RHODE ISLAND GOLF COURSE SUPERINTENDENTS ASSOCIATION

Current News

  • August 27, 2019 12:19 PM | Julie Heston (Administrator)

    The New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation has been funding research now more than 20 years with more than $2.5 Million in funds spent as of 2019.  Currently, the foundation has 8 projects being funded for 2019 that amount to $135,131.00.  Since the start of this initiative, 86 projects have been funded by the foundation.  Some are multi-year projects, and some are just for a one-year duration.  Even though we are extremely proud of these numbers, it is by no means all the research that is ongoing at local universities.  By making your way to a university field day, you will gain a greater understanding of the whole picture and what our New England schools mean to our industry.  Here are some quick explanations of what is being funded by the foundation and researched during the growing season of 2019.

    1.    Solvita™ Soil Test Kits to Categorize Golf Course Fairway Responsiveness to N Fertilization.  Dr. Karl Guillard of UConn has been working on this subject for the last 3 years and will soon be completed.  This funding is partial funding of a larger project of the same name with the USGA focusing on fairway turf which is the largest part of a golf course’s fertilization program.  Using this method of testing could assist superintendents to adjust N-fertilization amounts depending on the response expected which can have positive benefits on their budgets and the environment.

    2.    Evaluation of Fairway Rolling Frequency, Rolling Start Time, and Thatch Accumulation for Control of Dollar Spot.  Dr. Geunhwa Jung of UMass had conducted research to exam the potential of rolling for Dollar Spot control which resulted in a 40-60% reduction.  This project is an expansion of that original research using rolling techniques to benefit Dollar Spot control efforts.  This research will further evaluate rolling frequency, determine a seasonal start time and investigate the influence that rolling may have on thatch accumulation due to a compression effect.   With all the money spent controlling Dollar Spot each year, looking outside the box and identifying steps that show reductions is a welcomed sight.  This project is going beyond 2019 and data collection will be completed in the fall of 2020.

    3.    SDHI Resistance in Dollar Spot, Development of Management Strategies and Detection Testing.  Dr. Jung had confirmed SDHI resistance of Dollar Spot in New England in 2017.  This project will determine the extent of cross-resistance of SDHIs, determine practical recommendations to combat resistance, monitor changes in resistance and then to develop a diagnostic test to determine resistance type.  The SDHI fungicide class is the largest class of fungicides on the market.  Six of eight active ingredients are labeled for dollar spot, understanding the fate of an application and the potential resistance would be critical to a superintendent.

    4.    The Effect of Turfgrass Seed Mixtures, Seeding Rate and Mowing Timing on Weed Productions in Establishing Pesticide-Free Athletic Fields and Lawn Areas, Dr. Jason Henderson and Ms. Vickie Wallace of UConn are nearing the end of this 2-year project.  Due to the growing number of restrictions on athletic fields associated with youth sports, this project addresses the topics within establishment to reduce weeds on pesticide free athletic fields and home lawns.  Determining factors like seed mixtures, seeding rates and mower timing all could affect an acceptable outcome and better conditions for youth to play on.   

    5.    Evaluation of Wildflowers and Trap Nests to Increase Forage and Habitat for Bee’s around New England Golf Courses.  Dr. Steve Alm, URI recently submitted this project for three years.  The long-term objective is to recruit golf courses into helping local bee populations recover from the recent declines in populations by creating available pollinator habitats, shelters and minimizing the negative effects of pesticides.  Golf courses and especially those that have out of play areas will be encouraged to establish bee forage plantings, install trap nests to help bees establish colonies on the property, and evaluate insecticide choices to minimize adverse effects on populations.  One of the outcomes Steve hopes to make available will be a seminar introducing beekeeping to golf courses.  

    6.    Earthworm Species, Seasonal Phenology and Effect of Wetting Agents on Earthworm Castings and Abundance on New England Golf Courses.  Dr. Olga Kostromystka, newly appointed professor at UMass submitted this project for funding for two years.  Most superintendents recognize the goodness to the soil ecosystem and the nuisance to the playing surfaces of earthworm populations.  More knowledge is needed to understand the habits of earthworms and the use of registered products with possible benefits that can help prevent worm castings on the surface.  Wetting agents have shown some promise but more information is needed.

