Strutt, is a desire to "implement a good, solid management plan and maximize resources, which will help develop a better golf course for tomorrow."   If he ever decides to change careers, Strutt might have an equally successful career as a motivational speaker as he offered a tidbit of advice to fellow greenkeepers.   "Believe in yourself and your abilities," he said. "Never give up on your ambitions and dreams but be prepared to adjust your goals as you go through life. Be prepared to help others as other have helped you and to remember to go home and enjoy your family life as much as your work life."
  • As golf course operators continue to struggle to fill open tee sheets, many are turning to alternate sources of revenue. Opening a golf course for cross country skiing or as a walking trail accomplish little in connecting non-golfers to the course and do even less to generate cash flow.
      Other games such as footgolf, disc golf and an even newer game called fling golf, which is a mix of golf and lacrosse are attracting non-golfers - and their wallets - to golf courses around the country.   Officials representing each of these three games will be on hand Oct. 12-13 when Richard Mandell Golf Architecture presents its Symposium on Affordable Golf at Tam O'Shanter Golf Course in Canton, Ohio.   The purpose of the sixth annual event, which was launched by golf course architect Richard Mandell, is to explore ways to make golf more affordable and grow the game without compromising playability.   Scheduled topics and speakers include "The Media's Responsibility in Promoting Affordable Golf" by Kevin Kane of the Virginia Golf Report; "A.W. Tillinghast, Champion of Affordable Golf" by Rick and Stuart Wolffe of the Tillinghast Society; "Women in Golf: Are They In Or Out?" by Debbie Waitkus of Golf for Cause; "Environmental Responsibility Makes Economic Sense" by Frank S. Rossi, Ph.D., of Cornell University; "The Conflict Between Playability and Challenge" by Richard Mandell; "Disc Golf, Fling Golf and Foot Golf" by Brian Graham of the Professional Disc Golf Association, Roberto Balestrini of the American FootGolf League and Alex Van Alan, founder of Fling Golf.   Day 2 topics include "A Little Friendly Competition Ain't Bad" by Chuck Bennell of Tam O'Shanter and Rick Snide of Tannehauf Golf Course; "Let's Create a Business Model" by Stuart Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors.   Open topics include a discussion on the definition of affordability, maximizing customer service and case studies of the efforts of two golf courses in Virginia and Tennessee.   The event is free, but space is limited.  Click here for more information, or to register.  
  • A 20-year search for a turfgrass resistant to one of the most common diseases on golf courses throughout the Midwest and Northeast has finished on an upswing. 
        A team of researchers at Michigan State University recently released Flagstick creeping bentgrass, a new cultivar that has exhibited resistance to dollar spot in long-term field trials conducted at the university's Hancock Turfgrass Research Center and at other locations across the country.   MSU plant, soil and microbial sciences professor Joe Vargas, Ph.D., the lead researcher in developing Flagstick, said the new cultivar provides a tool to control dollar spot, lower disease management costs and reduce the environmental impact of fungicides.   "Most of the fungicide applications throughout the season in the Northeast and Midwest are for control of dollar spot. Last year in Michigan, if it was not for dollar spot, very few fungicide applications would have been applied to golf courses," Vargas said. "Golf courses usually spend about 40 to 50 percent of their fungicide budgets on controlling dollar spot. It's a disease that can't be tolerated because, if you let it go, it will spread and eventually destroy your turf."   Dollar spot is a foliar disease named for the silver-dollar-shaped patches of dead grass and silvery film left in its path. Caused by a fungal pathogen, the disease is a top concern for golf course managers in northern areas who rely on creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass for putting greens and fairways.   According to the American Phytopathological Society, more money is spent worldwide on the chemical control of dollar spot than on any other turfgrass disease.     Cultivar development began about 20 years ago when Ron Detweiler, a technician in Vargas's lab, noticed patches of grass devoid of dollar spot at the MSU Hancock Turfgrass Research Center. Using grants from the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation and Project GREEEN (a community of like-minded people who promote environmental stewardship), Vargas and his colleagues sampled the grasses and established small plots at the research center.   In 2003, Vargas and his team partnered with Seed Research of Oregon, a division of Pickseed USA, to continue testing the cultivar through the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program at various universities around the country, where Flagstick underwent 12 years of testing.   "Most of the best discoveries are made through observation," Vargas said. "The best place to look for disease resistance is in the middle of a big outbreak. Developing a dollar-spot-resistant cultivar has been a major research focus at a number of universities for the past 20 years. The fact that we at MSU were able to come up with it is very fulfilling."   Flagstick thrives in a wide variety of soils and can be mowed at putting green height.   Pickseed USA has produced 4,000 pounds of Flagstick for the 2015 season, with larger quantities expected to be available for distribution in 2016.   The work of Vargas and his team is funded in part by MSU AgBioResearch.
