Sunday, July 29, 2012

CDGA Weekly Scouting Report - July 27 2012

July 27, 2012 Scouting Report

Three periods of Bentgrass Decline: Soil Temps Hover at 80°, Anthracnose, Pythium, Fairy Ring, Drought, Peter says Turf Field Day and Tim likes Flowers

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle - / Weather Blog

As July ends, we've learned a few things that a record-hot-brutal-summer can teach you! It turns our July, 2012 had three periods of bentgrass decline. In Chicago the first of our stressful periods began with the wondrous July 4th weather (a string of 100s pounded a cool humid landscape). Let's not forget the blessed rain! Severe thunderstorms are quite common for the upper midwest in summer and Chicago is wettest in July or August - just flip a coin to see. Quite probably it could be August in 2012...unfortunately. But I digress. Back to physiological decline of creeping bentgrass. It is something that is well documented by plant physiologists by use of controlled growth chambers. They found extended periods of supraoptimal temperatures meant presto - a slow to rapid decline of creeping bentgrass plant health. Soil temperature is key because it directly effects the rootzone environment and roots are not only responsible for water and nutrient uptake, but also other things like production of plant hormones and storage of photosynthetic carbohydrates. Once we realize bentgrass isn't creeping bentwondergrass, pieces of a sometimes confusing summertime puzzle make sense. A newer disease to blame? Nope. Instead the senario is likely: physiological decline predisposes bentgrass to some new and unusual 'diseases' or disorders. However, as was true in other unusual Chicago growing seasons (1988 and 1995) certain cultural practices help greens BIG time. Read on for more physiology...

Click here to view the July 27, 2012 Scouting Report.

Have a wonderful weekend - moderate Sat/Sun temps. Oh, and rest up for the month of August?

Derek Settle, PhD
Director of Turfgrass Program
Weather Blog

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS
Manager of Turfgrass Research
Research Blog

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's a Jungle Out There

We have been talking a lot about the weather, but insects are also causing issues this time of year. Two insects we are dealing with right now are cutworms and Cicada Killers.  You may have noticed flocks of birds pecking at the fairways over the last few weeks, they were looking for cutworms.  Sometimes blackbirds can keep the population of cutworms at a level that does not cause damage to the turf. Unfortunately the birds needed some help this year  Today we sprayed fairways for cutworms and thousands came up to die on the surface.  Cutworms not only attack the fairways but also the greens and tees.

Black Cutworms on the surface of a fairway.  Thousands could be seen dying on Thursday afternoon.
Flocks of blackbirds searching for cutworms.

Cicada Kills have also moved into some of the bunkers on the course.  This wasp is very intimidating, but not interested in people.  It likes cicadas.  The female finds a cicada, stings it so that it will be paralyzed and then brings it back to the hole that it made in the bunker.  After dragging it's pray into the hole she lays an egg on the cicada.  The egg then hatches and the larva feeds on the still living paralyzed cicada (fresh meat).  Would make for a good movie!

Cicada Killer coming out of his hole in a bunker.  We do spray for them, but they are very hard to control.  Don't worry, they look mean but are not interested in people.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

CDGA Weekly Update - July 20

July 20, 2012 Scouting Report

Record Hot and Dry: Soil Temps Reach 85°, Highs +90°, Needed Rain Returns, Peter says Tall Fescue & Tim's phrase is Drought Tolerance of Bentgrass

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle - / Weather Blog

July began hot, then eased for about a day but once again was over-the-top hot this week. Besides gaining an additional five days to tack onto that Chicago record of 26 days with highs +90°, the biggest story this week was what fell from the sky. It was rain, and in one evening and into the next morning some suburbs would record 2+ inches. For example, Sunshine Course in Lemont would total 2.3 inches of rain from July 18 to July 19. But in-between rare rain events our outdoor reality is that we've begun to accept a different look. Brown lawns and leaf-scorched trees are now common and has become our landscape look in 2012. The only alleviation is through use of automatic irrigation systems or alternative practices such as the labor intensive handwatering that superintendents and staff must do to maintain sand-based golf greens. In addition to the constant visual monitoring of midday wilt stress, today we maintain plant health with newer technology. Soil probes that we use to physically sample the rootzone to understand the belowground dynamics of soil and roots are now supplemented with electronic sensors used to generate maps of soil moisture across areas. This allows greater accuracy of water management this season, very necessary when average soil temperatures at a 2 inch depth touch 85 degrees or more (saw again this week). When too wet, soils cannot adequately release heat at night and roots can plain cook - just part of the story as oxygen is necessary for root life and wet soils also work against us by trapping toxic gas byproducts like CO2. The bottom line is summer 2012 has so far produced some of the warmest and driest growing conditions ever recorded. Our work continues as we advance through this record hot, dry summer and boy, it's gotten real ugly.

