Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quiz Answer Key

Time to check your answers to the quiz.

1) Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis)

2) Annual bluegrass (Poa annua)

3) Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon)

4) Mouse-ear chickweed, perennial broadleaf

5) Wild violet, perennial broadleaf

6) Goosegrass, annual grass

7) Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)

8) Tall fescue (Lolium arundinaceum)

9) Bluegrass billbug

10) Japanese beetle

11) Dollar spot

12) Brown patch

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Finals Week

The blog has fallen silent the past couple of weeks as I am trying to be a responsible student and study for final exams. My students are busy reviewing their irrigation notes and the concepts of static and dynamic pressure, design capacity, matched precipitation rates, water quality and much more. Meanwhile, I am studying (trying to study) for my biochemistry final which is Friday morning. Wish me luck!

So, in honor of finals week, I put together a quiz similar to the one the students take in their introductory turfgrass laboratory. I will post the answers early next week. Good luck, and keep your eyes on your own paper!

Question #1

This grass has a boat-shaped leaf tip and folded vernation. The leaf blade possesses a prominent mid-rib. Growth is rhizomatous.

Name the grass, common and scientific name.

Question #2

This grass also has a boat-shaped leaf tip and folded vernation. There is a prominent mid-rib and a membranous ligule at the base of the leaf. Growth is bunch type.

Name the grass, common and scientific name.

Question #3

This grass has a pointed leaf tip and a folded vernation. There is a tuft of hairs at the base of the leaf blade. Growth is rhizomatous and stoloniferous.

Name the grass, common and scientific name.

Question #4

This weed has small white flowers and the leaves are covered by tiny hairs. This weed can be a problem in golf greens and other closely-mowed turf.

Name the weed and its lifecycle.

Question #5

This weed has heart shaped leaves and white to purple flowers. It can produce rooting stolons and rhizomes.

Name the weed and its lifecycle.

Question #6

This weed has a folded vernation and a zipper-like seedhead. The stems are silver toward the base of the plant.

Name the weed and its lifecycle.

Question #7

This seed lacks an awn. The rachilla is flat in cross section.

Name this seed.

Question #8

This seed has a very short awn. The rachilla is round and flares at the top.

Name this seed.

Question #9

This insect chews into the stem and deposits its eggs. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the crown.

Name this insect.

Question #10

This insect hasn't always been a problem in Iowa. Damage can occur to ornamental as well as turfgrass.

Name this insect.

Question #11

The claim is often made that more money is spent on this disease than any other. It is more prevalent under low nitrogen fertility.

Name the disease.

Question #12

This disease appears most often during periods of high air temperatures and humidity. Symptoms appear in a patch and a dark "smoke ring" is often visible. It is more prevalent under high nitrogen fertility

Name the disease.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant
Iowa State University

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Biochar as a sand-based rootzone amendment

The main objectives of my research focused on the use of biochar as an amendment for sand-based turfgrass rootzones. Currently, peat moss is the most common organic amendment mixed with sand when sand systems are constructed. Peat moss increases water retention and nutrient holding capacity of the sand; however, peat moss is prone to decomposition over a relatively short period of time. Biochar, on the other hand, is very stable in the soil profile, and may prove to be a viable organic amendment for sand-based turfgrass systems. In this study, I used fast pyrolysis switchgrass biochar.

My research objectives were to:
• quantify soil water retention capabilities,
• determine infiltration rates,
• and measure creeping bentgrass rooting depth in sand and biochar rootzones


Soil Water Retention - Biochar significantly increased soil water retention (table below). Plant available water increased as percentage biochar increased.

Infiltration Rates - Biochar significantly reduces infiltration rates (table below).

The table to the right converts the numbers to inches per hour. Six incher per hour is the minimum for USGA guidlines when constructing sand based turfgrass rootzones. Above 10% may be pushing the infiltration rate limit with biochar.

Rooting Depth - The rooting depth of creeping bentgrass was measured by growing ‘T1’ in growth tubes with 30 cm sand and biochar rootzones on top of pea gravel. The tubes were sliced open after 110 days of growth, and the depth of rooting was measured (picture below). This pattern of rooting depth was consistent throughout replications. The far left treatment in the picture is 100% sand, and the far right treatment is 25% biochar; increasing in 5% biochar increments at each treatment level from left to right. Biochar amounts above 10% show inhibitive effects on rooting depth of creeping bentgrass. (Biochar percentages are on volume-to-volume basis).