  • Frank Dobie first began rebuilding bunkers in 1967 at The Sharon Golf Club in northeastern Ohio. Chief agronomist and general manager at the club near Akron, Dobie has worked at Sharon for 50 years, and he's still constructing bunkers today the same way he was in 1967, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
      Dobie began reconstructing Sharon Club bunkers for the same reasons superintendents do so today: to avoid contamination of bunker sand, to retain color and consistency, to promote drainage, reduce erosion and minimize time spent maintaining bunkers.   The procedure developed by Dobie in 1967 reportedly is the first to utilize liners to protect the integrity of the sand. While this process (adapted here from a PowerPoint presentation) might be a little more expensive than other procedures, but it can be more reliable and cost-effective in the long run. The bunkers at The Sharon Club contain the same sand today that Dobie placed there during a 1967 reconstruction.  
    Other benefits of this procedure: Since the sand doesn't erode easily from the slopes, there is very little hand shoveling after a heavy rain; the absence of accumulated clay and silt in the sand eliminates the need for cultivation; the sand stays clean, so adding sand occasionally for appearance is unnecessary; the absence of small stone contamination in the bunker sand eliminates them being hit onto the green and causing mower damage; because the sand remains clean over time, it will maintain its original density and water percolation rate, draining quickly (within one hour) after a heavy rain without serious erosion, and sand on bunker slopes will remain firmer because it is not constantly being shoveled; the original sand that was put into the bunkers since 1967 has never been replaced, so replacement cost is eliminated.     Excavation
    Dobie recommends using a backhoe fitted with a 3-foot smooth bucket, and the soil was used to create mounds around bunkers. The bunker cavity was pitched to the center of the bunker and an exit point for the tile line was established. A transit was used to check all grades.   After the surrounding grade was established, a vertical cut was made at least 14 inches deep with a backhoe. Three to 4 inches of topsoil was added to the surrounding area after the bunker sand was in place, making the edge depth at least 16 inches. The slope angle of the bunker cavity floor did not exceed 15 degrees which assures minimal sand movement.   All vertical edges are smoothed with a spade bar, and the bunker bottom is smoothed out with a box grader to eliminate the potential for water pockets.   A trench 2 feet wide and 8 inches deep was dug at the lowest area in the bunker cavity with 1 inch per 10 inches of fall to the exit point. The 2-foot trench filled with gravel serves as a reservoir until the 4-inch tile can drain it.   Construction
    When it was time to form bunker edges, Dobie used plywood sheets measuring 2 feet by 8 feet by 3/8 inches held in place by rebar. Topsoil was packed along the outside of the plywood, creating a smooth vertical bunker edge and promoting deep-rooted turf next to the vertical edge of the plastic liner.     Perforated pipe, 4 inches in diameter, was placed over the 10 mil plastic (optional) covering the bottom and sides of the drainage trench. Y-shaped pipe and 45s were used for easy future access with a camera snake. The pipe was then covered with No. 57 gravel until the trench was almost full. The top of the gravel must be 2 inches lower than the rest of the bunker cavity.      In the event of future blockages, Dobie installed an inspection box, with two 4-inch risers, in the bunker's exit drain line. Ninety-degree sweep fittings were used on each riser so that a camera snake can be inserted into the line in both directions.     Filling the bunker
    The No. 57 gravel was covered with a 1-inch layer of pea gravel, blending it into the slopes of the cavity. If the bunker is on a hillside, it is extremely important to cover the entire bunker cavity floor with at least 1 inch of pea gravel. Dobie says it also is critical that the top of the pea gravel over the tile lines remains the lowest point of the cavity. Red marking paint was used to mark the tile trench so it could be visible through the plastic liner.   The cavity was then covered with 10 mil clear polyethylene. More than one sheet was needed to cover the area, so it was overlapped by 3 to 4 feet. Overlap like roof shingles so water does not go under the plastic.   Once in place, the plastic was stapled to the top and bottom of the plywood side boards with a few inches of excess plastic left above the plywood side walls. The red paint lines on the gravel were visible through plastic denoting where to cut four rows of 6-inch holes 6 inches apart directly over the entire trench. It is important to work out as many wrinkles as possible in the plastic before installing the sand.   Small piles of sand were placed on the plastic around the edges to make sure the plastic didn't shift. Dobie warns against dumping a load of sand directly onto the site as it will cause the plastic to pull away from the edges. A total of 3 inches to 4 inches of topsoil was applied to the surrounding banks butting up to the plywood. The plywood showing above grade kept the topsoil from washing into the bunker sand while turf was being established.   Staples were removed from the plywood once the turf was established on the banks, rebar and plywood were removed and the plastic liner was trimmed around the edges 2 inches below the grass line so as not to be visible.   The slope angle of the finished sand was less than 20 degrees to minimize erosion. Still, intrusion of organic matter is inevitable, but that can easily be skimmed off with a flat shovel, says Dobie. As a result, all bunkers at Sharon can drain water within 30 minutes after a heavy rain event of at least 1 inch, even those filled in 1967.   For more information, or to get a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, please email Frank Dobie.
  • Solution center