With the return of rain, we thought maybe just maybe we'll see the return of a normal summer? What we were thinking until a super-hot forecast appeared for next week. In the meantime, try and have a good weekend.

Click here to view the July 20, 2012 Scouting Report.

Derek Settle, PhD
Director of Turfgrass Program
Weather Blog

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS
Manager of Turfgrass Research
Research Blog

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Wizards Behind the Curtain

With all the posting about weather, need one about the crew that works each day to keep things alive.  In all kinds of weather they our outside; rain or shine, hot or cold these are the guys that try not to be seen.

Wednesday we received 0.29" of rain and last night another 0.66".  Enough to make the fairways to wet for carts.  We also were caught cutting fairways and tees on Wednesday - will have to finish Thursday, if it dries enough.

2012 Biltmore Grounds Crew

Sunday, July 15, 2012

CDGA Weekly Update - July 13, 2012

A few notes from the Biltmore Weather Station:

Rain Totals for the week : 0.23" (0.16" on Sat; 0.07 on Sun)
Rain Total for the last 43 days = 0.75" (ET = 8.09")
Rain Total since May 1 = 3.68" (ET = 12.94")

Forecast for the coming week is minimal rain mid week, highs on Mon, Tue in the upper 90's.



July 13, 2012 Scouting Report

A 'Cool' Break: Soil T Falls 10°, Record Heat Meant Poa/Bent Physiological Decline, Dry Means Lawns of Straw, Peter's Brown Patch and Tim says Bluegrass

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle - / Weather Blog

Tired. Not just because record heat has entered our supposed cool, humid environment but also because days are long 'at the end of a hose'. It makes sense when you consider +90° or +100° daytime highs versus the biology of a cool-season turfgrass system (poorly adapted to heat). Turf is tired. Just more item is needed to connect the dots. It's a single short sentence, often ambiguously said, "Fine turfgrass maintained for golf courses." It really means, "Intensive, sometimes extreme cultural practices are required to maintain golf greens." When it is record hot, we must adjust to reduce mechanical stress. We know nothing is more stressful than a sharp blade cutting grass and so it all starts there. It's simple, but it requires frequent monitoring and constant adjustment. If we do not, physiological decline of cool-season turf is certain. You see, a natural and gradual midsummer process of starvation (respiration exceeds photosynthesis) always exists. If we ignore it, one hot afternoon might be turf death. But for a break. Grass blades teetering on the edge of photosynthetic life saw a reprieve on Saturday July 6th when Canada blew a breeze our way (July 5th saw 102.6° versus July 10th saw 81.7°).

A very difficult week reversed itself and tired expressions on tanned outdoor faces began to change. The corners of mouths lifted on most superintendents. It was a smile. Still, one of the scariest summer growing seasons continues. When July looks and feels like August, but it's not. What will August look like? Only time will tell, but from my laptop (after I download multitudes of photos at day's end) this summer is no longer so green. Round 2 is about to begin. Here goes something!

Click here to view the July 13, 2012 Scouting Report.

Have a good weekend and nice to see a smile or two again out in the field this past week!

