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A Most Unsightly Disease

Dr. Wong has reminded us that it is Chinese New Year, and I just happen to be going to Hong Kong tomorrow, so I'll keep my eyes open for his eponymous book store. While we are on the subject of Hong Kong, there is a disease that occurs at Hong Kong and in other parts of South and Southeast Asia that is the most unsightly pathogen I have seen. I refer to bermudagrass white leaf, and typical symptoms are shown below on a bermudagrass fairway at Hanoi. Bermudagrass white leaf does not affect the playing quality of the turf, but it sure disturbs an otherwise visually consistent turf.
I call this a disease only because the Compendium of Turfgrass Diseases lists it as a mollicute disease. But it is not a fungus, and cannot be controlled with any pesticide. The only way to get rid of it is to physically remove the infected plants. That is the bad news.
bermudagrass white leaf
Once you have this bermudagrass white leaf on your golf course, you can expect to have entire plants that lose chlorophyll and turn yellow or white and then eventually die. In studies conducted at the Asian Turfgrass Center in 2007 and 2008, we determined that infected plants usually die from four to twelve weeks after symptoms appear. The symptoms are caused by a phytoplasma and that phytoplasma is transferred from plant to plant by insect vectors such as leafhoppers.

Now for the good news. First, the infected plants do die and are overtaken by healthy, chlorophyllous plants. Second, the bermudagrass white leaf infections tend to be most extensive on newly-established golf courses, and after two years of growth the problem seems to diminish. That makes sense, because plants without chlorophyll are not going to be successful in competing with healthy plants, so one of the recommended treatments for bermudagrass white leaf is simply to manage for healthy bermudagrass and you will choke out the infected plants. Thirdly, and what I found most surprising, is that there seems to be big differences in the susceptibility of different varieties of bermudagrass to bermudagrass white leaf.

We grew varieties such as Tifsport, common, Savannah, Riviera, Tifway, Tifgreen (or similar, collected from a golf course supposed to be planted to Tifgreen), Mountain Green, and Tifdwarf, among others, all grown under the same conditions in adjacent plots. What we noticed, and measured, was that certain varieties seem especially susceptible to bermudagrass white leaf infection. At a time when Tifway and Tifsport and Mountain Green had less than 10% infection, varieties such as common, Savannah, and Riviera had more than 60% infection.
atc fairway plots
In the photo above (click to view a larger version), plots maintained as fairway at Asian Turfgrass Center's research facility near Bangkok show different susceptibility to bermudagrass white leaf.

a - Tifway, no infection
b & d - Riviera, severe infection
c - seashore paspalum, immune
e - Tifsport, minimal infection

My advice about managing bermudagrass white leaf is to choose a variety that has less tendency to become infected (such as Mountain Green, Tifsport, or Tifway), perform cultural practices to encourage healthy bermudagrass and the white leaf will eventually go away, and do not buy stolons or sod from a nursery where this pathogen is present.

Happy Chinese New Year and a Great Show in San Diego!

Last Sunday, Feb 14th was the start of the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year 4708!). As far as the Chinese Zodiac goes, the Tiger represents power, courage and daring. As a result, the Year of the Tiger is supposed to bring a year of sucess or those who are bold and willing to take risks and show leadership. If you were born in 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, or 1998 - this year is supposed to be especially good for you.

If you're in the Bay Area - there's a number of New Year's related events going on in San Francisco, cluminating with the the SF Chinatown New Year's Parade next weekend on Feb 27:

Similar events in the West will be taking place in places like Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu.

If you just happen to be in Hong Kong for the New Year, you may want to visit this place:

But for some reason, these guys never seem to have the book you're looking for....

Mild in the West
The weather in the West is looking pretty mild. If you've been watching the Winter Olympics, you know that the temps have been in the 50s in the PNW - which should help with greens regrowth there in the aftermath of a number of winterkill events, and for California, it's been in the 60s and 70s with some showers here and there.

We're picking up some pink snow mold from California in the lab and brown ring (Waitea) patch has been reported as being active in a few locations, incuding our research green at UCR.

It's also about time for take all patch to start showing up on bentgrass in the West. Keep an eye out for reddish patches, rings and semi-circles popping up on your bentgrass greens.

Gabe Towers from Arizona sent in this picture of what looks like take all patch on bentgrass:

Great show in San Diego

It was definitely great to see all of the superintendents and fellow turf scientists in San Diego last week. Although the weather was a little colder than normal, it sure beat being snowed in in Washington DC!