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Syngenta dedicated a lot of space in its Golf Industry Show booth to recognizing golf course superintendents for the many hats they wear in carrying out their jobs and the innovation they bring to their profession. For superintendents to be able to do that takes supporting vendors who provide more than just innovative products. It takes innovative solutions to long-term disease- and pest-management challenges.
    Innovation is a subject Syngenta takes seriously. The company employs 28,000 people in 90 countries around the world and spends $1.4 billion annually on research and development. For each new chemistry that makes it to market, its 5,000 R&D staffers look at 100,000 compounds per year, and the company spends an average of $250 million. That focus on innovation was on display recently at Syngenta's 240-acre research and development facility in Vero Beach, Florida, with the addition of a host of new solutions for superintendents.

    At the event, called Turf Innovation, Syngenta officials announced the addition of Heritage Action fungicide, due out later this year; Avid nematicide, which is expected to receive label registration from the U.S. EPA next year; and the return of Appear fungicide. The company also provided a closer glimpse at some recent launches, including Ference insecticide for annual bluegrass weevil control, upgrades to the Weevil Trak platform it acquired from DuPont and Velista fungicide, which was announced at this year's GIS.
    Heritage Action
    With anticipated availability of this summer, Heritage Action combines Heritage, a strobilurin fungicide with the active ingredient azoxystrobin, with acibenzolar-s-methyl (the same active ingredient found alongside chlorothalonil in Daconil Action) to help boost the turf's natural biotic (plant diseases and pests) and abiotic (weather conditions, agronomic practices) stress-management capabilities.

    Some of the benefits of Heritage Action that have been reported in research, says Syngenta's western technical manager Dean Mosdell, include quicker recovery from abiotic and biotic stress, less midday wilting and a corresponding reduced need to handwater, quicker fill-in after aerification, quicker green-up, enhanced disease control (especially when used in concert with Daconil Action), and exceptional control of anthracnose, bacterial wilt, dollar spot and Pythium.

    Just like Daconil Action, the key to the effectiveness of Heritage Action stems from a trait known as systemic acquired resistance, which means the acibenzolar-s-methyl enhances the plant's own genetic traits to resist stress.

    That includes enhanced drought resistance. Ongoing research at North Carolina State University headed by professor Tom Rufty, Ph.D., is aimed at providing a better understanding of just how that works. Although researchers there have not yet connected all the dots regarding SAR and drought tolerance in turf, they do know it works. And that could be beneficial for superintendents in the western United States or anywhere else who are facing drought conditions.

    "The idea that there could be a chemistry that gives you a similar kind of response is surprising," Rufty said. "But it does imply there could be a chemical intervention into the drought condition that could help diminish the damage that is being done, obviously. And so we're challenging this all the time. It's hard for me to accept, really, but it's recurring over and over, and even with our skeptical and critical approaches, we haven't been able to disprove anything yet."
    Superintendents might remember Appear fungicide, which first appeared on the market late in 2012, then quickly disappeared. A potassium phosphite fungicide, Appear is a pigmented product that has spent the past two years tied up in a patent-infringement suit. That suit was dismissed in January in federal court in North Carolina, and Appear has since been cleared for sale again.

    (Appear) stimulates a plant's natural defenses to help it resist infection more effectively.
    A pigmented product (phthalocyanine), Appear is labeled for control of Pythium and anthracnose, and is designed to work in concert with Daconil Action to offer not only enhanced disease control, but improved turf quality and protection from summer stress, even during extreme temperatures. Unlike many other potassium phosphate fungicides, which can cause foliar burn under extreme conditions, Appear is safe for use on putting green height turf.