Derek Settle, PhD
Director of Turfgrass Program
Weather Blog

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS
Manager of Turfgrass Research
Research Blog

Friday, July 13, 2012


At 3:15PM on Friday, July 13th it rained 0.15" and temperature dropped from 91 to 70.  Not much rain you say, yes but in the last 42 days we have only received a bit over 1/2" of rain.   We are now in the 5th worst drought in Chicago history and just on the edge of being a Sever Drought as classified by the National Drought Monitor  (last week a Moderate Drought).  Only 1 in 28 years are ever this dry.  But it is not just the drought, but the heat.  We are on track to record a record number of  90 degree temps.  O'hare typically sees 17- 90 degree temps in a summer.  By the end of next week they could record 33.

Picked up 0.15" of rain today, bringing our 42 day total to 0.67" of rain.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weather Stats at Biltmore

A little checking of our weather from the station at Biltmore, which is typically lower than O’Hare readings:

So far this season (Since March 1) – High Temps:
  • 80-84 Degrees, 17 days
  • 85-89 Degrees, 13 days
  • 90-94 Degrees, 9 days
  • >95 Degrees , 6 days
Total above 80 = 45 days

In the last 28 days, we have had 27 highs above 80 and 1 below.  From June 28 – July 7 we had  9 days above 90 and 1 day below (86). During that same period we had 6 nights with a low greater than 80, the other 4 nights were above 74.
  • In the last 40 days we recorded 0.52” of rain.  Over that same time we have had an ET of 7.62” (shortfall of 7.1”)
  • In the last 73 days we recorded 2.48” of rain.  Over that same time we have had an ET of 11.81”(shortfall of 9.33”)
According to WGN, we would need 9-15” of rain spread over many days to break the drought.  This is also the hottest meteorological summer ever recorded so far and the 8th driest.

After reading that, this might make you feel a bit cooler..


Sunday, July 8, 2012

CDGA - Weekly Update - July 6, 2012

July 6, 2012 Scouting Report

Record Heat: Chicago Counts Days of 100s for Highs, All 3!, Dollar Spot, Brown Patch, Pythium Blight, Both Peter and Tim Say Dollar Spot as it Explodes

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle - / Weather Blog

When Chicago's cool, humid environment is no longer either we know it, and so does our landscape. A very difficult week for plant health was just experienced. As is always true, it's all about the weather. It was just last summer when a single daytime high crossed the century mark. That raised eyebrows in Chicago because our last 100 degree high had been in 2005. Chicago is now having one of its hottest summers on record. The last most similar summer dates to 1995. A golf course superintendent never forgets a bad summer and both 1995 and 1988 are at the top of that list. This week brought consecutive 100+ highs which began on July 4th and by day three, Friday, our official temps at airports O'Hare and Midway saw 103 and 105 respectively. On top of that we continue to remain as dry as we've been in a long time. As we look down, we find unirrigated lawns are now straw colored and some have even begun looking somewhat white?!?

Golf courses in the upper Midwest deal exclusively with cool-season turf. Although we can have good control of irrigation inputs when it's dry, we have little to no control of temperature. The most troubling aspect is that peak summertime soil temperatures build on themselves during July and August and at the moment our current readings at a two inch depth have crossed into the 80s. In a majority of cases our current troubles are not disease, but instead midsummer physiological decline. Adjustment of cultural practices as needed can only maintain turf health. The heat is on.

Click here to view the July 6, 2012 Scouting Report.

Derek Settle, PhD
Director of Turfgrass Program
Weather Blog

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS
Manager of Turfgrass Research
Research Blog

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Three Down - One more....

Amazing weather - Yesterday the course took some pretty tough punches.  Time will tell if they are knockouts or just a bruise.  The bent looks fine, the poa is what concerns me, especially on greens. We will be taking it easy on the greens tomorrow (Sunday); we may only roll.  Today the high is predicted to be 95 - still very hot.   We may have to syringing the course this afternoon if it remains sunny and hot.  Yesterday we had difficulty running our irrigation pumps due power issues from ComEd (not enough electricity to satisfy the pumps).  We could only pump 300GPM (normally we could pump 2,000GPM), and if we exceeded that - the pump station shut down automatically to protect the motors.  With the cool weather predicted, this is a time to heal before the next hot spell arrives.  There is a chance of rain today, then pretty much nothing for the next 10 days.   Hot weather diseases have been active in the rough, but so far greens, tees and fairway fungicide treatments have been holding up.