As part of the educational events, I had the chance to help co-teach the Field Seminar & Tour with Larry Stowell and Wendy Gelernter from PACE Consulting.

We had over 150 superintendents from all over the world in our class and had the chance to tour four very unique San Diego locations: Torrey Pines Golf Course, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, and Petco Park. Jon Maddern, Brian Darrock, Tim Barrier and Luke Yoder did a fantastic job of showing our visitors some of the challenges of turf management in San Diego, including kikuyugrass, bermudagrass, seashore paspalum and annual bluegrass culture in southern California.

"This is your brain on kikuyugrass" Jon Maddern talks about kikuyugrass management at Torrey Pines Golf Course

Tim Barrier explains the agronomic challenges of growing annual bluegrass and non-overseeded bermudagrass fairways at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club

Luke Yoder explains the how to create the "home field adavantage" at Petco Park

Touring the greens at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club with Brian Darrock

Thanks again to Luke, Tim, Brian and Jon for hosting the event.

Ok - that's about it for the post today; there's been some other "interesting" things going on for me - but maybe I'll post on that one later or let John or Megan tell that story....

Until then, signing off from middle America in Eagan, Minnesota....

Conference Season and why I choose Houston when flying west...

Well, like the others (Megan, call sign 'Wraith'- see this site, Frank, call sign 'Yankee', Jim, call sign 'Yoda', and John, call sign 'Weasel') conference season has been in full swing. I attended the North Carolina Turfgrass Conference in Show a couple of weeks ago and had a great time sharing information about fungicide programming with the superintendents in NC. The faculty and staff at NCSU were extremely hospitable and I enjoyed my visit there. Last week I was in San Diego like the everyone else to work with our students on the Turf Bowl Challenge, and to work with the cooperators from the various agrochemical companies that conduct research with us. It was a good show, and I am looking forward to spring arriving.

I thought I would also share with you some of the questions that came up during my visit in NC on fungicide programming. The main concern had to do with budgetary restrictions, and that is something we have seen all over these days. Rather than starting with the 'kid @ the concession stand' approach of "how much can I buy for this much?", I would suggest building a fungicide program as if you didn't have a budget. This way will allow you to start with a top program, and then whittle away at the edges of the program and make small changes that can save you dollars, but doesn't impact the integrity of the program. The key to doing this is to make sure you first identify the major priorities that you want the program to cover. For most growing bentgrass, that would be Pythium, dollar spot, and brown patch. If you are managing Poa annua those priorities will shift slightly, and you will be focused on dollar spot, crown rotting anthracnose, and summer patch. Finally, if bermuda is the grass of choice, spring dead spot, Rhizoctonia leaf and sheath blight (a.k.a. mini-ring), and perhaps dollar spot might be issues. The key is for you to identify your priorities and build a top-shelf program that fits. Doing this, it is pretty easy to identify some treatments that you can adjust/remove and save 15-20% of the cost of the top-shelf program. Further cuts should be focused around the times of year where disease isn't a major concern, and cultural controls might have more impact. One of the questions that is popping up more frequently is the "rambo" or pitting dollar spot. I believe that this type of symptom is often seen where N fertility has been drastically reduced either because of greenspeed concerns, or budgetary restrictions. Remember that a healthy plant with adequate N fertility will allow the fungicides you do apply to work better and longer than plants that are N starved.

The last item that I notice with regard to programming, is the doubling up of fungicide applications. This happens particularly frequently with the phosphite class of chemistry. I have had several superintendents describe their programs to me, and frequently there are multiple phosphite products in there for different reasons. Look through your program and make sure you aren't doubling up resources. Use fungicide combinations that make sense to target the diseases that are a priority, and these strategies can help save another 5-10%.

Now- for the second part of my title; Why I choose Houston when flying west in the winter. Wikipedia sums it up best:

"Snow is unusual in Houston, with an event occurring nearly every 4 years. Snow has fallen ap
proximately 30 times since 1895,[17] more recently on December 4, 2009.[18] Freezing rain events, also known as ice storms, can be detrimental to local traffic, and can close schools and businesses. The most recent ice storms occurred in 1997 and 2007."