Conclusions - Biochar increased soil water retention capacity and plant available water, but decreased infiltration rates. Rooting depth of 'T-1' creeping bentgrass is inhibited by biochar above 10% (v/v) levels in the rootzone.
Iowa State Turfgrass is attempting to lead the way in the biochar discussion for the turfgrass industry. We would love to hear any feedback you may have on this topic.
Shane Brockhoff
Iowa State University

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is Biochar?

For the past year and a half, I have been working with biochar for use as a soil amendment for sand-based turfgrass rootzones. Biochar has been gaining a lot of momentum in some agronomy circles as a cure-all soil amendment to improve the sustainability and productivity of our agricultural soils. A flurry of research has been funded and published related to biochar, but what really is this biochar stuff?

In a nutshell, biochar is the co-product of a biofuel production process called fast pyrolysis. Essentially, a biomass feedstock is pyrolyzed, or burnt, at a very high temperature and bio-oil is produced along with biochar. The oil can be used for consumer use after refinement similar to gasoline (see Figure 1). Originally, not much thought was put into using the biochar for any practical use, but agronomy researchers believe there is some potential for its use in agricultural settings.

I will be posting a series of threads relating to biochar in the coming weeks. If you have heard of biochar or have any firsthand experience with biochar or materials similar to it (ie. activated charcoal, fly ash, etc.) please post a reply explaining what your experience or use for these products has been. The reason I ask is because I received a question pertaining to whether biochar will deactivate herbicides, fungicides, ect…

*Illustration borrowered from Johannes Lehmann. Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 (CL273@
cornell.edu) Front Ecol Environ 2007; 5(7): 381–387

Shane Brockhoff
Iowa State University

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Irrigation Winterization

If you haven’t already done so, the ritual of irrigation blow out is certainly on everyone’s mind this time of year. This procedure signifies the end of another growing season along with the realization that winter and the accompanying freezing temperatures are probably right around the corner. Properly blowing out an irrigation system ensures that minimal damage will occur during the winter months. Although blow out is a yearly occurrence, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of literature available about this important procedure. There seems to be various philosophies and most learn from field experience.

One aspect of blow out that has changed over the years is the pressure which the system is blown out. One reason for this change is the fact that sprinkler heads are now primarily comprised of plastic componts compared to their steel predecesors. As a result, the pressure which the system is blown out has been reduced. One way to help reduce the pressure is by using a pressure regulator.

The pressure regulator is usually mounted just off the compressor. The pressure can be monitored and adjusted by a handle on top of the regulator. I have often heard that 50 psi is sufficient to blow out most systems. Obviously, the higher the pressure, the greater the chance of causing damage to the piping system and the sprinkler heads. The other consequence of using higher pressures is coupled to the pressure of the compressor.

Compressors also have a pressure gauge and increasing the pressure of the regulator will decrease the pressure inside the compressor and vice verca. Most compressors should not be operated under 80 psi. Under 80 psi, oil can blow past the seals in the compressor and enter the piping system. Of course you won’t realize this has happened until you charge the system in the spring and oil comes spewing out of sprinkler heads.

Let me know if you have any tips from the field concerning winterization of irrigation systems. Hope everyone has a safe and successful blowout.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Friday, November 6, 2009

Greetings From Pittsburgh

This week I traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to attend the Agronomy Society of America meetings. The meetings are held annually and scientists from all across the world come together to present and talk about their research. I presented on the findings from my germination study that I posted on the blog last week. Part of the conference experience included a tour of Oakmont Country Club and Heinz Field.

Oakmont C.C. was really beautiful and we had a nice day for our tour. The weather in Pittsburgh is slightly cooler compared to our temperatures in Iowa and they receive a bit more rainfall. As a result, they manage annual bluegrass as the primary species on their putting greens. The density of poa is really impressive when it exists as a monostand (picture above). However, they do fight contamination from creeping bentgrass (that seems like a weird statement) and it appears out of place (picture to the right). We also had an opportunity to see the church pues which are much larger in person than I expected (picture at beginning of post).

The second stop on our tour took us to Heinz field. In addition to hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz field is also home to the Pitt Panthers. The field is also used for a handful of high school football games and a few miscellaneous events during the year so it receives a good amount of use. The field is Kentucky bluegrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass during the season. The middle portion of the field has a heating system underneath the turf. The field had been overseeded with ryegrass and the heated portion was covered up during our visit to promote germination of the seed and to stimulate growth of the existing turf.

The remainder of the trip was devoted to attending sessions where graduate students and professors present findings from their research. I attached links to abstracts from the talks that I found most interesting and though you might too.

