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Archive for March, 2014

Ice thickness of 8-9 cm

Ice thickness of 8-9 cm

Ice thickness of 5 cm

Ice thickness of 5 cm

Dr. Ken Carey and Peter Purvis examining the ice layer Dr. Ken Carey and Peter Purvis examining the ice layer[/caption]

I couldn’t think of a better activity on the first full day of spring than to venture outside. My trusty partners in crime, Dr. Ken Carey and Peter Purvis and I took some tools out to the research greens and research ranges to assess the current spring conditions. I like to bring them along because they know how to use and like using power tools.

What we found isn’t that surprising. There is a range in snow depth from no snow to over 30 cm. Any areas that had snow also had a very thick ice layer below. The ice layer ranged in thickness from about 5-8 cm thick. What contributed to this thick ice layer was several cycles of snow melting and freezing in place. Hopefully some of you have been able to get out and remove some of the snow off your greens to prevent this very thing from happening.

One positive thing is that we did detect any odours once we were able to crack through the ice. The only odour we were able to detect was from all of the goose poop on the exposed areas of the turf. On the flip side though, the weather forcast for the next 5 days only has three days with temperatures above 0C and two out of the 5 days have more snow in the forcast. Suffice to say, I don’t think it is going to feel like spring for a while.

The next several weeks of freezing and thawing cycles will be a great test of winterhardiness for our tall fescue and perennial ryegrass trials here at GTI. We look forward to having some interesting data to share with you once real spring finally does come.

I welcome your comments on what you are seeing out on your golf courses, sportsfields etc..

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Black material to melt ice

Black material to melt ice

Your tractor, snow plow or snow blower engines that is. We are now hitting 75+ days with ice cover. The worst of the deep, cold temperatures are behind us. If you haven’t already, most superintendents are removing the snow cover and then attempting to break up the ice layer. Many of you have brought plugs in over the last month and the turf greened up fine. More recently, the plugs are varying from 100% dead to roughly 50% dead Poa annua. Many are reporting the rotting smell that is associated with anoxic conditions. The general consensus from many turf experts is that the risk from damage due to anoxia to annual bluegrass after this 75+ days of ice cover is greater than leaving the relatively bare greens subject to the still plunging temperatures forecast over the next week.
Ice removal
Techniques for breaking up the ice layer are varied. Some have relied on mechanical methods such as aerators and some have applied a dark material (including black sand or milorganite). There is some research that is underway this winter at Michigan State University, in collaboration with University of Minnesota (Dr.’s Frank and Horgan) to evaluate ice melters. There is some information about how the materials have performed so far in melting the ice. What is not yet know is what damage some of these ice melters can cause to the turf. For information about this study you can visit http://turf.umn.edu/category/brian-horgan/ .
Lingering cold temperatures
Assuming you do have success melting or breaking up the ice, the night time temperatures are going to dip down to the double digits on 5 out of the next 7 nights in southwestern Ontario. This will not be good news for turf that has had the insulating snow layer and or ice removed. However, the risk of annual bluegrass being under the ice for one more week probably poses a greater threat than the low temperatures in the forecast.
Crown hydration
Lastly, once the snow layer is removed and the ice layer is disturbed, it is essential to try to get as much of the melt water off of the greens a possible and keep it off for the remainder of the spring. The third threat to turf is crown hydration later in the spring when the annual bluegrass de-hardens, is wet and is exposed to freeze thaw cycles.
The big problem is that there are so many easy ways to kill annual bluegrass in the winter and this winter has the potential to kill annual bluegrass in all three ways.
Resources
There was an excellent webinar hosted by TurfNet featuring Dr. Frank Rossi, Dr. Kevin Frank and Dr. Bill Kreuser called #WorstWinterEver. It was recorded and can be viewed at http://www.turfnet.com/page/free_webinar_archives.html. There is also a USGA Greens Section Webinar scheduled for Fri. March 14th, 2014. You can register for it at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/589258767

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