Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grass Can Be Green: Be An Advocate of Our Industry

It’s been awhile since I have posted to the blog. The hiatus is partially due to countless hours of preparation for my preliminary exam which was last week. A preliminary exam is a required step on the way to obtaining a PhD and might be best described as an exercise in poise, patience, and humility while demonstrating your ability to think on your feet. As part of my preliminary exam I was presented with an opinion article that recently appeared in the New York Times.

Here are some excerpts from the article which was titled “The Dandelion King.”

….The unkept look of my lawn is just a byproduct of a conclusion I reached a few years ago: the war on weeds, though not unwinnable, isn’t winnable at a morally acceptable cost.

….I soon learned that the carpets of green in suburbia are the product of assiduously applied chemicals. “Pre-emergent” herbicides are laid down more than once in the spring (mixed in with the fertilizer) to sabotage the germination of crabgrass, dandelions and other undesirables. If this fails, post-emergents may be applied en masse. And as the summer wears on, local pockets of resistance can be wiped out with a spray canister of poison.

….releasing dubious chemicals into the environment — is the inevitable result of using them on your lawn; you can’t negate this negative externality without rewriting the laws of nature.

….But for me, the practical way to have an eco-friendly lawn is to have a weedy lawn.

The remainder of the article is littered with further inaccuracies and embellishments that mislead the reader and paint a negative picture of turfgrass (the full article can be read at by clicking here).

I was asked, as a member and advocate of the turfgrass industry, to provide a rebuttal to this article as part of my preliminary exam. I believe articles of this nature reinforce the notion of the importance that each and every one of us does our part to educate our customers and the public about the benefits of properly managed turfgrass. Here are some facts about the benefits of turfgrass to the environment based upon published scientific literature. Equip yourself with this knowledge so you can provide an insightful answer next time you are challenged about the benefits of turfgrass. A comprehensive report detailing turfgrasses and their benefit to humans and the environment can be found here.

Environmental Benefits of Turfgrass

• Turfgrass provides a dense groundcover which protects the soil from water and wind erosion. Doubling the amount of turfgrass shoots in a lawn (32 to 64/sq.inch) reduced the amount of runoff by two thirds (Easton Z.M., and A.M. Petrovic. 2004. Fertilizer source effect on ground and surface water quality in drainage from turfgrass. J Environ Qual 33: 645-656)

• The dense canopy of well-maintained turfgrass coupled with its extensive, fibrous root system results in more water infiltrating through the soil profile. This enhanced infiltration increases groundwater recharge and reduces nutrient loss in runoff. Weedy-low quality lawns had three times more nitrogen runoff than a dense-treated lawn and no more phosphorus runoff (Easton, Z.M. 2005. Ph.D. thesis, Cornell Univ.)

• The turf-soil ecosystem supports a diverse population of soil microorganisms. These organisms are very efficient at degrading and trapping many of organic chemicals contained in runoff and sediment that occurs from impervious surfaces. Thin, weedy lawns leached 1-2 % of a herbicide compared to no leaching from a dense lawn (Easton, Zachary M., A. Martin Petrovic, Donald J. Lisk and Inga-Mai Larsson-Kovach. 2005. Hillslope Position Effect on Nutrient and Pesticide Runoff from Turfgrass. Intern. Turfgrass Soc. Res. J. 10:121-129).

• Turfgrass removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replaces it with oxygen. This exchange of gasses allows turfgrass to act as a net sink for the sequestration of C02. Well-managed turfgrass receiving inputs can sequester larger amounts of carbon dioxide compared to lawns receiving no inputs (Zirkle, Gina Nicole. 2009. 2009 International Annual Meetings: [Abstracts][ASA-CSSA-SSSA]. p. [52288]).

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant

Monday, April 26, 2010

I’m Mowing Greens Again!

Well it is good to get back on a greensmower again after a few years in a related, but slightly different career with Iowa State University Extension. I am writing to inform everyone of my new position as Instructor of Landscape and Turfgrass Technology, a new program at Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) in Ottumwa, IA. The Landscape and Turfgrass Technology program at IHCC will be accepting enrollment soon with the first classes starting this fall. It offers students a two year Associate of Applied Science Degree or a one year Certificate as a Grounds Equipment Technician and prepares the students planning to go on for a four year degree.

I am very excited about the potential of this program and my new position! IHCC has an excellent facility and is dedicated to providing the best experience possible for its students. I look forward to working with many of you again and hope to meet many others as we collaborate in the future with interns or other projects. Always feel free to contact me if have any questions or interested students in the program.

My new contact info is:
Neric Smith, Instructor
Indian Hills Community College
525 Grandview Ave.
Ottumwa, IA 52501
Cell: 515-368-1544

I hope the golf season is off to a good start also remember the frosts may not be over yet, refer back to the chart I posted originally on September 25, 2009.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More winter survival information from Chicago.