Amicarbazone for Annual Bluegrass Control in Creeping Bentgrass Putting Greens

Potential Use of Mesotrione in Turfgrass Systems

Response of Kentucky Bluegrass Cultivars and Annual Bluegrass Control with Mesotrione at Turfgrass Establishment

Mesotrione as An Herbicide for Spring-Seeded, Cool-Season Turf

Biochar for Sand-Based Rootzone Modification

Dollar Spot Control Using Organic and Synthetic Fungicide Combinations

Anthracnose Severity of Annual Bluegrass Putting Green Turf as Affected by Summer Soluble N-Fertilization

Conversion of Kentucky Bluegrass Rough to No-Mow, Low-Input Grasses

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Golf Course Superintendent – Meadows Country Club

Duties –

Responsible for Golf Course, Clubhouse Lawns, Trees and Flowers, Golf Course Budget, Cart Fleet and Clubhouse Building Maintenance, Purchasing

Qualifications –

2 Year formal Education preferred, Iowa Certified Pesticide Applicator or ability to obtain.

Experience –

Minimum 2 years golf course maintenance experience

Benefits –

State Association Dues, Monthly meeting expenses

Salary Range

$28,000 -$35,000

Application Deadline –

December 1, 2009

Position Available –

January 15, 2010

Contact Info –

Mark Harris - Board President

Box 299

Moville Ia. 51039


Email – msharris@netins.net

Monday, November 2, 2009

Food for Thought this Fall

USGA Green Section Mid-Continent Region

Food for Thought this Fall

By Ty McClellan, Agronomist

Updated October 19, 2009

The weather in 2009 for the upper Mid-Continent Region will be recorded as one of the coldest and remembered as one of the oddest. Other than a 12-day stretch of intense heat during mid-June, temperatures were well below normal. In fact, only a handful of days reached 90°F in the Chicago area and very few areas in the upper Mid-Continent Region hit 100°F. When elevated temperatures did develop, they were short-lived and/or quickly offset by cool nighttime temperatures. Rainfall was plentiful and often timely. All told, environmental conditions mimicked those of the Pacific Northwest rather than the Midwest.

Given these non-typical summer conditions, cool-season turfgrasses experienced much less stress while the warm-season turfgrasses lacked vigor, as their growth was slowed much of the year by cooler temperatures and frequent rainfall. For all turfgrasses, disease development was rather minor when compared to more typical summers. By all appearances, this was a relatively easy summer for turfgrasses and their managers; however, there were a number of shortfalls observed this year. Before falling victim to a false sense of security, areas needing special attention as we transition into fall are detailed below:

• Completion of Earlier Projects - One of the wettest springs on record for the upper Mid-Continent Region did not favor those in the midst of course projects earlier this year. Whether work was performed in-house or contracted out, projects were delayed, if not abandoned, as even two consecutive days of favorable weather proved elusive. On the other hand, growing conditions were quite favorable for cool-season turfgrass (especially in the rough) all year-long and, with frequent rainfall, additional labor was needed to keep up with mowing. This limited the availability of labor for course projects. More often than not, spring projects either did not get finished or they persisted into the primary golfing season, inconveniencing golfers and interfering with routine daily course maintenance.

Looking forward, projects that went uncompleted (particularly if critical) will need to be readdressed. To do so with the typical number of full-time employees may result in other delays, as the unfinished projects take precedence over those originally planned for this winter. In other words, without additional winter staff to get the schedule back on track, projects previously planned for this season may need to be postponed until the projects from last season are completed.

• Adequate Budgeting for Fungicides - Mild temperatures correlated to an overall reduction in disease outbreaks in 2009 and the amount spent on fungicides followed suit. Superintendents generally reported anywhere between a 15% and 35% reduction in fungicide use this year when compared to previous years. While courses can count themselves lucky this year (and maybe even last year), this year’s fungicide expense should not be used when establishing next year’s budget, since it was not a true indication of typical disease pressure or the subsequent budget needed for control. It will be important to keep in mind typical use and needs.

• Irrigation - Cool temperatures and timely rains for most of the golfing season meant much less irrigation than normal. In fact, many superintendents in the Chicago area reported using their irrigation systems less than five times during the entire year for the purposes of replenishing soil moisture to appropriate levels. Rather, most used irrigation to simply water in chemical applications or lightly syringe ‘hot’ spots. As such, this year was very kind to those with inadequate or poor irrigation systems, who pay for water, or who have poor quality irrigation water. Unfortunately, this has caused some to lose sight of the need to improve the irrigation system, accurately budget for future water use, or support additional practices to manage problems associated with poor water quality, such as increased aeration, flushing and applications of gypsum, lime, calcium, etc.

