BAYER STANDS BEHIND IT’S CHIPCO CHOICE

Bayer's Topchoice product
I have to say that I love when people and companies keep their word. This spring, I contracted to have over 30 acres of turf treated with Bayer’s Chipco Choice for control of mole crickets. Chipco Choice’s active ingredient is fipronil which is very safe and effective at ultra-low doses. The product was sliced into the turf with perfection and carries a six month guarantee. We hit the tee tops, collars and all of the fairways.Mole cricket damage on 419 Bermudagrass

The application provided 98% control and I recently noticed small areas of cricket break through on a few fairways. I picked up my phone, took a picture of the damage, sent it to my vendor and within less than a week, I had Top Choice at my door step to treat the areas. Great job Bayer, and way to stand behind your products.

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DROUGHT RELIEF FELT IN MOST AREAS OF FLORIDA

Rain clouds over South Florida
Be careful for what you wish for is the saying. Well that’s the case for sure in many areas of Florida. With record cold temps this winter and a drought for most of the spring, we have finally seen a good amount of rainfall in July. Here in Miami we have received about 10 inches and Naples has seen about the same. Palm Beach area has reports of 8 to 11 inches for the month.
Drought Monitor map
Looking at the drought monitor map, you can see that many areas are out of the red. This is great for anyone that is trying to grow something in the State. All of the wild fires are reported to be out and things are getting back to normal in the Everglades. Lake Okeechobee is now at 10.28 feet and climbing. Many areas in Texas and Arizona are dealing with a record breaking drought of their own. These states are have some rainfall headed their way this weekend. Let’s hope they get some good rains and the turf starts growing again.

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LEARN HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE TURF AND ORNAMENTAL INDUSTRY

FTGA Conference September 13-16, 2011
I will be teaching a session on using social media in the Turf and Ornamental industry on Thursday, September 15, 2011, at the Florida Turfgrass Associations 59th Annual Conference & Show in Palm Beach Gardens.  Learn about Blogging, Tweeting, Facebook, Linkedin and YouTube.  I will show you the ins and outs of  using social media and how to establish yourself on the web.  Educate your existing clients and become a source of information for new clients.  Grow your bottom line using social media. For details go to https://www.ftga.org/attendees and download the Attendee Brochure.  See you in Palm Beach Gardens.

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DROUGHT LEAVING IT’S MARK ON SOUTH FLORIDA COURSES

Hand watering fairways during the 2011 south florida drought by Eric von Hofen
Growing turf in South Florida this year has not been easy.  This past winter brought with it below normal temperatures, with many areas of the state dealing with frost delays and brown turf.  We just can’t seem to catch a break and the hits just keep on coming.  The National Weather Service predicts the drought for this area will last well into the wet season.   Here in Miami, we’ve only had 11.25 inches of rain so far this year.  Naples reports in with only 10.4 inches and Palm Beach with 13 inches of rain this year.  The rainy season usually starts around the middle to end of May.  Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts until November 30th. At the rate we’re going, it doesn’t seem like it will ever rain again.

southeast drought monitor by Eric J. von Hofen
The drought monitor shows just how bad the conditions are around the state.  South Florida Water Management District and local water utilities have implemented water restrictions for all golf courses in our area.  Surface water usage must be reduced by 15% and effluent water usage from utilities must be reduced by 35%.   These cut backs change every month because the permitted usage amount during the summer rainy months reflects the historical rain fall that is supposed to happen.  One problem now, it has not rained in the month of June and usage has been cut big time.

Low lake levels by Eric J. von Hofen
To make things worse, many golf course irrigation lakes are drying up and the water level is below the intakes on the pump stations.  The courses that can still pump water are reporting that the water quality is so bad that they are holding off on using it.  The chlorides are high as the water in a swimming pool and the pH is in the 9’s. At this point there is not much you can do other than watch your course burn up and pray for rain.  Courses are going to cart paths only and moving the aeration practices back because you can’t water enough to keep the place alive.  This is how bad it is down here.

I have been using the Harrells Symphony wetting agent product to pull me through these hard times.  We have been spraying the greens and tees with this product and the results have been outstanding.  Hand watering during the day is broken up into teams for the approaches, tees and greens.  The rough is left to fend for itself.  Plant material is stressed out also and water wagons are being used to keep the non native plants alive during this drought.

Golfers have been understanding so far because their yards are also burning up.  Let’s hope things change soon and we get some nectar from the gods.