    7.    Exploring Methods to Enhance Biocontrol of Turfgrass Diseases.  Dr. John Inguagiato of UConn submitted this proposal in 2019 for two years.  The idea of expanding biocontrol management of turfgrass diseases would greatly benefit places such as schools where they have band the use of pesticides.  Sports turf also uses loads of Perennial Ryegrass which is susceptible to Gray Leaf Spot.  It would be an objective to identify a product that could be used in this capacity and be permissible on restricted space.  John is also communicating with Dr. Joseph Roberts at the University of Maryland.

    8.    Comparing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Soil Microbial Populations from Turfgrass Fertilized with Slow-release Synthetic Fertilizer or an Organic Fertilizer.  Dr. Karl Guillard, UConn, submitted this two-year study in 2019.  There is much speculation and differences of opinion of benefits of organic versus slow release synthetic fertilizers to the environment.  Questions concerning soil microbe populations and the status of greenhouse gas emissions will be measured to clear up this speculation.  

    These eight ongoing projects as well as the final chapter’s preparation of the BMP project, which are expected to be finished this summer, may increase the total funding for 2019 to $165,131.00.  If you have any questions about any of the research being presently done, please feel free to communicate with these researchers. 

    There is much going on, and we compliment everyone involved for their hard work and dedication. 

    Thank you,
    Gary J. Sykes, Executive Director  

  • March 25, 2019 3:53 PM | Julie Heston (Administrator)

    Nematodes on the March (or Wiggle)…
    Dr. Nathaniel Mitkowski
    Chair, Dept. of Plant Sciences and Entomology
    University of Rhode Island
    March 2019


    It’s about this time of year when superintendents start asking me, “When should I start sampling my greens for nematodes?”  This is a difficult question to answer because it’s a moving target.  There really is no specific answer.  Firstly, ever year is different. Some springs are warm, some are cold, some are wet and some are dry.  If there is still snow on the ground, it’s probably not worth sampling.  But that’s only because you can’t treat over snow.  When the soil is not frozen, nematodes will be feeding, even under snow.  Usually this is at a low level and not a problem but residual fall populations can remain very high throughout the winter, even in frozen soils.  Last year, Russian scientists reported resurrecting nematodes that had been frozen in the Siberian tundra for 41,700 years.  So nematodes are pretty hardy.  If we get an early thaw or a very warm winter, sampling earlier is better. When we talk about insects, we think about “generations”.  ABW might have 3 generations over the growing season.  Nematodes do not usually have generations.  Nematode life-cycles are temperature dependent.  In turf soil, they just reproduce and feed continually, in direct proportion to the amount of heat in the soil.  The warmer it is, the more feeding damage they cause and the more eggs they lay. Eggs usually hatch quickly after being laid so populations can grow rapidly with warm temperatures.  Unfortunately, this can even happen with nematicides in place, especially towards the end of an application interval.  

    Secondly, if you have sampled before and have never had a problem, you may not need to track as regularly.  If you did a late fall application, your spring numbers are likely to be low and you may not need to sample until the end of May or June. And if you have made a spring application without sampling, you may not need to formally check your numbers until the summer (although it never hurts to be prudent and check earlier). Sadly, it turns out that even after years of research, we don’t have a good handle on why some courses have perennial nematode problems and others do not.  We do know that push-up greens are more susceptible to nematodes.  We also know that many nematodes prefer Poa and velvet bentgrass.  And older courses usually have more nematodes than newer courses.  But newer courses are built on sand with lots of creeping bentgrass so each one of the variables we identify is strongly linked!  It’s difficult to separate these factors experimentally.  In general, new sand based greens rarely even see significant nematode populations within the first 10 years.