Here is another post from the Chicago area on winter damage. This one is from Ben McGargill at Wynstone Golf Club. He posted last week on the effect of covers under ice on Poa survival.


At Wynstone, our greens are primarily Poa annua. Some are 50/50 bent/poa while several are 90% - 95% poa. The club had purchased tarps for all 18 greens in the fall of 2009, and we spent the first two days of December tarping all of the greens on the golf course.

Since December 1st was my first day at Wynstone, I was only able to see the greens as we tarped prior to snowfall on the 3rd. When deciding which greens to clear of snow and ice, I relied heavily on recollection of ice damage in the past.

Most of the greens were covered in ice following a 1.5 inches of rain followed by a hard freeze at the end of December, but in January we received two days in the forties. Several days before the warm temperatures were predicted, we began snow blowing our problem greens in hopes that the ice would melt, and it seems to have been successful. Our only problem was on #17 Green, which we did not clear, and all of the death occurred where the tarp failed to cover the edge of the green (see last week’s post).

The picture below is of a low spot on the front of #11 green, which has been one of the most problematic areas. This is an area we monitored and removed ice in January. As you can imagine, we were happy to see green turf.

Ben McGargill
Wynstone Golf Club
Barrington, Ill.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Nick Christians: Iowa State University

I got a call last week from the Chicago area about an accidental over application of iron (Fe) to bentgrass greens. The product was Krystal Clear chelated Fe which contains 4% Fe on a weight basis. Each gallon weighs 10.6 lbs. There are 0.424 lbs Fe/gallon. It is to be applied at 0.75 to 4 oz/1000 ft2.

The following tank mix was to be applied to the greens:

Revolution-6oz/M or 450 oz/tank

Cutless- 7oz/A or 12oz/tank

Primo-7oz/A or 12 oz/tank

Urea- 0.15#N/M or 25lbs/tank

Potash-0.15#K2O/M or 25lbs/tank

Krsytal Klear Fe- 1.5oz/M or 112.5oz/tank

Rather than 112.5 oz of Krystal Klear going in the tank, the applicator put 1125 oz in the tank. The tank was applied to 75,000 ft2. This resulted in an application of 15 oz product per 1000 ft2, rather than the desired 1.5 oz. This is nearly 4 times the highest recommended rate of application. This was 2.16 lbs actual Fe/acre or 0.05 lb Fe/1000 ft2. Only 9 of the 18 greens were treated at this rate. The other 9 were treated at the normal rate. The greens were given 0.5 inches of irrigation the night after application.

The 12th green was split in half, part of it receiving 15 oz and part of it receiving 1.5 oz. (See below)

I received the call shortly after the application and was asked to predict what would happen. While I had not had any experience with over applications of this product, I have put on rather high levels of ferrous sulfate in experimental treatments. I predicted that the greens would turn dark green to black for a few days and then recover with little damage to the bentgrass.

The pictures below were taken 48 hours after application. At the time of this posting, we are nearly a week following the application. No damage occurred to the bentgrass and the product did not turn the bentgrass black like some other Fe sources are known to do. There was a greenup of the bentgrass as would be expected, but it really wasn’t a problem and the golfers did not even notice.

The only thing that suffered from the application was some moss on one of the greens.

I was surprised by the safety margin with this chelated product. For future reference, you can go to at least 2.16 lbs Fe/acre with this product without doing significant damage to bentgrass greens in the spring. I would anticipate that there would have been a little more damage had the weather been hot.

The superintendent caught the problem after the second tank had been mixed. They sprayed that on a now mow area in the rough. They observed that it turned just the white clover black and caused no other damage.

I'll post again in a few days and let you know how things turned out. At this point, it does not look like any damage will occur.

The 12th green. The right two thirds was treated at 15 oz/1000 and the left one third was treated at 1.5 oz/1000. This was taken at 48 hours after treatment.

The only thing damaged was a couple of moss patches that turned black.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More Winter Damage in Chicago

As you can see from Brian Thomson's post yesterday, it was a rough year for greens in Chicago. Here is a post from Ben McGargill, Supt. of Wynstone Golf Club which is just down the street from Biltmore. Ben's greens were covered during the winter. He sent me this picture of the 17th green where the left side had remained uncovered. Ben made no attempt to remove the ice. His greens are mostly Poa. As you can see, the Poa did well under the cover, in spite of the long ice cover this winter and the uncovered area was damaged.

I'll post some of my own thoughts on winter damage tomorrow.

Nick Christians

17th green at Wynstone Golf Club north of Chicago. April 2, 2010.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Winter Damage in Chicago by Brian Thomson

Here is a post from Brian Thomson, Superintendent of Biltmore CC, north of Chicago concerning damage from this past winter.

Biltmore CC

Barrington, Ill. (North of Chicago)

Winter of 2009-10

Winter Kill / Ice Damage

Notes by Brian Thomson, Superintendent.