• Organic Matter Accumulation on Putting Greens - Organic matter in putting green root zones increased this year, even for those with well-designed sand topdressing and aeration programs. Soil temperatures simply remained too cool for much of the year and putting green root zones were oftentimes waterlogged given regular, if not record-setting rainfall. Basically, cool soil temperatures caused soil microbial activity to slow and thus, limited its ability to decompose organic matter. A wet spring also meant the soils remained very saturated, thus limiting oxygen levels in the root zone that slowed oxidation, i.e. natural aerobic decomposition, of organic matter. To further complicate matters, routine topdressing applications throughout the growing season were difficult to administer given frequent inclement weather, so less sand was applied less often. To account for the increase in organic matter accumulation, an even greater emphasis should be placed this fall and next spring on core aeration and incorporating more sand into putting green root zones.

• Poa annua Control – Given that this summer was more like that of the Pacific Northwest, overcast skies combined with cooler temperatures and frequent rains that created environmental conditions very favorable for Poa annua. As such, decreasing Poa annua populations found in creeping bentgrass putting greens and fairways was very difficult this year. A lack of mid-summer heat meant that the Poa annua did not decline, and selective herbicides, such as Velocity, or plant growth regulators with some known levels of Poa annua suppression, such as paclobutrazol (Trimmit) or flurprimidol (Cutless), were not as effective. Looking forward, greater success should be anticipated in the future with a return to more typical summer weather.

If you would like more information about a Turf Advisory Service visit, do not hesitate to contact either of the Mid-Continent regional offices: Ty McClellan at tmcclellan@usga.org or (630) 340-5853 or Bud White at budwhite@usga.org or (972) 662-1138.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cultivar selection could influence interseeding success

Germination characteristics such as speed, synchrony, and viability determine the success of newly seeded areas. Traditional establishment from seed involves sowing seed into bare soil or turf which have been treated with non-selective herbicides. In either case, the newly emerging seedlings face little competition from surrounding plants. While germination characteristics are important when using traditional establishment methods, superior germination characteristics may be necessary when using non-traditional seeding methods such as interseeding.

Interseeding poses an interesting dilemma. The main attraction of converting through interseeding is the ability to convert to a new turf without taking the area out of play and facing the resulting economic losses. Research shows that the success of interseeding is related to the level of disruption created and the speed of germination of the interseeded species. As the level of disruption increases, the competition from surrounding plants decreases allowing the seedlings an opportunity to establish. However, the amount of disruption necessary for successful interseeding may not be conducive with a smooth uniform playing surface. Because minimal disruption is needed so as not to disrupt play, superior germination characteristics are needed.

We conducted a germination study at Iowa State with 'Penncross' and 14 improved cultivars of creeping bentgrass. The cultivars ‘L-93’, ‘T-1’, ‘Apha’, ‘Penn A-1’, ‘Penn A-4’, ‘Crystal Bluelinks’, ‘Pennlinks II’, ‘Pencross’, ‘Tyee’, ‘007’, ‘Mackenzie’, ‘SR1150’, ‘Memorial’, ‘Independence’, and ‘Declaration’ were evaluated in this study. Each cultivar was represented by two to four seeds lots from production year 2007. Standard germination tests were conducted according to the rules established by the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA). The objectives of the study where to determine if improved cultivars of creeping bentgrass possess superior germination characteristics compared to 'Penncross' and if there was a relationship between seed weight and germination characteristics.

Significant differences existed between 'Penncross' and the improved bentgrass varieties for germination speed (MGT), germination synchrony (T10-90), and viability (FGP) but not weight (table 1). These results indicate that improved varieties of creeping bentgrass possess greater viability and germinate faster and with greater synchrony compared to ‘Penncross’. Differences between ‘Penncross’ and each of the improved varieties can be viewed in table 2 (significant differences are highlighted in red). ‘T-1’ outperformed ‘Penncross’ in all three parameters. While some of these differences appear small numerically, it is important to remember that these tests were conducted under optimum conditions. The differences would likely be greater under field conditions when the seeds are subject to environmental stresses.

Our study also revealed a significant correlation between seed weight and speed of germination (MGT). Seeds germinated faster as the weight of the seeds increased. This information could be used to predict the germination speed of other cultivars without conducting tedious germination studies.