    "It stimulates a plant's natural defenses to help it resist infection more effectively," said Syngenta technical specialist Lane Tredway, Ph.D.

    "There are no temperature restrictions on the label, and the formulation makes the active ingredient safe for greens, even under extreme conditions."

    The role the pigmentation plays in promoting enhanced turf health isn't exactly clear yet, said Tredway.

    "In cool-season grass, the primary concerns are heat stress and excess sunlight during summer, and there is some controversy and debate how a pigment can protect cool-season grasses from those abiotic stresses. But the bottom line is they do," Tredway said. "The coating of pigment on the surface of the leaf is helping protect the plant from those hot and stressful conditions."
    With Nemacur no longer available for sale, and existing stock being phased out over the next two years, superintendents across the country are struggling to control nematodes.

    Due out as early as 2016, Avid is a nematicide with the active ingredient abamectin, that is effective at controlling a variety of plant-parasitic nematodes in cool- and warm-season grasses when part of a season-long program, said Syngenta's Tredway.

    "Nothing is as effective as Nemacur. This is not something you can apply once and get control, which was essentially what you could do with Nemacur," he said. "With today's products, it's going to take a season-long program. It's something that is going to require attention throughout the season with regular applications."

    While awaiting registration by the EPA, Avid does have a 24© label in 17 states.

    When used alone, Avid shows only marginal results at controlling nematodes. It works best when used in conjunction with Heritage Action. The result is not necessarily fewer nematodes, but healthier turf that is able to withstand nematode populations. The turf also is able to withstand fungal attacks that often come in behind nematode infestations.

    Syngenta surveyed customers last year, and learned that many were unsatisfied with the nematode control options at their disposal.

    "When Avid is used in combination with Heritage, that satisfaction level goes up dramatically," Tredway said.

    "You don't see a dramatic reduction in populations. You do get more root growth. Sometimes, you might see populations go flat or down a little or maybe they will even go up. At the end of the day, the turf is healthier and even though there may be just as many nematodes, there is a deeper and denser root system and the turf is able to withstand those populations better."
  • The benefits of Signature Xtra Stressgard fungicide from Bayer Environmental Science were on display at this year's Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Recently, it came one step closer to market when it received federal label registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    With the active ingredient o-ethyl phosphonate, Signature Xtra Stressgard is labeled for control of Pythium diseases. It also is labeled for control of anthracnose, summer decline and bentgrass deadspot in a tank mix.
    "At Bayer, we understand the challenge that superintendents face in maintaining pristine turfgrass, especially on greens, throughout the playing season," said Mike Hirvela, fungicide product manager for Bayer's professional turf and ornamentals. "That's why we've leveraged the latest plant health technology to create Signature Xtra Stressgard, a solution that allows superintendents to unlock the maximum potential of their turf and gives them the ultimate reliability and peace of mind they've come to expect from Bayer solutions."
    Signature Xtra Stressgard is formulated to better match intervals at which superintendents typically treat greens, as well as the natural growth of the turfgrass plant. With the addition of Bayer's Stressgard formulation, it also is designed to promote turf health and disease control on greens and maximize the plant's ability to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses. Other benefits include improved aerification recovery and winter recovery and early spring green-up.
  • Even the golfer in Tiger Woods knows that to attract new players to the game and keep the ones it already has, golf needs more courses suited for players who have little or nothing in common with him other than a love for the game.

    That passion for growing the game is what attracted the architect in Woods to the Bluejack National project near Houston for his first U.S. design. The course, which is scheduled to open later this year, promises to be a layout that can test scratch players and appeal to newcomers as well.

    Eric Bauer shares that same passion for growing the game, and it's a big part of why last year he left a job of 14 years to become the construction and grow-in superintendent at Bluejack National, a multi-use project that includes a lot more than just golf.

    "Tiger wanted to bring enjoyment back to the game at Bluejack National. He wants it to be fun for families and not be intimidating," said Bauer, who came aboard last April after a long career at The Club at Carlton Woods.

    "I came here because this was a great opportunity in my back yard, the excitement of being with a company like Beacon Land that has a desire to do great things, and the challenge of being part of the team to put together a Tiger Woods-designed golf course."

    Developed by Beacon Land Development, the 105-acre layout includes 10 acres of low-cut turf around the greens to accommodate options in the ground game, virtually no traditional rough and family tees that bring the layout down from 7,500 yards to 2,500.

