Thursday, December 8, 2011


Nick Christians

Here is some information from Rick Tegtmeier CGCS, Des Moines Golf and Country Club on a Blog that will connect you with other blogs like this one. Useful information, check it out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Nick Christians
phone 515-294-0036

I need another spreader for a calibration project at Iowa State. This one is one of the older Scotts R8A push models. If anyone around in the area has one and would be willing to lend it to us for a couple of weeks, let me know.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Nick Christians

For the first time ever, I will be offering Hort/Agronomy 351-Turfgrass Establishment and Management- in the spring. It will be entirely web based and you can take it any place in the world without coming to campus. For more information, see

This course carries minor graduate credit and could be used towards an MS degree.

I have recently become part of the Master of Agronomy Distance program. Through this web based program, you can get an MS in agronomy with a specialization in Turf Science while you are employed full time. Most of it is offered off-campus through the web. You would need to do a creative component in some aspect of turf science and come to campus for a couple of short summer workshops and for your final defense.

This program is ideal for those who want to achieve a Master's degree without leaving their full time job. It is well suited for those teaching in two-year programs who want to finish a master's degree. The creative component can be the development of a course for teaching at the community college level.

For more information on the Master of Agronomy program, see:

Pass this on to anyone who might be interested.

I can be reached at 515-294-0036 for more information, or e-mail me at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Many parts of the state received their first snowfall last week. The days are shorter and 4” soil temperatures are slipping from the low 40’s into the high 30’s. Most trees have lost the majority of their leaves. Long-establishing creeping bentgrass greens display a spectrum of purple patches. Everywhere you look, there are signs that another growing season is coming to an end. But irrigation winterization may best signify that the growing season is over and winter is just around the corner.

Irrigation winterization is the process of evacuating water from the irrigation pipes to avoid damage from freezing temperatures. While a portion of the water can be evacuated at dead ends and low points of the piping through manual and automatic drain valves, larger irrigation systems also “blowout” the piping system using compressed air. This method of winterization can be very damaging to the piping system and dangerous to workers if proper safety procedures are not followed.

I was reminded of the hazards that can occur during the winterization procedure when I received the picture below from a former student. In this scenario an individual head would not activate from the satellite box and the employee went to flag on the head. When the head activated, the internal assembly broke free from the bucket striking the worker under the chin.

Irrigation winterization can be dangerous and safety precautions need to be taken to avoid injury.

This post will outline some of the basic safety measures that should be followed to avoid personal injury and undue stress on the irrigation system.

Use a safety harness to tether the air hose to the compressor. Air hoses connect to the compressor though a claw or similar type coupling. The connection is usually secured with cotter pins or wire but also consider using a safety harness. The harness will prevent the hose from flailing about in the event the connection fails while under pressure.

A harness that connects the air hose to the compressor provides additional safety in case the connection fails when under pressure.

Do not force air through the backflow preventer. Be sure to hookup after the backflow preventer as forcing air through this component can cause damage. First, blowout the system, then allow the backflow preventer to drain.

Regulate the air pressure with a pressure regulator. Even though larger irrigation system may operate with water pressures in excess of 100 psi, air pressures of this magnitude can damage the system. Use of a pressure regulating valve can help prevent over-pressurization. Most manufacturers recommend air pressures around 50 psi.

A pressure regulator can help prevent excessively high pressures from damaging valves, pipes, and irrigation heads.

Do not stand directly over irrigation components when under pressure. Air is less viscous compared to water and can generate greater stress under comparable pressures. Weak points in the irrigation system can fail under air pressure. Protect yourself from personal injury by staying clear of irrigation components when under pressure. It’s also a good idea to wear proper eye and ear protection during the winterization process.

Do not work on a sprinkler head while under pressure. If a head sticks on or won’t activate automatically or manually valve the section off and bleed the pressure through a quick coupler. Once the air stops at the quick coupler the head is safe to work on.

Evacuate water ahead of time. Before activating individual sprinkler heads use drain valves and quick couplers to initially evacuate water. This will reduce the amount of water in the system and can shorten the time needed to evacuate air through sprinkler heads. Less air moving through valves and sprinkler components and will help cut down on wear and tear.

Quick couplers and manual drain valves can be used to drain water before evacuating water through sprinkler heads.

Do not allow sprinkler heads to run for prolonged periods of time. Sprinkler drive mechanisms are normally lubricated as the water moves through the internal assembly. In the absence of water, heat caused from friction can damage these plastic components. Cycle between one or more stations to avoid excess buildup of heat.

