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Archive for July, 2012

European crane fly

I have had quite a few emails and calls within the last week about birds and mammals digging in turf.  When the turf is examined closely, the only insects present are crane fly larvae (leatherjackets).  The perplexing thing is that usually the leatherjackets are fairly deep in the soil at this time of year (of course there has been nothing usual about this year).  Inevitably, the question comes up – are they European crane fly larvae or common crane fly larvae?  The answer is “I am not sure”.  My next question is “Did you see a lot of adult crane flies flying in May?”.  If they did not, then it is most likely European crane fly larvae.  (more…)

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There was fairly widespread rain over southwestern Ontario early Thurs. July 26th, 2012 bringing roughly 15-20 mm to most areas.  It has been surprising how fast some of the non-irrigated turf has responded.  Other areas that were drier and deeper into dormancy are not showing any green-up yet.  It will be interesting to see how many of the areas do or don’t come back.  Here in the Guelph area, we went 4 weeks without any substantial rain.   To our knowledge this is usually ok and when we start going over the 4 week mark, we predict that some of the turf might not come back.  Let’s see if were were right.

In spite of all the good things this most recent rain has brought, there is also a down side, especially on golf course turf.  The rain could trigger more summer patch disease, which has already been fairly active.  The rain softens the greens surfaces and can lead to scalping, which in turf can lead to anthracnose basal rot. The GTI Turf Diagnostics lab has had samples of both of those diseases this week.   (more…)

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A plethora of insects

There is a long list of insects that can be found in the turf at the moment.  These include hairy chinch bugs, black turfgrass ataenius, annual bluegrass weevils,  black cutworm and Japanese beetle adults. 

Hairy chinch bug

We continue to do post-treatment counts on our hairy chinch bug trials.  The majority of the chinch bugs are mid-late instar nymphs.  This means that we are not at the peak of nymph feeding.  This also means that we are not at the peak of hairy chinch bug damage yet.  All of this is almost academic.  Most lawns throughout the southwestern part of the province are dormant.  Hairy chinch bug damage will not be evident until we get rain and the lawns come out of dormancy.  Based on the heat and the amount of hairy chinch bug pressure that we see, we are expecting the damage to be quite extensive. 

Black turfgrass ataenius

As far as black turfgrass ataenius are concerned, we are seeing large populations of very small (1st and 2nd instar) at the moment in our monitoring.  Surprisingly, we are not seeing any damage yet.  We are completely surprised by this.  With the numbers of grubs that we are finding (15-20 per cup changer) and the high ET rates that we are experiencing, we are expecting to see extensive damage.  Right in amongst the BTA grubs are pupae of annual bluegrass weevil.  That is good news.  The damage from annual bluegrass weevil is most likely a thing of the past for this season.

Black cutworm

Erica Gunn found some cutworms in her routine soap flushes this morning.  This is not surprising because we have seen lots of pecking holes from birds pecking the cutworms out of their burrows. 

cutworm from a soap flush

cutworm from a soap flush

Japanese beetle

Lastly, there continues to be abundant Japanese beetle adults around.  Since Japanese beetle eggs do not survive well in dry soils, I expect that they are selecting the irrigated turf areas to lay their eggs.  It doesn’t look good for egg survival on non-irrigated sites.  We won’t know if this is the case until mid-October though. 

 Japanese beetle adult on a golf green

Japanese beetle adult on a golf green

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In the Guelph area, we have not had a significant rainfall in over 4 weeks and the forecast does not look promising.  Almost all of the non-irrigated turf is dormant, with the only exception being turf in the shade.  On a postitive note, there is a lot of drought research being conducted at the GTI and with the lack of rain, the results should be very interesting. 

What are some of the key things to keep in mind when conditions are so dry?