    So to answer the question, my standard reply is “the end of March or beginning of April”.  But that could shift earlier or later, based on the weather.  If is it a very wet spring, nematodes are not going to do very well and populations will remain lower for longer.  But in February 2018, I tested greens from a Rhode Island golf course that had stunt nematode levels reaching 21,000 nematodes/100 cc soil.  You read that correctly: 21,000.  The threshold for this sample was approximately 2,000 nematodes.  And at 21,000 stunt nematodes, rooting will be minimal into April and turf will be lost by July.  We always hope that the winter will result in some nematode mortality but as mentioned previously, nematodes are very hardy.  We don’t always see a significant drop in numbers even in the coldest winters.  Water may be more important than temperature.

    Sampling technique is as important as sampling timing. It is important to note that a single sampling or single green is not going to tell you much.  Nematode populations change over time and they are not the same on every green.  My recommendation is to pick three greens.  They can be the worst quality greens but they should not be the best quality greens. Or they can all be mediocre quality greens.  Avoiding the best quality greens is important because these are likely to have the lowest nematode populations or have the best environmental conditions, making them more resistant to nematode damage.  Quality isn’t always easy to define but you know it when you see it and you’ll have past seasons to tell you who the troublemakers are.  Once you have your greens picked, do three annual samplings.  Start with late March/early April.  If nematodes are low, great.  If not, you can treat and your root mass will respond accordingly.  Then check again in mid/late May.  Once again, nematode populations are increasing.  If they were low in April, they could still be low.  Or not.  Do at least one more sampling in the end of June or beginning of July.  This is when populations are really going to climb.  If they are low, you are probably good for the rest of the year.  If they are high, treat.  If the fall is very warm and long, like in 2017, additional sampling in September or October may be required.  But it all depends on which chemicals you have applied and how your roots are growing.  We have seen populations that were treated in June bounce back by October but this matters less if you have an actively growing root system in the fall. 

    While cup-cutters can be used to suggest a nematode-related issue, they are not the best strategy.  If you are going to track your nematodes regularly, you need the data to be repeatable and comparable.  The only way to get this type of reliable data is to take composite samples.  For each green you want to sample, you need to take 20-25 cores and combine them in one bag.  This is an average, or composite sample.  Cores should be taken an approximately equal distance from each other (5 foot centers is common) and they should form a grid.  The more cores you take, the more reliable the data.  Thirty cores is a very good number of cores, 20 is a minimum amount.  In addition, every time the green is resampled, the cores should be taken from the same area of the green.  Repeatability is important in comparing numbers across time. 

    There isn’t one specific formula for tracking and treating nematodes.  Almost everything happening on a golf course is primarily influenced by weather conditions and nematodes are no different.  But I do not recommend treating preventatively.  We treat fungal disease preventatively because we know dollar spot is going to pop up or that Pythium blight will be a problem in a certain area after a string of 90° days.  But nematodes are more fickle.  If you spend a lot of money treating in April, your nematicide may no longer be working in July.  And you might have to do it again.  And you may not have needed it in the first place.  Ultimately, you may be spending a good piece of your budget and be putting an unnecessary application into the environment.  The only way to know if you need to treat is to track your nematodes.  And once your numbers are determined, we can talk about the right strategy based on the numbers, your budget, greens conditions and time of year.   

    Finally, most of what I’ve outlined really only applies to nematodes in the northern Unites States.  South of the Mason-Dixon line, nematodes go from being a manageable problem to being an outright scourge.  If you are fighting sting nematodes and growing bermudagrass, all bets are off.  Fortunately, both of these organisms are still dissuaded from taking root in the North because of our cold winters. 

  • November 20, 2018 11:46 AM | Julie Heston (Administrator)

    Sara Tucker recently presented her research work to the RIGCSA members at the November meeting.  Sara was the 2017 Dr. Noel Jackson Research Fellowship recipient.  Her project title is Bee Forage and Habitat for Rhode Island Golf Courses. She is currently a graduate student at URI working with Dr. Alm in the Entomology Lab.

    To view a PDF file of the presentation, click here

  • May 09, 2017 4:08 PM | Julie Heston (Administrator)

    As part of Thank a Superintendent Week (May 8 - May 14), GCSAA has asked us to share the attached documents with our members.  See how you can help spread the message.

    Click here for talking points

    Click here for Social Media kit


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