Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Going Organic?

Organic Golf Course Article

A very good article in the New York Times regarding the Vineyard Golf Club on Martha's Vineyard and their 100% organic approach to managing a golf course. I have often thought that managing a golf course organically could quite possibly be a due able concept. There would need to be some creativity on the Superintendents part and it would require some help from those in the organic farming industry to aid with the process, especially when it comes to insect control. In the process communication to golfers and dealing with loss of turf, especially in the early years would need to be tolerated. After a season like we endured this year with extremely high disease pressure, it would be interesting to see how that could be handled. I think its extremely important for us as Superintendents to think about the concept and go through the thought process as to what could be done to reduce our dependence on fungicides and insecticides. Changing our approach to how we manage with less fertilizer and less pesticides is not an easy proposition and yes at times it takes some GUTS. But change is never easy and going against what has been the norm for the past 30 years and traveling the road less traveled, some times you end up walking alone on the path.

This past 6 weeks, based on environmental conditions, has been one of the most difficult I can remember in my 20 years in the business. The heat, humidity and moisture produced by Mother Nature forced some extremely difficult disease pressure on us. The past 3 summers have been a cake walk compared to this summer. Summer patch, brown patch, dollar spot and pythium, diseases that at times were simultaneously active. I don't recall EVER seeing that in the past. Throughout the tough stretch of weather, yes we applied fungicides to protect our fine turf sward, but we have still reduced our overall dependence on fungicide as well as fertilizers in the past 3 years. In the past we were on a strict preventative fungicide regiment on greens, tees and fairways. Now we continue to treat greens regularly but tees and fairways are only treated on an as needed basis.

By treating only when required it forces us to be more diligent watching the extended weather forecast as well as our scouting for disease incidence on the course and then deciding if we need to make an application or will the weather change and the disease pressure changes and an application would not have been required. Sometimes the weather pattern dictates we spray, whether or not we have seen any fungal activity or not. The last 2 weeks were a good example of that. We knew night time temperatures were going to be in the 70's and daytime temps in the 90's with dewpoints in the 70's for an extended period of time. We treated greens, tees and fairways, knowing full well that pressure for brown patch was ideal. We also were required to spot treat fairways for pythium, multiple times.

Now with cooler nights and limited hot days we will monitor as the conditions dictate and will apply fungicides as we feel are required. But as the temperatures continue to decline and the humidity and dewpoints stay low we might very well be able to not make another fungicide application to tees and fairways until we begin to make our snow mold protection applications in the middle of October. Now wouldn't that be nice.

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