What does it all mean?
This study clearly shows that improved cultivars of creeping bentgrass have superior germination characteristics compared to ‘Penncross’. So is it possible that the success or failure of interseeding could depend on cultivar selection? Past interseeding research supports this very idea. Attempts at interseeding ‘Penncross’ into an established annual bluegrass putting green were largely unsuccessful (Gaussoin et al., 1989). However, in a similar study, researchers were able to establish over 70% ‘L-93’, and ‘Penn A-4’ into an annual bluegrass putting green (Henry et al., 2005). These results could be the explained by the differences in germination characteristics that we observed in our study. Clearly, not all cultivars of creeping bentgrass exhibit similar germination characteristics. And while the success of interseeding will not result from a single practice or strategy, proper cultivar selection will play an integral role as part of an interseeding conversion program.

Literature Cited
Gaussoin, R.E. and B.E. Branham. 1989. Influence of cultural factors on species dominance in a mixed stand of annual bluegrass/creeping bentgrass. Crop Sci. 29:480-484.

Henry, G.M., S.E. Hart, and J.A. Murphy. 2005. Overseeding bentgrass species into existing stands of annual bluegrass. HortScience 40:468-470.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Derek Harmon Memorial Golf Tournament

The Derek Harmon Memorial Golf Tournament took place on Sunday, October 18 at Veenker Memorial Golf Course. Derek was a turfgrass student at Iowa State who possessed an unconditional love for golf courses and nature and the tournament was held to honor his memory and to create a scholarship for turfgrass students attending Iowa State. There was an overwhelming show of support from family, friends, and the industry and close to $12,000 was raised towards a scholarship in Derek’s name.

A big “thank you” goes out to John Newton, CGCS, and his crew along with the entire clubhouse staff, all the participants, and everyone else that was involved in the planning and preparation for this event. Derek would be very proud.

Derek, in your honor as a superfan of all Chicago sports.

Additional pictures from the tournament

Derek worked at Ballard Golf and Country Club, Roaring Fork (Colorado), Pinehurt (North Carolina), and Biltmore Country Club, (Illinois)

A bench in Derek's honor resides behind the green on the 15th hole.

Approximately 160 golfers played in the tournament. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More on Mole crickets at Pella

Here are a couple more pictures of the mole cricket damage at Bos Landen in Pella.
The text below is from the original post on Oct. 5. There are also some additional pictures of the mole crickets that caused the damage on that post.


Do we get mole crickets in Iowa? The answer is clearly yes, although they are rare. The pictures above come from Kevin Vos and Alex Olsen at Bos Landen in Pella. They were taken on Sept. 28, 2009 on the 18th green. They were actually doing some damage to the green.
Damage is rare. I have seen it at Ankeney country club and a few other places around Iowa over the past 30 years. Finding mole crickets is not as rare. We sometimes see them at the research station and many superintendents have reported them over the years.

Usually chemical is not necessary. If it is a few, you can step on them or collect in a bottle. They are very difficult to treat in Florida and other areas of the South, because they occur in very high populations and are protected from chemicals by being under ground much of the time. Pretty much any of our standard insecticides will kill them, if you get them on the insect.
Marcus tells me that when he was at Augusta, they would mix up soapy water and pore it in the holes. They mole crickets would come to the surface and they could then remove them.
If any one else is seeing them, let me know.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Research Update: Keith Rincker, KRincker@cdga.org

North Central Region Collaborative Effort...and the data says

Dollar spot was the talk for the last two weeks of September, but now the night temps will hold off any development except for a possible warm spell left in the year. Now is the time to look back and evaluate our dollar spot information. We had a chance to evaluate our new fairway bentgrass variety trial during the highest disease pressure of the season. The borders of ‘Alpha’ and several entries were lighting up! It has been a long road for this trial. Twenty nine bentgrass
varieties were seeded last year and then reseeded this May. Now we have lowered the height (0.75 inches) slowly over the summer and finally we got some disease.

Next year we will learn (again)
Next year we will get a better idea for disease resistance of these varieties. So far our variation is still large and another years worth of data will be needed to determine the genetic resistance in the new varieties like ‘CY-2', ‘Kingpin’, ‘Shark’, and ‘007’. This data does show that varieties have been released with comparable resistance to ‘L-93’. Hopefully with more time we can say that there are a handful of varieties with greater resistance than ‘L-93’. In National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) trials, ‘Declaration’ has shown promise. ‘Alister’ is actually a colonial bentgrass species. In previous research on Sunshine Course, colonial varieties are damaged by brown patch and weeds become a problem.

The “take home message”...
The goal of this research conducted here in Lemont and 11 other Midwestern universities is to determine how many fungicide sprays are needed when varieties with greater resistance are used.