Wet Spots:
We have two types of problem wet spots - the most common is from the sprinklers hitting trees/branches causing the water to "drop".  If you see a roped off wet spot, look around and I bet a tree is nearby.  The second most common cause of a wet area is from a sprinkler that sticks at night and just waters in one direction.  General wetness in the early morning is from us trying not to water to much at night when diseases are most active and playing catchup in the early AM.  We have more control in the morning to make sure only those areas that need water get it.  The downside is that fairways may be wetter in the early AM.  With the drought we have been watering more than ever before and many of the peat soil fairways remain bone dry.

We have used more water this year, then most.
 For those interested in the stats, see below from WGN:
  1. Up to the current hot spell, only four years since 1871 had produced four or more daily 100s: 1934, 1947, 1953, 1988. This year (2012) is now among them.
  2. The three back to back 100-degree days just completed here--102-degrees Wednesday and 103-degree highs Thursday and Friday, all record breakers--constitute one of only three such strings over Chicago's 142-year observational record. It was 65 years ago in 1947 that we last experienced three consecutive 100-degree or higher temperatures.
  3. And, the opening six days of July included within the 10-day period of heat being discussed here, is the hottest in 101 years! The period from July 1-7 has produced an average temperature of 87.4-degrees in Chicago which is an extraordinary 13.8-degrees above normal!    

Friday, July 6, 2012

Two Down - One or Two more..

The weather people look to be changing their minds - go figure.  The heat was to break on Saturday, but now they are calling for the heat to subside by Sunday.  So far so good, turf is stressing but surviving.  The total effects of the heat are sometimes not seen for several days.

With the tournament on Saturday, we will cut greens and roll - but have raised the mowers .005" - may not sound like much, but it does help the turf and will make the greens a bit slower.

  • Afternoon syringes help give the turf a breather.  Sorry for any inconvenience this watering may cause.
  • Since June 1st we have had 0.63" of rain and ET for the same period is now at 6.57". 
  • Excessive Heat Warning continues until 4PM Saturday.  High for Friday is predicted to be 103 and 96 on Saturday.
Comparison of the 1995 heat wave to our current heat wave:

1995       July 12         July 13         July 14         July 15         July 16
                97°              104°             100°             98°               93°

2012        July 2           July 3           July 4           July 5           July 6          July 7
                 98°               96°              102°             103°             103°*           96°*
* predicted highs
For more detailed info check out the National Weather Service Heat Wave comparisons for Chicago.

For more info on the USGA recommendations on how to manage turf in the heat follow thin link:
USGA Summer Heat Is On

According to the US Drought Monitor, we are now in a "Moderate Drought, as of July 3rd.
Drought Monitor - Midwest

Stay cool!
Hand watering fairways - not something you typically see at Biltmore

Thursday, July 5, 2012

One Down - Two to go

We made it past the first of three very stressful days.  It was not without a challenge.  Around 3 PM yesterday we experienced a "Brownout"; not enough electric power available to run our irrigation pumps.  Not an ideal situation when you want to syringe the course to cool it down.  Luckily we have a backup generator large enough to run our irrigation pumps.

The power returned to normal in time for the night watering, but I would expect more power issues today and Friday.

We will only be rolling greens today (not mowing).   Water may be running throughout the day as needed.

Our backup generator - came in handy yesterday.

Diseases are very active in the rough - greens, tees and fairways are clear so far.
From WGN: "The rarity of Chicago temperatures at that level (high temp of 102) can't be overstated.  Of 51,465 daily temperatures which have been archived over the 142 years of official weather observations in Chicago, only 19 of them have reached or exceeded that level."

104 is forecasted for today and 103 for Friday.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hot Weather -- Really Hot!!

The below says it all.  Over the next 3 days, our goal is to keep things alive.  This will mean water running during the day and slower greens.  Please keep the long term health of the course in mind and not how fast the greens are today.  CLICK the chart below to read more.  Stay cool and happy 4th of July! 

At Biltmore:
Since June1st we have had 0.63" of rain vs ET of 6.16" (a loss of 5.53" of moisture)
Since May 1st we have had 3.45" of rain vs ET of 10.91" (a loss of 7.46" of moisture)

Without the new well, we would most likely be running out of water about now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

ET - What is it?

