Monday, March 26, 2012

About a Month Ahead

It will come as no surprise to most people, but we are about a month ahead of were the calendar says we should be. With the weather the last week and a half (10 days in a row above 70 degrees and three in a row above 80), it is time to start thinking about things we would normally do toward the end of April.

One of the tools I use a lot in the early spring is Growing Degree Days (GDD), which is a measure of time with a temperature above a certain set point. Michigan State University has a website set up which tracks GDD for a number of different factors. You can find it in the links sidebar on my website or by clicking HERE. One of the biggest things I follow at this site is Poa annua seedhead flush. Poa is an annual grass that invades our greens surfaces. When it produces seed, the seedheads make the greens bumpy. You can read more about it from an earlier post. Here is a picture of the seedheads on a fairway.

We put down a plant growth regulator called Embark, paired with a fungicide named Civitas to limit the production of seedhead on the greens. Last year we sprayed this on April 21st, when the GDD was 888. This year, we are putting it down on March 26th. The GDD is 936. The target GDD is between 680 and 1050. I wanted to wait a little while longer this year because it is so early. I am just not convinced that seed production is solely based on temperature. The total GDD is still within the optimal range, however.

One other useful set of data that can be tracked is crabgrass pre-emergent. If you look at the GDD Tracker website, you will see that we are slightly past the optimal time for putting this down. The suggested range is between 250 and 500 GDD. (This number is different than the seedhead GDD because of the base temperature that they use to calculate GDD.) There is still time, however, before the window totally closes. One thing I learned from my internship is to watch for Forsythia blooming. I was told that when it blooms, you should put down crabgrass pre-emergent. In my experiance, it is usually pretty close to when the GDD Tracker is recomending it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Golf and Burn Season is Underway

With the near-record warmth, we opened the golf course on March 14th.  High temperatures are expected to be in the seventies for the next 7 days or so. Welcome to the golf season! For the record, last year (2011) we opened on March 31st. In 2010, we opened on March 23rd.

Coinciding with this nice weather came low humidity and the first burn day of 2012. We use controlled burns to keep the weed populations low in our naturalized areas that are out of play.

We co-ordinate our burns through the City of Ann Arbor Natural Areas Preservation (NAP)  department. From the NAP websiteOur native Ann Arbor ecosystems are fire-dependent. Until settlers began suppressing fires in the early 1700s, fire enriched the soil and removed dead thatch, allowing diverse native plant and animal communities to thrive. Continued fire suppression has disrupted the natural balance and allowed fire-intolerant, non-native plant species to out-compete the native, fire-adapted plants. By reintroducing fire in our parks, we are reinstating an essential ecosystem process.

Some pictures of burns we have done in the past:

Before burning (2010)

After burning.

2 weeks after burning.

2 months after burning.

As you can see, the grasses come back extremely fast. The invasive shrubs have been set back, but are sprouting back from the root system. In subsequent years, these shoots will be set back even more. It sometimes takes 4 or 5 years of annual burning before a noticeable amount of these invasive shrubs are killed.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Opening Day?

As I write this, the temperature is 32 degrees and there is a 24 degree wind chill, so take the following with a grain of salt. We are thinking of opening up sometime next week. I was just out putting bunker rakes in all of the bunkers and setting the times on the tee time clocks. (I had originally set the time yesterday, but was reminded by one of the guys on the crew that this weekend is the start of daylight savings time. Whoops.)

We have rolled the greens once already and plan on rolling again. We would also like to mow them. Other things on the list: changing cups, putting out trash containers, putting out flags and tee markers, raking bunkers and cleaning up the sticks and other debris that has collected over the winter.

Things might be a little rough out there, but last year we opened up on March 31st, so this would be 2+ weeks earlier. I will end with this picture, because I really like it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Commercial Applicator Test

Commercial Pesticide Applicator Testing. That is what the Michigan Department of Agriculture - Pesticide and Plant Management Division calls what I did yesterday morning.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Under FIFRA, the EPA is responsible for registering or authorizing pesticide products for use in the United States.  The two main classifications of pesticides are unclassified or general-use pesticides (GUP) and restricted-use pesticides (RUP). Restricted-use pesticides may only be sold to a certified pesticide applicator. There are two categories of certified applicators, private applicators and commercial applicators. Commercial applicators are individuals who use or supervise the use of any RUP on property the he does not own or lease. Willful violations of FIFRA are subject to fines of up $25,000 and up to one year imprisonment.

Other federal laws and regulations that govern pesticide application include:

The Worker Protection Standard (WPS), aimed at reducing pesticide exposure to agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), the relevant sections of this law compel the EPA ensures that no registered pesticide use is likely to jeopardize the survival of any endangered or threatened species.

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), sets tolerances for pesticide levels on food for human and/or animal consumption. (Not really relevant to turf and golf courses.)

The Food Quality Protection Act, set a tougher standard for pesticides that will be used for food. (Again, not relevant to golf courses.)

What this means is that, as a golf course Superintendent, I must take a test every three years to maintain my commercial pesticide applicator standing. This entails a core manual, which covers basics of pesticide use and handling (as well as the laws that I just laid out) and then a category of pesticide use.

The "core" test involves a 75 question test. A score of 70% is required to pass. I scored a 70/75. (I put the numbers up here, not to brag, but because I assume everyone would want to know how I did.) Each of the "category" test has a 50 question, multiple-choice test. Once again, 70% or better is need to pass. I took tests in Fruit Crops (1C) where I scored 43/50, Aquatics (5) where I scored 40/50 as well as a category called 6J. This is a combined test where Turfgrass (3A), Ornamentals (3B) and Right-of-Way (6) are rolled into one, 125 question test. These three categories are a common grouping, especially for golf courses and landscaping companies. This would allow an applicator to spray lawns (turfgrass), roses (ornamentals) and parking lots (right-of-way) while eliminating some of the questions that each test would have in common. I scored 101/125 on 6J.

This is just a small view of some the the things that go on behind the scenes, as well as during the winter. I will need to re-certify again in 2015, it looks like I need to do some studying.

February 2012 Weather Summary

The high temperature for February, 2012 was 51 degrees, on the 1st. The lowest temperature at Leslie Park during the month was 10.5 degrees on the 11th.  The average temp was 32.5, just over the freezing point. Only two days had high temperature that was below 32. Let me repeat that, only two days in February did not get above freezing. 25 days had low temps below 32 degrees.

We had 0.06 inches of rain. All of it came  on the 27th. This was also the day that saw the highest wind speed recorded (30.0 mph.)  The average wind speed was 4.3 mph.