The L-93 Story at North Shore
This year at North Shore Country Club we set out treatments on a fairway strip of ‘L-93’. Only one application was made on May 14 and the plan was to see which treatments provided the longest control. Bayleton, Emerald, Daconil, Banner Maxx, and Chipco GT were all applied and we waited for dollar spot. Mid June came around, and no dollar spot – too cold. The beginning of July came and only a tiny bit of dollar spot. The beginning of August came around and finally dollar spot reached 1-3%in all plots. Fungicide or not, all treatments were the same for percent dollar spot incidence and plot visual quality.

No differences...
We found no differences in our statistics. What did we learn? Maybe May 14 is too early for dollar spot control. Maybe we can reduce our fungicide inputs by utilizing genetic resistance and eliminating one or two applications early in the summer. Our heads are already spinning around to design research in 2010.

Emerald for next year’s research...
So far our thoughts are to pick one fungicide and apply on selected dates from May through June or July on each ‘L-93’ and a bentgrass/Poa mixture. This will give us an optimal timing for first application to control dollar spot on two different turfgrasses. For now we will write down our thoughts and continue to analyze the research.

Keith Rincker
Chicago District Golf Association
11855 Archer Avenue
Lemont, IL 60439

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Derek Harmon Memorial Golf Outing and Fun Day

Sunday October 18th, 2009 - Veenker Memorial Golf Course
Host Superintendent: John Newton, CGCS
Registration 10 – 10:45
Shotgun Start 11:00
Format of Play: 4 Player Best shot
Awards and Social Immediately Following Golf
Entry Fee: $30 / player, lunch included at the turn
Additionally, In-Kind Donations will be accepted.
ALL proceeds from this event will go to establish a scholarship through the ISU Horticulture Dept.

Registration Form

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Living with the Emerald Ash Borer: by Jeff Iles

While not an “official” resident of the state of Iowa, yet, the highly destructive emerald ash borer has been found within a stone’s throw of our northeastern border. And if you’re a pessimist or perhaps a realist, you might be convinced the insect is already here, but has managed to escape detection. After all, it’s not the easiest of pests to locate. Just ask our colleagues in southeastern Michigan. Either way, it’s probably a safe bet that very soon EAB will be with us, and its impact will be dramatic and widespread.

So, what do we do? What do you do as a golf course superintendent? Do you put the blinders on and pretend the insect will never find your course? Do you adopt a scorched earth policy and “fell” every green, white, black, and blue ash on your property just so you don’t have to worry about EAB in the future? Move to Nebraska? My answers to these questions are no, no, and heck no!

Here’s what I would do. I’d take inventory of every ash tree under my care. Those found to be in a serious state of decline would become intimately acquainted with Mr. Chainsaw. No sense hanging on to trees that look bad and detract from the appearance of the course. But what about the thousands of ash that line your fairways, frame a green, or otherwise look pretty good and contribute to the overall beauty and ambiance of your course. Well, if it were up to me, I’d continue to prune, water, and mulch them, and…enjoy them. We all might be surprised just how long these trees are with us, even after EAB enters the state.

Notice, however, that I haven’t yet mentioned preventive insecticide treatments. And why would I? Unless your golf course has miraculously survived the recent economic downturn without a scratch, you simply can’t afford to protect every ash tree on the course. But, if you have one or several extremely old, historic, or noteworthy specimens you simply can’t afford to lose, then relying on an insecticide to protect your investment makes perfect sense.

These are trying times for golf course managers. Heck, these are trying times for most businesses in Iowa and the last thing the “green industry” needs is the loss of popular, dependable, and heretofore trouble-free tree species. But that is the hand we’ve been dealt and it’s the hand we must play. That is, unless you’d rather fold and go home? I didn’t think so.

So, let’s stop trembling in fear of this little green beast from the east and begin making a plan for the future. Of course, the plan does not include planting more ash, but look on the bright side. Ash are overrepresented in most Iowa landscapes anyway, so now’s the perfect time to diversify your tree population. Looking for some examples? Try these on for size.

Acer ×freemanii 'Sienna' (Sienna Glen® Freeman maple) (Picture Above)
Acer miyabei 'Morton' (State Street® miyabe maple)
Acer saccharum 'Bailsta' (Fall Fiesta™ sugar maple)

Ginkgo biloba (Picture Above) – choose male cultivars if you don’t want fruit litter
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis 'Harve' (Northern Acclaim™ honeylocust)
Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky coffeetree)
Platanus × acerifolia 'Morton Thornhill' (Exclamation™ London planetree)
Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)
Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak)
Taxodium distichum (baldcypress)
Tilia americana 'Boulevard' (American linden)
Ulmus americana 'Princeton' (American elm) (Picture to right)
Ulmus × 'Morton Glossy' (Triumph™ elm)

And there are many, many more!