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EFFECTIVE MOLE CRICKET CONTROL

mole cricket by eric von hofen
It’s amazing just how much damage this little guy can do to your perfect conditioned golf course. When you get a few thousand of them flying around your course at night looking for a mate and something to eat, the damage can be extensive. They love the warmer temps and are most active during a full moon. Areas taken over by mole crickets can look like someone went crazy with a 9 iron. See the picture below.
mole cricket damage in 419 bermudagrass by eric von hofen
During the months of March and April the mole crickets first become active in the bunkers. The crickets work their way into the greens and tees then to the fairways and roughs. Damage to bermudagrass can be so extensive that areas will have to be sodded if you don’t get things under control quick.
Mole cricket control
Chipco Choice provides one year of control for mole crickets in the areas that have been treated. At $300 an acre it’s a deal. Sod and your time responding to a full box of complaints is not worth it.
Choice applicator for controlling mole crickets
The application machine is attached to a small tractor which is driven over the areas you want treated. A small slit is produced in the turf where the Choice dropped into. You can treat 5 acres an hour with a good operator. A rate of 25 lbs per acre is required in order to get the full year of protection. If you have a mole cricket problem, Chipco Choice is the only way to go.

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ARE YOUR GREENS READY TO HOST A MAJOR EVENT?

Fieldscout Meter by Eric J. von Hofen
Over the last few weeks, I have had the chance to ride shotgun with a few PGA TOUR Agronomists during PGA events and I have to say I’m very impressed. Bland Cooper, CGCS and PGA TOUR Agronomist, took me through the steps on how the TOUR has taken tournament preparation and hosting to a whole new level. They have put every new tech gadget available on the market to use and have built a sound agronomic plan around them.
Eric J. von Hofen in Mexico

During advance week the data collection and charting begins. They first look at height of cut on the greens and the speeds that are produced in the AM and PM. Morning and afternoon soil moisture readings are collected and then plugged into another chart. This data is collected using the FieldScout TDR probe. The probes are an inch and a half long and easily pierce the turf with no problem. Within seconds the data pops up on the screen and after three sites are probed, a average is displayed on the screen.
By Eric J. von Hofen

The superintendent and PGA TOUR Agronomist both have their own FieldScout probes. They walk each green in a grid-like pattern mapping and collecting the soil moisture data. During this process the data is averaged and areas in need of water are located. This need of water could be 30 seconds to 3 minutes with a hose. Overhead irrigation is not used at all.

All of this is happening while there is yet another series of data collection occurring. Firmness, yes firmness is measured. This too is collected in the AM and PM. This is the missing piece to the puzzle. When this information is charted and overlaid with Stimpmeter and moisture readings, it shows where the performance of the greens is headed for the week. Basically the height of cut did not change for the entire two weeks. Green speed was increased by decreasing the moisture and pure rolling. When the greens moisture read around 25% to 30%, it made for the best conditions after rolling. The TOUR does not want the greens dried out below these levels.
eric von hofen

Next time you are watching a PGA TOUR event on TV, just think what goes on behind the scenes to make those greens so good. It takes a sound plan in place and a year worth of work to get things right. These PGA TOUR Agronomists really know their stuff. The saying should be “TOUR Agronomy, These guys are good”.

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First Day of Winter and Golf Courses are Off Color

Eric von Hofen and frost damage on bermudagrass
This year’s golf season in the Sunshine State kicks off to a cold reception on the first day of winter.  I wrote a post last week explaining just how cold it has been in Florida and it has not let up.  Normal temperatures during this time of the year are in the mid 70’s during the day and low 60’s at night.  But not this year. Over the last two weeks, golf course superintendents have arrived at work to find temperatures in the 30’s and frost in some areas. In the picture above, it shows that the roughs on golf courses in Miami are damaged from the frost. Normally we have two or three days of cold weather a year and the turf bounces back when it warms up. Golf courses up and down the east and west coasts of Florida have been hit very hard. Palm Beach County is home for many snow birds living in gated golf communities are realizing that for the second year in a row the turf behind their homes will be dormant. Those golf courses that chose to overseed the roughs will look good while others will look brown and in need of water. It just needs sun and a few 80 degree days and we will be back in business.
Eric von Hofen
This picture shows frost on a paspalum tee box in Miami. It is a shame that this has to happen during the high golf season when so many people come from around the world to enjoy the sun and emerald green fairways of Florida. This Holiday season, golfers will have little to show off at their home courses. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that January will bring some warmer days. We need to see some green fairways to see some green in the cash register.

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Part 2 of Riviera Puts Ross Back In It’s Bunkers

Eric von Hofen and Riviera CC #14 bunkers

Eric J. von Hofen, Director of Agronomy at Riviera Country Club with Golf Course Architect Brian Silva working in the fairway bunker complex on hole #10.  Brian has worked on and restored many Donald Ross courses throughout the United States.  Brian has a great approach to each project. He believes there was an oversimplification of style or character on what a Ross bunker was or was not. The vast majority of the bunkers at Riviera had to be restored because they merely had grass faces down to the sand level. As more and more vintage photos and plans of Donald Ross bunkers become available, the plans and “as built” photos suggest bunkers that are more involved in shape and style. And the bunkers that result from this study do a good job of what bunkers should do – they grab the attention of the players and suggest alternatives of play as one stands on a tee or in a landing area in preparation of an approach shot.