ET (Evapotranspiration) is a value that is used to describe how much water evaporates from the soils.  This is typically expressed in a daily amount.  It is a reference; an estimate based on calculations from a weather station.  Actual amounts can vary considerably depending on soil type, plant/crop and local conditions (under a tree - full sun).  But a useful tool to get an idea as to how drying a day, week or month was.

For the month of June we had a ET rate of 5.59" with 0.63" of rainfall recorded from the weather station on the course.  This leaves an estimate of nearly 5" shortfall in water, which is impossible to replace without error using a modern day irrigation systems.

How do we use ET?
Based on the previous days ET, we use it to adjust the irrigation system up or down.   The system is also adjusted based on weather forecast for the coming day (manually) and this is where things get tricky.  If there is a high chance or rain the next AM, we may hold off or back off on the irrigation - but if the next day is looking hot and dry we may up it a bit so we can make it through the next day.

Mother Nature sometimes doesn't play fair.  Sometimes the forecast looks like rain, but never shows.  Then there is the no rain is forecast and a storm pops up.  Once the irrigation system runs at night, no undoes.  To hedge our bets, sometimes we run a light cycle at night and do catchup in the AM.  But even this has its drawbacks - water running when the first groups tee off.

To add one more complication, at Biltmore we have two very different types of soils - peat and clay.  Nearly 60% of the golf course is on peat and not all the peat is the same.  Some fairways are half peat and half clay.  Some peat has degraded into a rich topsoil while other areas are very much like true peat (has the consistency of a sponge and made up of compressed cattails) and vary in depth, up to 30' in some areas.   If it is not peat, then clay is the norm at Biltmore (very little good topsoil).  If I had my choice, I would take clay over peat any day of the week!  But that is what makes it fun - the challenge.

Forecast for the week:
The forecast is for a chance t-storms daily, highs in the mid 90's and lows in the 70's with high humidity.  Turf diseases which have been absent for most of this year are starting to show up (in the rough right now) and I would expect become worse this week.  The ten day looks promising, it is just getting through the next 7 days.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

CDGA Weekly Update - June 29, 2012

June 29, 2012 Scouting Report

June Ends HOT: 1st Type 2 Fairy Ring on Greens, Dollar Spot Jumps After Rain, Japanese Beetles Build, Peter's 1st Dollar Spot Data and Tim says Tall Fescue

Chicago/Northern Illinois Update: Derek Settle - / Weather Blog

Summer just got Record Super Hot. Until now we have been praising our cool-season turf for its deep roots and good color. "Good, nice, wow, terrific." And in response our turf has listened by glowing green and blemish free (given supplemental irrigation). This week things started to change. Peak summer heat entered our Midwest sky above (early) as an ominous forecast of 90s to 100s for highs strung themselves together. Accordingly we began to see signs of plant stress and our miniature boat-shaped leaf blades on greens, Poa annua, gave its first whelp of summer.

This recent amber hue is now commonly occurring on Poa greens in Chicago, yet for the average eye all is well and the putting green looks fine. However, for superintendents this all-to-familiar-look means normal plant physiology of fine turf is no longer the same. On golf surfaces, physiological decline has begun and touche, in response they're moderating maintenance on greens. On especially hot days we back off. As far as ball roll or those green speeds you won't be able to tell as natural plant growth regulators are now in place - high temperature, midday wilt stress and high light levels. With plant growth next to nil careful inventory and evaluation of habitual stressors begins. Like the extra mechanical wear which always rings the cleanup laps of greens. Like traffic patterns on turf (the stressful effects of concentrated foot traffic on greens, and harsh traffic patterns of carts on fairways/roughs). Talk about a hot summer huh. Well it is!

Click here to view the June 29, 2012 Scouting Report.

Have a nice weekend and enjoy your 4th of July. Thankfully rain seems to have returned.

Derek Settle, PhD
Director of Turfgrass Program
Weather Blog

Timothy A. Sibicky, MS
Manager of Turfgrass Research
Research Blog