Taking care to follow these safety procedures can help the winterization process go smoothly while minimizing damage to the irrigation system and preventing personal injury.

Hoping you have successful (and safe) winterizations!

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Nick Christians
Nov. 11, 2011

Here is the next installment in the series on 'answer line person' Richard Jauron's experience with the control of nimblewill with Tenacity (mesotrione). You will find other installments from this summer and fall.

We're going to follow this until well into next year when we know how successful this has been.


Here is a short chronology of my experience treating nimblewill infested areas in the lawn with the herbicide Tenacity (Mesotrione). (Previous blogs on this topic were posted on July 7, 2011 and August 2, 2011.)

On Tuesday, June 28, 2011, I treated nimblewill infested areas in my lawn with Tenacity. (One-fourth teaspoon of Tenacity and three-fourths teaspoon of a non-ionic surfactant (Turbo Spreader Sticker) was added to 2 quarts of water.)

Within 2 or 3 days, the nimblewill foliage turned light green. Within 7 to 10 days, the uppermost growth turned white. (See photos 1 and 2)

At the end of 3 weeks, the lowest portions of the nimblewill were still green. Most of the upper portions of the nimblewill were white or brown. (See photos 3 and 4)

The nimblewill was treated a second time on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. (One-fourth teaspoon of Tenacity and three-fourths teaspoon of a non-ionic surfactant was added to 2 quarts of water.)

By late summer, the Tenacity treated nimblewill had turned completely brown and appeared to be dead. The following photographs were taken on September 15, 2011. (See photos 5 and 6). While the nimblewill appears to be dead, the effectiveness of Tenacity won’t be known until late spring/early summer of 2012. If any of the nimblewill has survived, it should begin to green up in late May or June.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Monday, November 7, 2011


Nick Christians
Nov. 7, 2011

As part of the new greenhouse construction project at the horticulture building, the department received a large mural painting on the history of horticulture at Iowa State. It completely surrounds the atrium area by the main office.

They included the turf bowl trophy in the painting. So, while we have to return the traveling trophy at the next GCSAA meetings in Las Vegas, it will be enshrined forever in the painting.

We, of course, do have the chance to win it back next year. As many of you know, Iowa State has won it 11 or the last 13 years.

The last picture below is on Ed Cott, who was in extension in the department for 35 years. He is pictured with a golf course in the background.

The painting should be finished in a couple of weeks. You are all invited to come by and see it when you get a chance.

Ed Cott pictured with golf course in background.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scotts Speedygreen 1000 Spreader

Nick Christians

I need a Scotts Speedygreen 1000 homeowner broadcast spreader for a study. I would just need it for a few hours. Does anyone local have one that I could borrow?

Friday, October 7, 2011


Nick Christians
October 7, 2011

This is the second installment on the drought work that we did at Iowa State in the drought of 1988. It originally was published in "LAWN CARE INDUSTRY' in Oct. of 1989.

These are jpg pictures and you will need to click on them to read them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

ITI/IGCSA Benefit Tournament Recap

The 30th Annual Iowa Turfgrass Institute/Iowa Golf Course Superintendent's Association Benefit Golf Tournament was held October 3 at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa.  The success of this event depends on the involvement of many individuals, vendors and allied associations.  Funds raised from the tournament support turfgrass research and scholarships.

Wakonda Superintendent John Temme working hard right up until the start of the tournament.  Thanks for such an enjoyable day John.

Special thanks to golf course Superintendent John Temme and his entire staff for hosting the event and having the golf course in impeccable shape.  Everyone who participated was treated to beautiful weather and striking fall colors.  To see what the Wakonda Staff has been up to, check out their maintenance blog, Wakonda Grounds. 

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist

Friday, September 30, 2011


Nick Christains
September 30, 2011
While it has been dry in Central Iowa, we have not seen the severe drought condition that is occurring in South Western Iowa.  I have had an increased number of calls, particularly from lawn care professional, who are wondering about treating dormant lawns with fertilizer and wondering about weed control issues.

In the 33 seasons that I have been here at ISU, the worst drought that we saw in this area was in 1988.  We did research on these issues that year and I published the work in Lawn Servicing Magazine (which no longer exists) and in other sources.  Today I am posting an article based on that work.  On Monday, I will post a second installment on the 1988 research. 