Jeff Iles
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mole Crickets in Iowa?

Do we get mole crickets in Iowa? The answer is clearly yes, although they are rare. The pictures above come from Kevin Vos and Alex Olsen at Bos Landen in Pella. They were taken on Sept. 28, 2009 on the 18th green. They were actually doing some damage to the green.
Damage is rare. I have seen it at Ankeney country club and a few other places around Iowa over the past 30 years. Finding mole crickets is not as rare. We sometimes see them at the research station and many superintendents have reported them over the years.
Usually chemical is not necessary. If it is a few, you can step on them or collect in a bottle. They are very difficult to treat in Florida and other areas of the South, because they occur in very high populations and are protected from chemicals by being under ground much of the time. Pretty much any of our standard insecticides will kill them, if you get them on the insect.
Marcus tells me that when he was at Augusta, they would mix up soapy water and pore it in the holes. They mole crickets would come to the surface and they could then remove them.
If any one else is seeing them, let me know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Story of the 1/3 Rule

Recently, I was skimming through a textbook about maintenance reduction practices for turfgrass settings and I stumbled upon a section that discussed the one-third rule of mowing. I’m sure most everyone has heard about this recommendation as it appears in almost every textbook and extension publication. This common rule states that no more than one-third of the plant should ever be removed in a single mowing. However, this rule is commonly ignored. You probably remember many other “rules” from your introductory turfgrass classes that are also commonly violated: irrigate deeply and infrequently, never mow when the grass is wet, avoid fertilization during the summer months, etc… So are there any absolute truths when it comes to turfgrass management practices? The truth of the matter is that turfgrass management often deals in shades of gray. There seems to be exceptions to almost every rule.

Most recommendations stem from research, which is usually a good thing. But sometimes the inference space of the research is extended beyond the original scope of the project. For instance, a study investigating the growth of bentgrass cultivars will only provide information about the growth of bentgrass cultivars. The results of the study should not be applied to other species of turfgrass such as bluegrasses or ryegrasses. The recommendation of the one-third rule is a classic example of a research project being extended beyond its inference space.

The 1/3 Rule is Born
The one-third rule originated from a greenhouse study done by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists about 60 years ago on forage type Kentucky bluegrass. The goal of the study was to investigate the effect of cattle defoliation on the growth of the roots. Results of the study showed the grass (or roots) didn’t die when more than one-third was removed. The growth of the roots simply paused for a short time before resuming normal growth. The findings from this study were eventually morphed into the creation of the one-third rule.

More Recent Research
A similar defoliation study was recreated in 1986 by a group of turfgrass scientists at North Carolina State University (Shepard et al, 1989). This study was conducted in the field with a “high” and “low” maintenance tall fescue maintained at 3 and 6 inches, respectively. Each grass was allowed to grow 30, 50, 100 and 300% taller than the maintained height before being mowed. The 50% defoliation treatment signified the maximum guideline of the one-third rule – 30% was within the recommended guideline, and the 100 and 300% treatments violated the one-third rule. The researchers found that the tall fescue could grow to double the original height before being defoliated without negative consequences (tall fescue maintained at 3 inches could grow to 6 inches before being cut without serious consequences). The 300% treatment resulted in senescence to a portion of the tall fescue stand. The results of the NC State study indicated that the one-third rule has little merit, yet the recommendation lives on. One reason could be the detrimental effect of excess grass clippings that shade the turf underneath. Either way, the one-third rule is by far an unconditional truth.

So what is the moral of this story? Recommendations should not always be taken at face value. Ask questions and spend some time investigating how they came about before taking action. You may just be surprised when you learn the rest of the story.

NC State University Citation:
Shepard, D.P., J.M. Dipaola, and W.M. Lewis. 1989. Effects of clipping regime on turf quality and mowing requirement. Agron Abstr. p.165

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Monday, September 28, 2009

Plant a few bulbs this fall – by Cindy Haynes

Want to plant a little something now that will liven up beds and borders next spring and summer? Don’t have a lot of room or time to take care of anything else? So, why not try a few long-lasting bulbs that are easy to maintain? Forget tulips – they don’t last. Skip crocuses – you have to plant a thousand to make an impact. Instead think about daffodils, ornamental onions, and lilies.