Eric von Hofen and Brian Silva

We had four sets of teams working on the bunkers at Riviera.  The first team was in charge of removing the old sand and old liner.  The second team removed the sod in the areas that were going to be impacted by the new design so we could tie in the new contours to the existing grades. During this phase the new bunker was painted out and rough shaped.  The third team, also known as the finish crew, came back to do the hand work.  The fourth and final team consisted of in-house Riviera employees that installed 419 Bermudagrass sod from Pike Creek Turf.
Eric von Hofen
Originally we had bid an average of 4 to 5 inches of sand that had to be removed in each bunker.  This picture shows that some bunkers actually contained 18 to 24 inches of sand.  This created problems for us and for Ryan Golf.  Together we worked through this obstacle and thankfully this happened on only a handful of holes.  Removing the large volume of sand from the bunkers produced a completely different appearance, giving them a much deeper look.
eric von hofen
The decision to use bunker liners, and the actual installation of the liners, requires quite a bit of research.  The design of the bunker demands protection from washouts.  A thicker liner is required to hold the sand in place, allowing the water to run behind the sand so it does not wash out.  A softer and more shallow bunker design allows for a thinner liner to be used.  A thinner liner translates to a lower material cost but not necessarily a lower installation cost. When it comes to liner installation, labor is labor and the contractor will need to be paid for his time, regardless of how thick or thin the liner may be.  As stated earlier, the design of the bunker needs to protect the bunker from washouts.  This goes for greenside bunkers as well as fairway bunkers. This can be a challenge depending on the area you have to work with. Adding fingers and noses to the bunkers helps with this process by adding more surface area of grass to break up the water flow. The drawback to the sexy shapes and sizes to the fingers and noses is that it will require more bunker liner material to be installed.
Eric von Hofen
The odd angles suck up the liner material because it’s hard to make the tie-ins work and fit together. This process creates a lot of waste of the liner material. The cost can sky rocket if you get too crazy. Then you have the process of deciding to install liner in just the faces or the entire bunker. Here at Riviera we had to do every bunker on the golf course because of the coral rock base the course is built on. We went with a thinner liner to control cost and paid a lot of attention to the design and flow of the surface water. We were then faced with another problem, and that was, “How do we attach the seams of the bunker liner together on a coral rock base?”.  We could not just install a metal staple every few inches because the staples would bend and break when we would hammer them into the rock and sand base. A Liquid Nails product rated for extreme heat was used for attaching the seams of the liner together. A small bead of glue was placed on one side of the liner and the two edges were placed together. Ryan Golf’s, Buddy White,  came up with that idea and it worked. With the liner in place, staples were then hammered in and the bunkers were then ready for sand.

The video below captures the restoration of #8 greenside bunker at Riviera Country Club.

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Helminthosporium on TifEagle Bermudagrass Greens

eric von hofen
Almost over night we see the results of Helminthosporium on our TifEagle greens. This is the first time this year we have seen any signs from our little friend. We have had two weeks of well below temps that have taken the soil below 50 degrees. This was just enough to increase the pressure of the disease and for us to see the damage. One good thing is that we have had full sun and no rain. This will help bring the soil temps back up above 58 degrees and start growing turf again. I plan on starting a program of applying fungicides on a 14 to 21 day rotation. I will use Heritage, Insigna and Daconil for control and prevention of the leaf spot this winter. It has been 32 days since my last fungicide application so I’m not surprised to see the spots pop up. I spray my greens every friday with a light fertilizer package so adding fungicides will be easy to do. I will keep you updated this winter on the progress on the control of helminthosporium.
Eric von Hofen

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What are you doing with the data from your soil sensors?


What are you doing with the data from your soil sensors? Many golf courses have installed soil sensors in greens, tees, fairways, and landscape beds to help manage water use. This trend was very popular 3 to 5 years ago and has hit a wall with the slow down in the development of new golf courses. The sensors tell you sodium levels, moisture and temperature of the soil where the unit is buried. The units that I purchased update every five minutes with data. Now what do you do with that data? The picture below is a overhead shot of a green complex showing where the unit is buried in the green.
I use this data for a wide range of topics. I monitor the sodium levels daily due to the fact that we are pulling water from four wells that have high level of sodium in the water. Every night we water, we are contaminating the turf with salt. A good Miami down pour is welcome once a month. When this happens, I can see the sodium levels invert showing the top layer(root zone) drop and spike in the lower level of the sensors. This is about 5 inches from the top of the turf.

This picture above shows 20 days of data from both sensors. I use this screen shot to educate my staff and golfers when it comes to the affects of rain and cold weather. Last winter, Miami had four mornings with frost and the greens lost some color but they picked up a ton of speed. We had a low soil temperature of 27.2 degrees for a few hours. Bermudagrass likes a soil temperature at 58 degrees or above. I printed this out and posted it in the locker rooms for everyone to see. Some people understood it and others could care less. They just loved the fast greens and asked why they could not be like this all year.

The biggest reason I use the sensors is to cut back on water use. I now have a way to see what’s happening below the turf. I hold off on watering a day or sometimes two after heavy rains. This saves on water and electricity and helps the course play firm and fast. Turfunderground would like to hear what you are doing with your sensors. Please let us know.

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