The pages are in jpg and you will need to click on them like a picture.  You should be able to then enlarge the print.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Nick Christians
September 19, 2011

On August 31, I posted a blog titled "Watch Out For Gray Leaf Spot".

It did show up.  Here is a post from Cory Johnson, Superintendent of Cedar Pointe Golf Course in Boone, Ia.  This is Gray Leaf spot.  It showed up on September 8.  These pictures are from Sept. 16.  This is classic Gray Leaf Spot on perennial ryegrass fairways.  They will need to reseed with ryegrass as soon as possible.

If anyone else has experienced this, send me some pictures.  I suspect that there is more out there.

The first two pictures are fairway shots.  It is the rye that died and there is some live Kentucky bluegrass.

Picture 3 shows a close up of live bluegrass in dead rye.

Picture 4 shows leaf symptoms on the rye.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Nick Christians
August 31, 2011

Those of you who have been around since the 90's will remember a major outbreak of Gray Leaf Spot on perennial ryegrass in 1998. This disease is caused by the fungi Pyricularia grisea. It seems to selectively hit perennial rye. Under the right conditions, it can be more devastating than Pythium blight. Like Pythium, it can kill large areas of turf over night.

In 1998, it wiped out perennial rye from Chicago to the Rocky Mountains. It was particularly hard on ryegrass golf course fairways and sports fields.

The conditions that set it off in 1998 were unusually high temperatures around Labor Day. We have not seen a major outbreak of this disease in 13 years, but tomorrow it is predicted to reach near 100 F. That is very hot for Iowa in September. If you have perennial rye that has not been treated with a fungicide, you may wan to be on the look out for this problem. Banner/Daconil was particularly effective against Gray Leaf spot in the 1998 outbreak, but there are other materials labeled for it as well. Check the label before you spray.

The pictures below were taken in 1998 on Willow Creek Golf Course in Des Moines. The dead grass is perennial rye. The only living grass is Kentucy bluegrass that was intermingled in the fairway and some patches had been used to sod around some of the heads.

Let me know if any of you see this in the next few days. Send some pictures if you do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Nick Christians
August 25, 2011

The new greenhouses are now ready for use. If any of you would like to attend the dedication, come to campus on Sept. 3.

Jeffery Iles
Chair, Department of Horticulture

Gregory L. Geoffroy
President, Iowa State University

Wendy Wintersteen
Endowed Dean, College of
Agriculture and Life Sciences

Dwight Hughes
B.S. 1970 Horticulture
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Winston Beck
Senior Horticulture Major
Jeffery Iles
Following the dedication ceremony, tours of the
Greenhouse Complex will be available.
Horticulture Teaching & Research
Greenhouse Complex

Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 2 p.m

The new $4 million teaching and research greenhouse complex on central campus replaces the original horticulture greenhouses built in 1913. It extends along the south side of Horticulture Hall, home of the department of horticulture. The facility includes space-efficient teaching and research areas equipped with state-of-the-art environmental control and innovative plant production systems.

The greenhouse complex is partitioned into several compartments dedicated to research, teaching and student club activities. A computerized control system monitors and regulates environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, and light intensity in each greenhouse compartment, providing optimal conditions for plant growth and a first-rate experience for students and researchers.

The project was made possible through private donations and funding from Iowa State University.

Architectural Firm: Baldwin White Architects, Tom Baldwin and Dusica Stankovic
Engineer: Howard R. Green Company
Civil Engineer: Snyder and Associates
Structural Engineer: Raker Rhodes Engineering
General Contractor: Story Construction
Subcontractors: Albert J. Lauer Greenhouse, Inc., Jaspering Electric,
L.A. Fulton & Sons
Construction and Project Management
Project Manager – Mark Huss
Construction Manager – Lynn Burnett
Department of Horticulture – Jeffery Iles, chair;
Richard Gladon and Pete Lawlor
Horticulture Teaching & Research
Greenhouse Complex

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Ascochyta Disease Across the State

Dave Minner, ISU Extension Turfgrass Specialist
Mark Gleason, ISU Extension Plant Pathologist
Erika Saalau, ISU Plant Diagnostic Clinic

For the second year in a row Ascochyta has hit lawns, athletic fields, and golf course turf. Ascochyta leaf blight is a grass fungus that causes a rapid straw to bleached appearance of the leaves primarily on Kentucky bluegrass and to a lesser extent on perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. The damaged lawns started showing up around the first of June and out breaks have been occurring all summer long. Some of the more severely damaged areas may require 3 or 4 weeks of good growing conditions to fully recover.