These are some of the best low maintenance perennials in the landscape. Plant them in the right spots in fall and watch them bloom next year. Your only maintenance chore is cutting back the flowers when they fade and cutting back the foliage when it yellows. These bulbs don’t need fertilizer, especially if they are planted in decent soil. That’s it! And these bulbs are big enough that a few here or there can make quite an effective show – so you don’t need to plant them by the hundreds or the thousands.

The cheery blooms of daffodils begin to appear in early April. They range in height from a few inches to about 1 ½ feet tall. The flowers are usually a bright yellow, but are also available in white and orange. Sometimes the flowers are fragrant. They are best planted in sites with well-drained soils that receive plenty of sun in spring. Daffodils are not bothered by deer or other animals.

Ornamental onions have globe-shaped flowers in late May and June. Flowers may be lavender, bluish-purple, white, or yellow. Because the flowers are not as bright as daffodils, they won’t be noticed as readily from a distance. But what they lack in striking color, they can make up in size. The flower clusters, or inflorescences, of some species of ornamental onions can be more than 10 inches across and can vary greatly in height from a few inches to three feet tall, depending on species. Onions will bloom best in sunny sites with well-drained soils. Because the foliage of many species of ornamental onions begins to fade and brown when they are blooming, plant the bulbs between shorter plants. This will help hide any unsightly foliage.

There are several different groups of lilies with flamboyant flowers in July. Flower colors range from brilliant oranges, reds, and golden hues to more muted pastel pinks, lavenders, and whites. Look for Oriental or Trumpet (or the hybrid Orienpet) lilies for fragrant flowers in a wide variety of colors. Only a few bulbs in areas near building entrances/exits are needed to fully appreciate their fragrance. Most lily species insist on sunny sites with well-drained soils. Some of the taller cultivars might require staking – so select shorter cultivars to limit maintenance needs.

And finally for late summer bloom, consider the Magic or Surprise lily. The pale pink flowers appear in mid to late August without foliage. The foliage emerges in spring and disappears before the onset of hot weather. A couple of months later –several 2 foot flower stalks emerge, as if by magic (hence the common name). Plants prefer full sun to part shade and well-drained soils.

Try one of these bulbs – or try all four. Either way, I don’t think you will be disappointed with the flower displays next year.

Cindy Haynes
Iowa State University

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's about time for Frost

This week historically brings the first opportunity for frost in a good portion of the state. Fortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean the terminal end to the growing season for our cool season grasses, unlike many other plants and crops here in Iowa. Frost formation can come in
many levels of severity affected by environmental factors such as low temperature, dew point, relative humidity, wind speed, cloud cover, and elevation. Turf managers only slightly control a few factors such as irrigation and moisture availability, applications of wetting agents, and cutting heights of the turf. Frost formation on turfgrass will begin or advance the entrance into dormancy as the plants prepare for the winter months. Though, the main concern that is always on the mind of the turf manager is damage to the plants due to traffic on frost laden turf. This can be a concern on all turfgrass areas, but especially on grass such as on golf course greens.

Pictures of traffic damage on frosted turf by Zac Reicher, Purdue University

Light frosts that are essentially frozen dew on the upper leaves of the turfgrass plants as the temperature approaches 32 degrees. This typically occurs close the coldest point of the night usually around sunrise, or in golf course terms right when you would like to mow. As the ice forms on the plant it begins to freeze the plant cells in the tissue of the turgrass leaf. This weakens the cells and makes them vulnerable to permanent damage, kind of like cracking an egg. In general, most damage primarily occurs on the leaf tissue, but in heavier frost events and on lower mowed turfgrass the damage can extend down into the crown. If the frost traffic occurs and cells near the growing point are damaged, the plant could be a complete loss.
This issue of the frost setting in causes not only delays in your maintenance system, but delays in golf play or other turf activities. The key is that time is money. So, we all want to limit the time our employees are at the shop, or golfers are holding up tee times, etc.
What can we do to limit these time delays? One practice that is commonly used is a light irrigation cycle which contains water that is warmer than 32 degrees to melt off the frost and warm up the surface. The issue with this is that it must be timed properly to not form more ice on the system. The other thing to remember is that the irrigation will only knock the frost off of areas it can reach, so cart or foot traffic damage can occur leading to the irrigated areas.
I have included a chart referenced from a past issue of Horticulture Home and Pest News authored by Richard Jauron. As you will see the data is somewhat dated, but after conversations with State Climatologist Harrry Hilaker the fall dates still are very accurate. The spring dates and growing degree days may change slightly.

As with all issues involving the weather it is hard to tell what might actually happen. Good luck finishing up the growing season!

Neric Smith,
Commercial Horticulture Program Specialist
Iowa State University Extension