Setting the course

  • Turfgrass health and uniformity start with nutrition.
Course condition makes or breaks the experience for golfers, determining their club loyalty. The critical task of top turf management literally starts at the ground level, taking into account plant health and protection.
“Turfgrass health and uniformity all start with nutrition,” said Kwame Duffy, Alltech Crop Science sales manager.
Duffy has been working with several turf managers to incorporate natural biological products into their management programs.
Nitrogen and potassium are two key components for high-quality turf. Turfgrass diseases can stem from either excessive or low levels of nitrogen as well as climate conditions that could be favorable to disease development. Having the ability to adjust nutritional imbalances directly and on an as-needed basis can provide the ability to combat turf disease.
By maintaining a healthy nutritional balance through the addition of biologicals, the potential for pest and disease pressure can be inhibited. Foliar nutrient applications and slow release nitrogen can provide for healthy plant growth.
Duffy gave an example with bentgrass.
“Bentgrass can be tricky to maintain, especially for courses located in the southern states,” he said.
During the recent hot months, bentgrass would normally be stressed. On a golf course that recently incorporated biologicals, the grass grew well and established new roots during June and July, said Duffy.
“The turf was 10 times healthier than if it had been untreated,” he said.
Pesticide use was cut by 30–40 percent and fungicide use was cut in half.
“It’s pretty impressive,” stated Duffy. “The addition of biologicals helped the plants defend themselves naturally. It’s the only thing the golf course superintendents did differently, and they are getting these great results.”  
In the future, Duffy believes some of the courses may be able to completely eliminate fungicides because of the results they are seeing.

Strategies for a future with increasing pesticide regulation

“The most important shot in golf is the next one.” – Ben Hogan
The turf industry is facing a future similar to that of the agriculture industry, with increasing regulation regarding pesticide use. Natural biologicals to protect turf from pests and disease will play a key role in this future.
“With these new management programs, we’ve seen more efficient application and a complete redirect of every dollar spent toward improved disease resistance,” said Duffy.
Ultimately, golf course superintendents are managing all course inputs for the best return on their investment, whether their budget is $30,000, $200,000 or $1 million, he said.
The importance of finding the best turf management strategies can’t be downplayed.
“Your horticulture practices are key to whether you have a golf course or not,” said Duffy.