Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hot, Humid and the Bog

Hot, humid, wet weather is expected to return.  This type of weather is favorable to disease activity - especially the top three killers- dollar spot, brown patch and the dreaded pythium.  Pythium can kill large areas of turf overnight - entire greens/ fairways/ rough.

We treat greens, tees and fairways but the rough is not treated due to the cost of the chemicals - and even when you treat, control is not assured.

This summer has been very stressful, not only on the turf but the crews managing them - we have not had the real high day time temps, but the hot, humid nights are the silent killers.  As the soil temps have been rising and without the ability of the turf to cool and breath at night, roots on the turf have been shrinking.  Short roots make the turf more vulnerable to drought, diseases and other stresses.  Hopefully the forecasts are wrong and cooler, drier, less humid weather is coming - more typical of September.

Last week we finished seeding areas in the rough that died in the previous month.  Almost all of the large areas were where trees had been removed in the last year (mostly Ash trees).  The last three summers were relatively mild which allowed the Poa to grow.  This summer being hot, very humid and dry permitted the diseases to overtake the Poa.  It is a constant battle with the Poa at Biltmore - especially on the bog (with is all of the lower part of the golf course - including holes, 1,2,3,4,6,8,9,10,11,part of 13, 14,18 and 1,8,10,13 greens are also on the bog.  So when someone says - why does Biltmore have so much poa - its the peat bog.  The soil of the bog influence plants with  its very high organic and water holding (take a look around - not to many different types of trees on the bog).  The bog can stay very wet, except when the peat dries out, then it can catch fire and burn for months.  Moist humid air also settles over the bog at night.  Sometimes in the late evening you can feel the difference as you drive from 9 fairway up to 9 green, or 1 tee down to 1 fairway.  The bog sits in bowl, compared to the surrounding landscape.  This moist air helps diseases to fester and grow at night.

The bog is like no other golf course - some courses have a few holes, very few have greens, tees and fairways built on a peat bog.  The challenges in maintaining a golf course with this much peat (in areas the peat it is over 30' deep) are numerous - one other tidbit, our irrigation system is a one of a kind in the Midwest - it is held together by special ductile fittings which had to be warped in plastic so they would not corrode in the peat.  These fittings are used to hold natural gas lines together in earthquake zones (like California).   The fittings are needed because the pipes move in the looseness of the peat.  The peat does not stay put - it is always moving.  Even so, we still have pipes come apart in the peat - at least a half dozen each year.  A few years back there was a small earthquake - only a few people even felt it, the next day we had a dozen leaks because the peat moved like a bowl of jelly and loosened up the fittings.

The  bog is unique - requires special tools and management, the type they don't teach in school but has to be learned on the job, because, really who would build a golf course on a peat bog away? :)