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A Lekker Conference in South Africa


I just returned (as in Friday night) from a week trip to visit golf courses in South Africa and speak to their superintendents (don’t call them greenkeepers) at their Biennial Talking Turf conference. This post is not necessarily about what is happening in terms of diseases at this moment, but a general overview of the grasses and types of problems that they encounter.

One of the primary purposes of heading over to South Africa (aside from giving two talks at the conference) was to attempt to collect dollar spot samples for a large project that Dr. Tredway is working on. Although I did see some “old” dollar spot symptoms on a variety of species, I am not sure how much of this we will be able to isolate from. My initial visits took me to a few golf courses in the Johannesburg region where the primary species were kikuyugrass (image right) and creeping bentgrass in the fairways and putting greens, respectively. I did manage to visit a golf course that had nearly pure Poa annua putting greens.

This brings me to my next thought on the whole visit to South Africa. Aside from the doctors’ warnings prior to my visit (more in a later post), I was pretty unclear as to the types of turf that they grow or the conditions in which they grow them in. Well, it seems to be fairly similar to the United States in terms of diversity with a primary exception being that our seasons are opposite. South Africa is just now entering the autumn/winter months and won’t see spring until around sometime around August/September (if I remember correctly). They do, however, manage similar grass species. The primary putting green species is creeping bentgrass and/or annual bluegrass. There are some courses that do have bermudagrass greens. One commonality among the golf courses is that most seem to be managing kikuyu fairways. I did see one course that had bermudagrass fairways.

As far as diseases, these too were very diverse. During my visits in the Jo’burg region, I only saw some dollar spot and what I believed to be spring dead spot on bermudagrass (although it was appearing in the fall) and kikuyu patch (which again I believe to be spring dead spot). Fairy ring was also prominent on the putting greens of another course. From the superintendents in the Cape Town region, I was informed of putting greens with active anthracnose, dollar spot and even Microdochium patch. Algae (which I attribute to either extreme summer temperatures causing thinning and/or excessive moisture) is also a major problem.

A major disadvantage to the superintendents in the region is the lack of educational resources on a whole. There is no formal turf education in the country and traveling to the states is extremely expensive for a majority of the superintendents. I did meet two individuals who were studying in the Penn State World Campus program and at Elmwood College in Scotland. Otherwise, much of their information comes from the web or books and little positive confirmation of the diseases they have are available. Despite these limitations, I found the superintendents to be very knowledgeable and interested in management strategies.

In trying to keep this to our readable two minute post, I will wrap up by saying thanks to all of the superintendents who showed me around their courses; Sue for inviting me to speak at the conference; Dr. Vargas (aka Elvis shown to the right) for once again creating an entertaining environment and for stirring the pot with his views on resistance management; Marinus for driving us around for the week; Aquatrols, Syngenta and Toro for sponsoring the event; and to everyone else I met. This trip provided me a lot of information for more international posts that I will put up over the next few months. In the meantime, check out the photos from the trip. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

Oh, and as for “lekker” in the post’s title. This was explained to me as an Afrikaan term that means something that is “better than nice”. Although there was no literal English translation, I took it as meaning “awesome”.

4 Responses to “A Lekker Conference in South Africa”

Willie Botes said...

Hi there John...
It was "Lekker"(awesome)to have you and "Elvis" (Dr.Vargas) over here in South Africa and we really hope to see you here again soon...
Cheers.....

Andre Gerber said...

Hi John,
Thank you for all the interesting talks and of course showing us how to deal with a bottle of Tequila. I did not have any time to catch up with you regarding the Dollar Spot on my golf course. I have Rye fairways and tees with Bent greens. We are now in winter and i am still experiencing very active dollar spot on my greens and fairways. The nitrogen levels are good, but for some or other reason the Banner and Daconil applications just does not want to work. Is there a reason for this?

Jon said...

John, when I grow up I want to travel like you do instead of the way I have been. Your pictures were some of the best I have seen of South Africa and if the conference was as good as the entertainment it is one I will try not to miss this year.

John Kaminski said...

Jon,

Is this Jon Scott? If so, then I want to travel the way you do! Thanks for the comments about the photos.

John

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