"An average year sees frost on 36 days; snowfall averages about 2 inches (5 cm) annually. The heaviest single storm brought 10 inches (25 cm) on January 23, 1940.[45] Blizzards are rare but possible; one hit in March 1993. Frequent ice storms can cause more problems than snow; the most severe such storm may have occurred on January 7, 1973.[46]"

While I don't do too much betting (I do like blackjack), I like my chances in a place where on average a snow event occurs once every 4 years versus annual snowfall totaling 2 inches. I had little trouble getting back- but there was some excitement on my return trip to Knoxville. Continental had to move a pilot to Knoxville to fly a plane, but our plane was full (b/c of weather, etc.). So, they bumped a paying, ticket-holding customer in favor of their employee. On the surface this seemed to be a poor choice, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me that is was probably better to inconvenience a single person, than to have to cancel another flight due to the lack of a pilot. Travel delays suck, no doubt, but when it happens try to remember that you will get a lot farther with a smile, than by being demanding- one of the bumped passengers buddies was asked to leave after throwing a tirade and being disrespectful to the flight crew...

and as for my call sign- 'Cajun', I think I like that one...

Over and out!

I hope you don't fly Delta!

As Megan stated, the majority of us spent last week in San Diego assisting with educational seminars and visiting with cooperators on the trade show floor. However, if you were one of the unfortunate attendees who is a loyal traveler on Delta Airlines then you may just be lucky enough to still be in the warm weather of Southern California.  (More on this at the end of this post)

As Megan stated earlier, many of us had the chance to help out with the Microscope Workshop ran by Henry Wetzel and Alan Windham (a must for any turf manager looking for a great educational day at GIS).  While there were many samples of active disease from the San Diego region, much of the country continues to experience cold weather.  Despite this, it is a good time to start planning your spring activities as we are really only a month or two away even in New England.

For many, the disappearing snow will bring a lot of cleanup.  For others, it will be the wondering if the discolored Poa will actually green up. In many cases, the turf actually looks decent coming out of winter, but as soon as growth begins the real signs of winter damage are noticed.  In situations where winter kill is a large problem, the only fast solution is to slice, spike, core, overseed, slice, spike, overseed, etc. until you get some grass.  Unfortunately, most of the time this results in the domination of new stands of annual bluegrass (and not the good kind).  If you experience winter damage and you are stuck in the aforementioned situation, be careful and diligent about managing Poa diseases as this young turf really won't have much time to prepare itself for the summer (I am predicting one of the toughest summers in a long time this year).  Young Poa will likely be highly susceptible to diseases like anthracnose, dollar spot, continued Microdochium activity early in the season, and other diseases. For those of you lucky enough to make through the winter unscathed, now is the perfect time to start planning your weapon of choice for your annual bluegrass seedhead suppression. Will it be embark or Primo+Proxy? Leave your comments below!

Back to my comments about getting stuck back in CA. For 22 Penn State's students and staff, getting out of the sunny city wasn't so easy.  Flights were canceled across the country due to snow in various parts of the country, but most importantly in Atlanta.  That basically shut down Atlanta airport and created a backlog of travelers stuck in the airport. I believe that most of my students finally got back today, while some staff is still on their way back as we speak.  Thank goodness the students' won $1000 in the competition, because it is going to be needed to pay for the extra hotel rooms!  I hope they enjoyed the extra days of "sitting around the pool drinking beer".

For those interested in reading about others who think Delta stinks, just search "Delta Sucks" in google.  Here was my favorite...

Oh, I almost forgot...Please take the poll and let us know what you thought of the new format for GCSAA (education on Mon., Tues., Fri. and trade show on Wed.-Thurs.).

San Diego: gonna take you right into the danger zone

End of a big week in San Diego

I'm back in Kansas after a busy week at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. I flew out on Sunday. On Monday, I co-taught a course on diseases of warm-season turf with Frank and our colleague Phil Harmon. The participants seemed to appreciate the different points of view: warm-arid (Frank), warm-humid (Phil), and northern transition zone (me). We had people from all over the world: Turkey, Singapore, Barbados, Brazil, Oman, and a few other places that I am forgetting. It was fun to have the international perspective.

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of assisting with the microscope class where superintendents get to dive right in and look at turf pathogens up close. The organizers, Henry Wetzel and Alan Windham, did a great job with the logistics. And, kudos to Frank Wong's lab for providing cultures and inoculated plants, and to Larry Stowell for finding some fresh samples from sites around San Diego. I was pretty excited to see large patch on seashore paspalum:

I see large patch on zoysiagrass all the time, so it was exciting to see it on a different host plant.

Here, you can see the participants engrossed in the microscopes:

There were 3 Kansas guys in the audience and it was fun for me to get to know them a little better throughout the day.

