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Great conference, but a tough spot to watch hockey.

(Above) The crowd in Toronto reacts to the OT goal that sealed
the win and a gold medal for Canada...and a silver for the USA team.

This past week was spent at the Canadian International Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show and the New England Regional Conference and Trade Show.  Both were great shows and I had a chance to discuss some disease issues facing both groups. In Canada, the buzz was around the relatively new cosmetic pesticide ban.  This seems to be the first step in eliminating pesticides from turfgrass management.  While golf courses are currently exempt from the ban, many of the areas on the property are not exempt.  This includes such areas as the entrance ways to the facility as well as the turf grown around the clubhouse and other areas not directly related to the game of golf.  You can definitely expect a decline in turf quality in these areas.

More important than the areas around the clubhouse, however, is the ban on pesticides for athletic fields.  The inability to suppress weed species and other pests such as diseases and insects will likely start to appear.  Unfortunately, this will likely occur in the form of childhood injuries and other accidents due to poor playing conditions.  In a brief conversation with Dr. Vittum from UMASS, she expressed that in her role as a referee that she has had to cancel games in New England due to the potential for injury and her personal liability as the referee.  While this is an extreme case, these issues could become more prevalent in Canada due to this ban.

Anthracnose-0136After leaving Toronto with my head hanging low due to the USA loss against the Canadians in the hockey finals, I headed to Providence where the NE1025 group was wrapping up its final meeting to discuss the progress with managing anthracnose basal rot and annual bluegrass weevils.  As part of the reports from each participant, we were fortunate enough to have Stan Zontek, Director of the mid-Atlantic Green Section, provide an update on his perspective of anthracnose in his region.  Here is Mr. Zontek's statement:

"Prior to this research initiative, anthracnose was one of the most common and devastating problem to golf course putting greens in those parts of the USA where Poa annua (annual bluegrass) is the predominant grass species on putting greens.  This research information, supported by field observations, established the fact that this disease was made worse by (1) the species of grass, (2) close mowing (in the quest for faster green speeds), (3) reduced fertilizer inputs (another factor for producing faster green speeds), and anecdotal observations that anthracnose was made worse by (4) frequent, light topdressings, vertical mowings, heavy foot and equipment traffic (including rolling) and the associated care a putting green receives to achieve fast green speeds.  Golf course putting greens were declining due to anthracnose in spite of the increased usage of fungicides.  In fact, fungicides were routinely applied every 5-7 days to greens with limited success in controlling anthracnose.

The research results from the NE-1025 group have shown that anthracnose can be prevented through higher annual rates of nitrogen.  The healthier the grass, the less prone it is to anthracnose and, significantly, the need for fungicides is greatly reduced.  The reduced usage of pesticides is definitely a positive result from this research. 

It has also been shown that mechanical operations like light topdressing, vertical mowing, rollings and even foot traffic are less of a problem than once thought.  When you couple these shifts in how the turf is managed, the maintenance of putting green speed can be achieved via the use of plant growth regulators (PGRs), the judicious use of putting green rolling and double cutting including the maintenance if not increase in mowing heights. 

The benefits of Poa annua seedhead suppression were also studied.  This too contributes to healthier turf, less anthracnose and better overall putting green quality during those periods of the year when seedheads are produced. 

To golf course superintendents in the field, the research results from all the anthracnose studies have provided a far better knowledge base than before this work was begun.  The results have been embraced by our industry to a point where anthracnose, which was formerly a huge problem on putting greens, has now become a minor problem to even being, non-existent.  These are spectacular results."
- Stan Zontek, USGA
Gray Snow Mold-0195
(Above) Sclerotia within infested tissue can help you distinguish Gray Snow Mold from other snow molds.

All in all, these were informative meetings and the conference season is just about wrapping up.  Updates from around the region suggest that the snow is finally starting to melt and with that snow molds appear to be the largest problem.  Specifically, areas that often are damaged by Microdochium patch (e.g., Pink Snow Mold) are instead showing the symptoms of gray snow mold (Typhula spp.) due to the extended snow cover. It is important to check the infested tissue with a hand lens to look for the sclerotia embedded in the tissues because fungicide applications for gray snow mold are not necessary at this time.  If you are dealing with Microdochium patch, however, it may be important to continue to monitor the situation as fungicide treatments may continue to be necessary depending on the pending weather conditions.

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