The damaged areas seem to occur very quickly; one day the grass appears fine and the next there is bleached tan grass everywhere and most noticeably where the mower tires track. In fact, to those unfamiliar with this problem they think that someone has damaged the lawn with a pesticide or fertilizer application. The Ascochyta related problems I am seeing have nothing to do with product applications. The fungus likes to grow during wet conditions favored by lots of rain or over irrigation. Infectious spores are everywhere throughout the lawn and with a sudden increase in hot temperatures they rapidly infect the stressed grass.

Tire tracks show up because the tires spread the spores and also cause just enough abrasion stress for the fungus to enter the plan tissue. Look for bleached leaf tips that are collapsed. It looks devastating because the top part of the plant is severely damaged but the crowns and lower stems are seldom killed. The attacks are so haphazard that it is impossible to give a good recommendation as to when to avoid mowing but in general raising the mowing height and mowing less frequently will reduce your chance of experiencing a mowing track incidence. It is interesting to note that Ascochyta blight in home lawns only occurs in full sun areas and it stops where the shaded lawn has less heat stress.

The damage at first appears very dramatic but the good news is to simply be patient because most of the damage is on the leaves while the crowns and roots of the plant are not damaged. As the plants continue to grow and after about a month of normal mowing the damaged leaf tips will be removed and the lawn will return to normal.
Normally we don’t recommend a preventative fungicide because it occurs too haphazardly and a curative fungicide doesn’t help after the leaf tissue is blighted. However, if you have experienced this in the same lawns and athletic fields for two years in a row you may want to consider a single preventative application of a fungicide next year from mid May to mid June.

Much of the turf I have sampled this summer has been confirmed to be Ascochyta by laboratory identification of spores. Like most of you old timers over the years I have observed tire tracking that we have assumed to be related to hot or dry conditions. Laboratory identification of the pathogen is the best way to determine if it was related to Ascochyta. Next year we will be conducting research with fungicides, moisture conditions, and wheel pressure to determine what is causing the tire tracking; is it Ascochyta or is it simply high temperature or low moisture stress. I think most of the blighting and wheel tracking we observed in June and July were associated with Ascochyta. To a lesser degree we may have also observed some wheel tracking from high temperature/drought stress.

Areas that have been severely injured can be recovered by dethatching, hollow tine aerification, and reseeding in September.

Here are some of the Ascochyta injured lawns that we have observed in Iowa during the summer of 2011.

Ascochyta in mower streaks on athletic field in Iowa City, IA.  Picture taken 7/15/11.

Close up of Ascochyta symptoms on Kentucky bluegrass.  Note the bleached leaf tips and banding of leaf blades.  These symptoms are different from dollar spot that has leaf lesions with bleached centers and brown boarders.

Obvious tire tracks from mower associated with Ascochyta in Ankeny, IA.  Picture taken 5/20/11.

Picture in Ames, IA showing wheel and deck tracks associated with Ascochyta.  Picture taken 6/16/11.

Ascochyta can also injure lawns without leaving the mowing tracks.  Picture taken in Ames, IA 6/16/11.

Wheel track lawn injury from Ascochyta but notice that the tracks are not present in the shaded areas where the grass has less heat stress.  The Ascochyta spores may be present everywhere but it usually requires a period of sudden heat or drought before symptoms appear.  Picture taken 6/1711 Ames, IA.

More Ascochyta mower tracks from Parkersburg, IA.

Darker green lawn (bottom) with higher nitrogen fertility shows more Ascochyta injury than lower fertility lawn (top).  Nitrogen applied at 2 to 4 lbs N/1000sqft/yr is suggested to maintain healthy lawn growth.

Low maintenance (no fertilizer and no irrigation) Kentucky bluegrass along roadside showing mower tracks with Ascochyta injury.  Even though high nitrogen can cause lush growth that increases infection in this case turf was injured in a low nitrogen situation.

Mowing tracks on golf course fairway.  Injury occurred during a period when turf was not wilted or under low moisture stress.  Grass died in lower wet areas but recovered on sloped areas.  Also notice that the tracks stop at higher cut rough in front of sand trap.  We will be conducting research next summer to discern what is Ascochyta related and what may be related to high temperature or drought stress wheel tracking.  Picture taken 7-20-11 Waverly, IA.