  • Letting a lawn go dormant is ok.  The length of time a lawn can be dormant without killing the turf depends on grass species, soil type, depth of topsoil,  exposure (sun vs. shade), slope, etc.  A lawn can usually be dormant for 4-5 weeks without losing grass.  As we move beyond that to the six to eight week mark, expect to see some irreversible damage.
  • A domant lawn is fragile.  Make sure you keep traffic off of it and stop mowing or fertilizing.
  • If you are letting a lawn go dormant, commit to doing that.  Bringing a lawn in and out of dormancy is very hard on it and exhausts its carbohydrate reserves.
  • Once we get beyond the six week mark without water, it might be a good idea to give dormant turf a light watering of roughly 1 cm every three or so weeks to help it survive.  This amount of water will not bring it out of dormancy, but it will help it survive a long dormant period.
  • We hope to have more information on the best species and cultivars for drought tolerance over the next several years, which will hopefully provide homeowners with more drought tolerant options for their lawns, including more drought tolerant Kentucky bluegrass cultivars and tall fescue.

    Dormant turf and wilted dandelion

    Dormant turf and wilted dandelion

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Sometime between Fri. July 13th and Mon. July 16th, 2012, brown patch became active on golf course putting greens.  The forecast is calling for more of the same weather that caused this disease to become active.   Expect brown patch to remain active over the next week, with a little bit of respite tomorrow (Tues.) when temperatures are scheduled to drop about 5-6 degrees C.  A fungicide application to control brown patch may be warranted if you have areas on the golf course that has a history of brown patch.  We have some fairly large patches on the GTI pathology green.  These are generally not treated with fungicide and the good news is that this disease doses not disrupt the putting surface and we rarely lose turf from this disease. 

The other disease symptom that is quite evident now is take-all patch.  The high heat and evapotranspiration rates have resulted in the take-all patch symptoms showing up.  This will only instensify over the next couple of weeks, given the weather forecast. Acidifying fertilizers, when the weathe is cool will help manage this disease as well as managanese treatments in spring and fall.  Fungicides are best used preventatively to control this disease.

active brown patch

active brown patch on creeping bentgrass

 

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With so little rain, high day and night temperatures and lack of dew, there have been very few foliar disases of turf reported from golf courses and GTI Turf Diagnostics. That doesn’t mean that putting green turf is doing well.  The GTI Turf Diagnostics has reported seeing summer patch and anthracnose on some of the samples that have been submitted.   Those of you that had the high temperatures coupled with thundershowers will be more prone to summer patch than those superintendents who have had no rain and are managing their irrigation properly.  Most of the samples that have been submitted are annual bluegrass from putting greens that is yellow and off colour.  On most of these samples there has not been a pathogen detected.  The record heat on Fri. July 6, 2012 has really heated up the soil and the result is root death of annual bluegrass.  If you combine the high soil temperature (greater than 30C)with shade and poor air movement on greens when the air temperature is greater than 30C it is no wonder that the annual bluegrass is suffering.  Some of the measures that can be taken to help relieve the stress on annual bluegrass greens are the use of fans, raising mowing height and syringing turf in the heat of the day.  Looking at the long term forecast, there is no end in sight to this hot weather, so have a plan in place to help your turf survive the heat. 

off colour annual bluegrass

off colour annual bluegrass

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My colleagues (Dr. Michael Brownbridge and his gang) and my summer student and I have had our heads in buckets of water for a couple days straight setting up hairy chinch bug trials.  Our observations so far are as follows:

  • Much of the turf damage so far is either drought related or from bluegrass billbugs.  They do the bulk of their damage before hairy chinch bugs and this is consistent with what we are finding in the field.
  • We are finding loads of hairy chinch bug nymphs.  Most of them are 2nd or 3rd instar.  Hairy chinch bug damage is usually caused by the feeding of the 4th and 5th instar nymphs so the peak damage is probably a couple of weeks away.  There are several real challenges.  One is that it is difficult to detect hairy chinch bug damage when we are in a drought situation.  Drought and hairy chinch bug damage look the same until we get rains in Aug. or Sept. and the turf that had chinch bug feeding will not come back but the drought stress turf will.  The other challenge is what to do if you do detect that you have a heavy infestation of hairy chinch bugs.  Dr. Michael Brownbridge and I have had success in our research trials over the past two years with  Steinernema carpocapse nematodes giving roughly 50% control of hairy chinch bugs.  The turf needs to be watered before nematode applications and kept wet for a few days after the nematode applications.

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