    "There are a lot of things that went into the design of this course: pace of play, not coming out and getting beat up, but still being a challenge for the low handicapper," said Bauer, who came aboard last April after a long career at The Club at Carlton Woods.

    A series of short four-, five- and six-hole loops accommodate those who don't want to play 18 holes and a nine-hole layout with holes ranging from 35 yards to 125 yards in length provide a fun change of pace for experienced players, and a place for high-handicappers and juniors to hone their short game.

    "We have to think of golf as a fun activity for players of all levels," Bauer said. "We have that ability to offer everyone a fun experience. That's how new projects have to look at if they want to be successful.

    "The playgrounds aren't heavily bunkered, and you can just take a couple of clubs with you and walk it. Newcomers can come in and say they've experienced a Tiger Woods design."

    For more than a decade, Bauer's name had become nearly synonymous with conditions at The Club at Carlton Woods, home to a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course as well as a Tom Fazio-designed Championship Course.

    For Bauer, who like many started working on a golf course as a kid and whose professional career started as personal greenkeeper at Nicklaus' home in North Palm Beach, Florida, the chance to work alongside Woods certainly didn't hurt when considering the Bluejack National position.

    "I think everything just lined up for me," he said.

    "If you would have told me when I was 15 that I would have the opportunity to complete two Jack Nicklaus grow-ins and work on three, grow-in a Tom Fazio course and be part of Tiger's first project in the United States, I would have said you were kidding. I'm very humble and blessed to have had great people in my career who believe in me and what I can offer."

    While Bauer has been afforded the latitude to make decisions on greensmix, drainage, irrigation system design and turf selection, Woods has been aware of how his own decisions might affect play, asking the superintendent how the different aspects of his design philosophy will affect long-term maintenance. And that is important in today's economy and in a state that has grown accustomed to drought.

    To that end, there are fewer than 50 strategically placed bunkers at Bluejack National. Those that Woods did incorporate are strategically placed to make the course more challenging

    "Tiger has been great. He's very engaged in the process," Bauer said.

    "A golf course does not need to be all bunkered up from a playability standpoint. Tiger put them where they made sense, not where they looked good. From an ongoing maintenance standpoint, that was huge. Sustainability is part of the design philosophy. It has to be. As superintendents, we are faced year after year with maintaining a golf course with less and less money."

    A golf course does not need to be all bunkered up from a playability standpoint. Tiger put them where they made sense, not where they looked good.
    Bluejack was equally excited to get Bauer as its grow-in superintendent.

    "Eric delivers high quality golf course product and his remarkable reputation matches our desire to be the finest conditioned course in Texas," said Bluejack National president Casey Paulson. "Additionally, Eric's commitment to family values aligns with the culture of our community."

    Bluejack is about more than just golf. It's about creating a lifestyle in which golf is just one variable in the equation.

    The property also has hiking and jogging trails, fishing dock, a lake for swimming, rope course, zip lines, archery and facilities for various court sports. It also has indoor amenities that include a bowling alley, theater, game room, pottery center and more.

