Sunday, 26 December 2010

Understanding Heat Stress on Turf


The current run of high temperatures, excessive rainfall, and high humidity are pushing our turf to its limits. Cool-season turfgrass such as Bent and Poa are under severe stress as temperatures climb and humidity remains high," Southern Ontario is experiencing unprecedented heat and humidity this summer and this will impact your course.

When you think about turfgrass, it’s always under stress. It begins by cutting turf to a lower height than it’s accustomed to, its increased when we have extensive foot traffic and it becomes problematic when other factors such as heat, drought or disease pushes it to the limit. We are in one of the more challenging periods we have seen for quite some time.

The answer is to back off on mowing, both in height and frequency, but we all know members don’t like that. While there may be some short-term impact on conditioning the alternative is the loss of grass and potential closure of greens.

I’m sure some members will assume that additional water will cool the green off, but they fail to realize that this is heat stress and not drought stress. The water can be counter-productive if the quality is poor or the course is already saturated since this will increase the chance of a disease outbreak that can be even worse.

So what should you expect at your course? This is beyond normal. Don’t be surprised to see the following: the mowing heights will be raised, cutting frequency reduced, all cultural practices cancelled, no double cutting or rolling for an event, frequent hand watering in small amounts, no applications of fertilizer, more control over the carts.

You need to understand some courses will weather this better than others, but most are barely hanging on. What is important right now is to manage the golf course in a manner so that turf can be kept alive until that point. This is an excellent time for you as a member to support the superintendent and allow them the flexibility they need to save your course for another day.

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