Of course, being in San Diego, I did have to enjoy the coast just a little bit:

And, cue the Top Gun music (and in case you are wondering where my title came from for today's post), here I am playing fighter pilot on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. What should my fighter-pilot name be? Let me know your ideas ... Nitro? Flash? Blaze? Thrasher?

Pythium, AT&T PB ProAm and the Big Show in San Diego

I know this post is a day late, but I hope Megan doesn't mind me barging in on her Friday again. I'm lucky to have gotten out of Washington DC and back to southern California today with over a foot of snow forecasted for the area this weekend! I hope that the huge storm hitting the mid-Atlantic won't screw up too many folk's travel to San Diego in the next few days.

Pythium in the West
As Jim had mentioned in his post a few days ago - he was surprised to see the damage that cool season Pythium can cause in the Midwest. After this last year - I can say I'm a believer in cool season Pythium.

We're continuing to pick up Pythium from samples in California and Washington this week. Sometimes oospores are present in the tissues, sometimes not; but in many cases, we can get Pythium mycelium coming out 24 hrs after plating plants onto agar. We're in the process of ID-ing the species that we are finding now and I hope to have a better idea of what species are most common in the West.

The big question is: how much damage are these Pythiums causing. The short answer is: I don't know.

Typically, cool season Pythiums are not regarded as "killer pathogens". But....cold wet conditions that promote cool season Pythium development are not good conditons for turf growth. So what is the bigger cause of turf loss in these cases, the Pythium or the sh*tty weather? It may be a half dozen of one, 6 of the other.

Under cold weather conditions, it's certainly not a bad idea to try to control Pythium if it's diagnosed. I think I've said this before though - if wet and cold conditions persist, the Pythium can come back and plant growth and recovery may not be substantial until things dry out and get a little warmer.

As far as fungicide choices - I haven't seen enough data to be able to make a good recommendation for specific cool season Pythiums, but also haven't seen any data to show that cool season Pythiums have any differences in sensitivity to fungicides vs. warm temp. Pythium blight type species.

The difference though may be in the location of the Pythium fungi - many for Pythiums involved in cool temperature outbreaks - we've been seeing more oospores in the roots and crowns than in the foliage. If these Pythiums are causing more root/crown problems - systemic materials like mefenoxam (Subdue), fosetyl-Al (Aliette/Signature), azoxystrobin (Heritage), and fluopicolide (Stellar) may be more effective in penetrating these tissues. Fungicides that are less systenic like propamocarb (Banol), etridiazole (Koban/Terrazole), pyraclostrobin (Insignia) or cyazofamid (Segway) may need to be applied at higher water volumes or watered in to get into the root and crown areas.

There is certaily much more attention being paid to cool season Pythiums this year, and we'll keep working on this one to figure out what's been going on.

Prepping for the AT&T
Staying in line with coverage of some of the big tournaments in California --- The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is taking place in this week (Thursday - Saturday).

The Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach Golf Links are hostng the event this year.

Spyglass Hill Superintendent Bob Yeo has got a positive outlook despite the forecast for some rain:
Wet conditions have been the topic for the month of January here in California. 6+ inches for the Pebble Beach area [recently]. AT&T prep has been slow due to storm clean up and wet mowing conditions. [The] current break in the weather this week has allowed us to catch up in our preparations, but rain is forecasted for Friday and Saturday.

Disease pressure has been mild for me. Not any [conditions] to get the pinky* going, but I have used PCNB, and some other preventative products quite frequently to make it through this period before the tournament. Keep you fingers crossed for us!
*pink snow mold

We'll be keeping our fingers crossed and look forward to a great tournament for you guys in Pebble Beach!

The BIG SHOW in San Diego
The GCSAA National meeting is going to be in San Diego next week from Feb 8-12. Don't bring your board shorts and sun tanning lotion though - highs are expected only to be in the 60s with some showers on Wed.

None the less, I'm hoping for a great conference with some quality education and tours.

Just a quick run down of some of the Western GCSA's Events during the week:

California GCSA Hospitality Room, Wed Feb 10, 6:30 - 9:30 pm @ the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, 1 Park Blvd.

Northwest Room (Idaho GCSAA, Inland Empire GCSA, Oregon GCSA, Peaks and Prairies, GCSA and Western Washington GCSA ), Wednesday, Feb 10, 6:30 - 10 p.m. @ the Bristol Hotel 1055 First Ave.

Cactus and Pine Chapter Reception, Thu, February 11, 6:30pm – 8:30pm , The Horton Grand Hotel, 311 Island Ave.
(Apologies to groups who's information I didn't have...)