    "It's not just about golf," he said. "We are creating a resort-style community that is a residence. There is a lot to do here even if you don't like golf."
  • Kudos to Chuck Wolsborn for speaking out.
      The superintendent at Gresham Golf Course in Oregon, Wolsborn co-authored an opinion piece published in the Oregonian that called a recent municipal ban on neonicotinoid pesticides uninformed, misguided and not based in science.   If anyone or anything ever needed a friend right now, it is the neonicotinoid class of insecticides.   Among the most widely used class of pesticides in the world, neonicotinoids are taking a lot of heat from some persistent environmental activist groups who want nothing short of a widespread ban on their use. Their collective desire to do away with neonicotinoids, which are popular with many superintendents, is based primarily on a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder that some say threatens bee populations worldwide.   Those who speak out against their use often lack the science to support their claims, but instead come armed with studies widely ignored by the academic community and emotional rhetoric seeking to sway public opinion and government decision makers. Just scan the reader comments at the end of the piece written by Wolsborn, Greg Ego of Rasmussen Spray Service and Mike Coleman of Arrowhead Ornamentals for proof.   There are others, many others, who believe neonicotinoids are no more dangerous to bees than many other types of insecticides, and that education and common sense are the keys to creating harmony between man, bee and golf course. They also say neonicotinoids and bees can live harmoniously when the pesticides are used correctly. And they have science to back up their claims.   Jon Entine, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy at the University of California, Davis, wrote in December a piece published in the Huffington Post that has become a seminal work in the field for those defending responsible use of neonicotinoids.   He points to how neonicotinoids were around for a decade before mature worker bees started losing their way back to the hive. He points to how bee populations are thriving despite the fact that neonicotinoids as a whole are among the most widely used insecticides on the planet. He points to the fact that their are many other chemistry classes, such as carbamates, organophosphates and pyrethroids, that are just as capable as neonicotinoids of killing bees, but have largely escaped activists' crosshairs. He points to the threat of varroa mites, which are lethal to bees, and loss of habitat.   And other scientists around the country point to his work when defending the benefits of chemistry also.   Insects are prolific breeders by nature, and it is generally accepted in the research community that even in a worst-case scenario involving exposed non-target species, the knockdown rate usually is less than 50 percent and those populations are capable of returning to normal levels within a few weeks of contact.   Detractors point to bee deaths caused by misapplications of insecticides on flowering plants and a study in which bees were subjected to pesticide unrealistically high rates of pesticides, and they prey upon an uneducated public to support their agenda.   And it works.   Despite the science to support their arguments, detractors are managing to claim victory in some key battles.   On April 1, the city of Portland, Oregon, became the latest in a short-but-growing list of municipalities to ban neonicotinoid use on city-owned land. The city owns five golf facilities and dozens of parks. The ban includes a gradual phase out of all neonicotinoids over the next two years.   Since February 2014, at least five other cities in the Pacific Northwest have banned neonicotinoid use on city property, including Eugene, Oregon, and the Washington cities of Olympia, Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma.   There are many chemistries that fall into the neonicotinoid class of insecticides, including chlothianidin, dinotefuran and imidacloprid that are used to control pests like annual bluegrass weevil, mole crickets and white grubs on golf courses.  
    One Portland commissioner stated during a meeting in which neonicotinoids were banned despite a lack of scientific proof "the cautious thing to do is get rid of them." Even the new city ordinance states: "Neonicotinoids kill more than pollinators - they kill beneficial insects in the garden and the soil that help manage pest outbreaks."
    The rhetoric coming out of Portland is symbolic of what might lie ahead in other cities.   Several environmental groups lobbied on behalf of the ban, including Xerces Society, Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Toxics.    According to Wolsborn, et al, one Portland commissioner stated during a meeting in which neonicotinoids were banned despite a lack of scientific proof "the cautious thing to do is get rid of them." Even the new city ordinance states: "Neonicotinoids kill more than pollinators - they kill beneficial insects in the garden and the soil that help manage pest outbreaks."   A spokesman for a coalition of Oregon farmers and other pesticide users, said the city council made its decision based on fear and ideology, rather than science.   Others are caving as well.   Lowe's recently announced its plans to phase out all neonicotinoid products by 2019. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented a ban on neonicotinoid use on federal lands beginning in January 2016.   Amid the calls to strike down neonicotinoid use, few if any point to real science to back their claims. Those who defend neonicotinoid use, on the other hand, do cite science. They have to, because public perception is stacked against them before they begin to speak. Kudos to them for trying.
  • GreenSight Agronomics, Inc., a provider of drone-based turfgrass management technology, has appointed John Kaminski, Ph.D., to its staff as Chief Agronomy Officer. 
    Kaminski is well known within the turfgrass community for his role as Assistant Professor of Turfgrass Science and Director of the Golf Course Turfgrass Management program at Penn State. An accomplished photographer, he also is active in social media (@iTweetTurf) and the implementation of new technology in the golf course industry, including the development of turfdiseases.org and the Turfpath app.
    The GreenSight service installs a dedicated drone with a custom imaging sensor that automatically flies and images a golf course daily. Those images are uploaded automatically to GreenSight's cloud-based turf health analysis system, which processes the images, generates a moisture map and detects turf issues invisible to the naked eye.  The intent is to improve plant health while saving money through reductions in water, pesticide, and fertilizer usage.
    GreenSight subscribers receive actionable alerts with hi-resolution photos of turf issues via email or text, and can locate issues quickly with maps on their mobile device.  Current and historical maps can be easily compared to identify trends or specific issues.
    "GreenSight strives to deliver reliable and actionable information to our customers," commented Joel Pedlikin, GreenSight COO. "By combining Dr. Kaminski's expertise in identifying and solving agronomic challenges with our drone and imaging technology we can greatly reduce a golf course's water and chemical usage while improving the quality of their turf."

    For more information on GreenSight, visit greensightag.com and follow them on Twitter.
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