During the winter of 2009-10 we had the longest period of ice cover I have seen in 15 years. In the month of December we received 2.12” of rain, most of which fell Dec 25-26 (1.45”). Soils temps at a 2” depth were frozen starting Dec 19th and did not thaw until March 12th – 85 days later. During that time, ice covered all of our low greens at a depth of 2-4”.

On Feb 18th (~60 days after soils were frozen) we began removing the snow from 9 greens and breaking the ice up on 5 of those greens using a Toro aerifier with solid star tines. The tines did go into the surface of the green and completely broke the ice. The ice was not removed, but left in place to help protect the turf, should the weather turn cold.

A noticeable rotten egg smell came from the greens as they were being aerified. After aerification we did have some sunny, warm days which melted some of the ice. Ice did reform and more snow fell, which lasted until the first week of March.

The greens that had the most ice are push up style greens, in the lowest portion of the course, on peat.

Greens that we removed snow and broke Ice:

Green #1 – Most damage, in low lying areas, all Poa effected (see picture of bent plug). This is a problem green which we have experienced winter kill before in low lying areas, never to this extent. Poor internal drainage and little, to no surface drainage. Green has several “pockets” with no surface drainage. Built on peat (20-30’ thick). Drains were installed to the low areas of the green a few years ago. The grass above these lines survived, however grass just a few feet from the drain lines died.

Green #4- Some damage – surface water flow areas affected. Ice was not as thick as #1, #8, #10, and #13. This green is built on clay (not peat). Have had some areas of damage in the past.

Green #8- very small areas of damage. A newer green (rebuilt ~20 years ago). Does have pretty good internal drainage, however surface drainage is poor. Did have considerable amount of ice. Green is on peat.

Green #10 and #13- Older greens on peat. Both have poor internal drainage and poor surface drainage. Damage was limited to “pockets” on green and areas are recovering quickly. Typically see damage each year on these greens. Did install drainage to the low areas a few years ago.

Removed snow only from the following – all are built on clay, push up greens. Very little ice after snow was removed (less than 1”).

Green #4 and #5- small areas of damage (low areas). Poor internal drainage and fair surface drainage.

Green #9 and #17 – no damage. Good internal drainage and good surface drainage. Greens look very good at this time.


I think good surface and internal drainage is key. I do think some damage is caused by aerification, however in our case I think we could have had more damage if we had not broken the ice and opened the greens up to release the gas accumulation occurring under the ice – no proof of this. All of the damage was in low areas and surface drainage ways, with only Poa affected. Removing snow showed no positive or negative results compared to greens where no snow was removed.

There is a post on youtube of the ice breaking process. It is posted at:

Removing snow from greens on Feb. 18, 2010

Breaking the ice is solid tines.

Broken ice was left on the greens. This is number 1 green.

Number one green in early April. The lines show where drainage lines are located.

This is a bentgrass plug in the middle of dead Poa on green 1.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Showers bring Primo/Proxy

Above average temperatures swept across much of the state last week making it feel almost like summer at times. The turf seems to be responding nicely to the favorable conditions as new growth begins to take the edge off some of the scars left from the winter season.

The relatively dry weather as of late has helped speed the rise in soil temperatures and I spotted some prostrate knotweed germinating through the cracks in my driveway. Prostrate knotweed is a summer annual and usually the first annual weed to germinate in the spring. Like many weeds, knotweed thrives in compacted areas and is often found along the edges of sidewalk and cart paths.

Early spring also marks the time of year for applications of primo/proxy. Primo and proxy are both growth regulating compounds designed to slow the growth of plants. Used together in a tank mix this combination of products provides a synergistic effect to inhibit seedhead formation on poa. Inhibiting seedhead formation of poa has two main advantages. First, the flush of seedheads in the spring can be unsightly and interfere with the uniformity of the playing surface. Second, producing seedheads requires an expenditure of energy from poa which is already susceptible to many biotic and abiotic stresses. Inhibiting seedhead formation helps conserve energy within the plant (poa) which will hopefully leave it with more reserves later in the season when pressure from diseases and other stresses are higher.

The effectiveness of the primo/proxy application depends largely on proper timing. While doing my research on this topic I discovered a variety of ways in which superintendents try to properly time their applications. Some track and use growing degree days, some apply once full green up has been achieved (this is usually after the second mowing), others monitor and apply when poa is nearing the boot stage, and still others try to time their applications based on historical data of poa seedhead development. Whichever method you prefer it is important to apply before you see the seedheads. A repeat application in 14-21 days is often recommended. As always, remember to review the label before any application.

Of course the other big news this week is the start of The Masters Tournament. In case you weren’t in the mood for golf this should help. Here is a picture to wet your appetite.

Marcus Jones
Graduate Research Assistant