Until next week, Signing off from the Left Coast......

Interesting Winter Disease in the Midwest

Happy belated New Year to everyone! I wanted to thank John for the wonderful birthday post! What a great photo and yes it has been cold enough here to warrant hair on every millimeter of skin! Although the winter in the Midwest has not been as abnormally cold when compared to other parts of the country, we have had some extended periods of extreme cold and snow cover since December 9th. South of I-80 there is not as much snow on ground as areas north of I-80. So there is not a lot to talk about in the Upper Midwest, except that ice damage could likely be an issue this year. Why? We haven't completely lost snow cover, but we have had some melting that has probably lead to ice formation underneath the snow. So you may want to keep an eye on areas that are prone to ice damage.

Besides letting everyone know that I am still alive, I wanted to post something that I thought was pretty unusual. Dr. Derek Settle with CDGA sent me the image attached to this post. The symptoms were necrosis of the leaf tissue atypical of gray snow mold or Microdochium patch plant and stand symptoms. Dr. Settle examined the affected leaf tissue and surprisingly found a bunch of oospores in the mesophyll cells (sexual spores of Pythium species). Dr. Settle then successfully isolated Pythium out of the affected tissue and sent the isolates to me for identification. I just got the isolates last week and I have not identified them yet, but I do know that it is a Pythium species.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't skeptical of Dr. Settle's diagnosis. I was not a believer in cool-season Pythium diseases in turfgrass, but it appears I have seen light!

I wanted to post an update on some of research that Paul Koch is conducting, but we have not analyzed the new data yet. I will post the most up to date results on fungicide degradation during winter months next week or the following week.

Coldest Winter in a Long Time

The temperatures continue to remain cold in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, but it is the cold temperatures in the UK that is a creating a cause for concern for our friends across the pond.  In the past few months, I have been included on some emails from select golf courses in Scotland where unusually cold temperatures and accumulations of snow and/or ice on greens is worrying a few greenkeepers.

From a recent article in the Telegraph (image from
They predicted no let up in the freezing snap until at least mid-January, with snow, ice and severe frosts dominating.

And the likelihood is that the second half of the month will be even colder.

Weather patterns were more like those in the late 1970s, experts said, while Met Office figures released on Monday are expected to show that the country is experiencing the coldest winter for up to 25 years. 
Read full story here...

Pictured below is one of the greens at Loch Lomond (home of the Scottish Open) just a few weeks back.  David Cole (Head Greenkeeper) was happy with the look of his greens when he left for the BTME Conference in Harrogate, England but was unpleasantly surprised by their color when he returned at the end of the week. In a matter of a few day (once the ice melted), the greens turned from green to brown and the alerts were up.  After sending samples out to Kate Entwhistle of The Turf Disease Centre, it appears that the damage is likely superficial and the crowns of the plant appear to be healthy...for now it is just a waiting game.

Prior to the emails from Mr. Cole, snow and ice covered many other greens throughout Northern Scotland including the likes of St. Andrews and other surrounding golf courses. Another course that had experienced some snow cover and accumulated ice was Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. Director of Golf Course Operations Andy Campbell offered some suggestions to his Greenkeepers for removing the ice. Since granulated seaweed products are so prevalent in the region, he recommended their application over the ice and within a few hours the ice was melted.  This is a similar technique used by some in the US in which an organic fertilizer (Milorganite or similar) or black sand has been used to melt ice on putting greens.

Aside from the worries about winter injury to green dominated by Poa annua (annual meadowgrass or annual bluegrass), others worry about the decreased income from the lack of golf. Despite the region's weather being unpredictable at this time of year, many golf outing and bookings were made well in advance of the current weather.  Decreased income in an already slow economy will only add insult to injury.

For those of you in a similar predicament OR for any of you from the Northeastern US who can offer any bits of advice for dealing with this weather, please leave your comments below.  Our friends from across the pond would be very appreciative!

For your reading pleasure, I have compiled a series of links that may be useful on the topic:

Northeast Winter Injury Initiative
Winter Injury on Annual Bluegrass (from Turfgrass Trends)
Sports Turf Q&A on Winter Injury
Ice Damage/Freeze Smothering (Ohio State podcast)

And just to leave you with something to watch, I included this video of Billy McMillam who I met at the BTME Conference last month.  Billy talks about his family of greenkeepers (literally). It was great to meet him and talk turf, pints, and just the business. (Video from GlobalTurfNetwork)
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