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What is the Most Interesting Disease in the World?

I think of two diseases that, at least by name, are the most interesting in the world. Surely there are others. I'd like to hear them. Fairy ring must have some poetic names in various languages? But I still think it is difficult to beat zō no ashiato. Check out this adventure story to find out why.


and here is the exciting conclusion!


The Farm Links Experience

This week will be spent traveling to Farm Links to hear the discussion on BASF's Intrinsic properties in their two products Insignia and Honor (Insignia + Emerald). The thought process behind this is that applications of either of these products with the "Intrinsic" label will help in managing stress. Leading up to the conference, many of the pathologists have been frantically emailing back and forth discussing the actual agronomic benefits from these products. Although the verdict is out, the discussion raised some key issues regarding the promotion of fungicides as stress reducers. Issues that need to be addressed is the potential overuse of these fungicides which could result in rapid resistance issues with several key pathogens. So the first part of this week will be spent with various pathologists, physiologists and just about the entire USGA staff at Farm Links in Alabama discussing the issues. Hopefully someone else on the blog will be able to update you later this week on their take on the meeting.

While in Alabama, we were able to spend time on the golf course which is a teaching/research facility and has various species throughout including zoysia, paspalum, bermudagrass, and bentgrass. Unfortunately, we didn't see much disease on the course, but we did see that large patch was starting to show up fairly aggressively on the seashore paspalum (photo below). In listening to Dr. Harmon from the University of Florida it seems that paspalum gets just about every disease. I am sure that Micah Woods (our international blogger) sees many things on the seashore paspalum in his area.

Around the Northeast, temperatures are on the warm side as some front sites over the area. Although out of the loop in the area, I would suspect that dollar spot could still continue to be a problem. Aside from this, many are trying to determine what their plan of attack will be for their upcoming snow mold applications. To find out which products may work for the varying pressures you may see at your course, check out Dr. Kerns suggestions for PCNB substitutes here (pdf)

Aside from the trip to Alabama, I will be back in State College on Thursday and then head to Massachusetts for a talk at the NE-APS meeting on Friday for a talk on the implications/impact of the relatively large number of Pre-Mix fungicides on disease control in turf.

Back in the USA!

It's Friday morning here in San Francisco and I'm back from a 2-week journey to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. I'm glad to be back, for many reasons, but don't have a lot to report disease-wise. But, if you're interested in a short travel report and impressions of China, read on after the short California disease update.

On the Great Wall sporting a goofy tourist pose and my Northern California Golf Course Association Bootcamp Pullover

What's Shaking in California

As I posted 2 weeks ago, rapid blight started to pop up in California, and it's still been the biggest problem we've seen throughout the state for the last 2 weeks on annual bluegrass greens. Although we've been having some fall showers, the rainfall in most parts of the state hasn't been high enough to drop sodium levels in greens, and the mild weather is perfect for this disease to develop if you've got salt issues.

Although John reported some brown ring patch activity in the east; we haven't seen anything pop up yet here in the lab at UCR.

Travel Report from China
In all honesty, it was 100% a family vacation and I spent little time looking at turfgrass and most of my time visiting family and trying to avoid getting run over by a moped or bicycle in Shanghai or Beijing! Being my first time there, it was hard to know what to expect.

Hong Kong was a very easy city to get along in, and a soft landing for adventures to come on the mainland. I kept on thinking that it was a lot like San Francisco but with a lot less Mexican people (e.g. San Francisco's significant Chinese population is mostly from southern China and cities like Hong Kong and Canton, and there were definitely no Mission District style taquerias to be found ). Being a former British colony, English is pretty common there and being in southern China, the local language is Cantonese (which was what my grandparents and mom & pop speak). Although Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, it's considered a "Special Administrative Region" (the other being Macau, the nearby ex-Portuguese colony) and has been allowed to retain a high level of it's autonomy and not subject to all of the rules of the People's Republic of China.

On the other hand, Shanghai and Beijing were completely new experiences. It was pretty impressive to see how mainland China is developing. The activity in these cities was amazing, and the rapidly changing economic and social landscape was reflected by modern shopping centers next to centuries old buildings and brand-new BMWs and Mercedes Benzes pushing their way through bicycles on the crowded local streets.

Mandarin is the primary language spoken outside of the Cantonese-dominated southeastern corner of the country, and since I failed to get past lesson 1 of Rosetta Stone, I was completely at a loss for understanding anything spoken in Shanghai and Beijing. On more than a dozen occasions, the locals pointed me out as if to say "that guy looks Chinese, but can't speak any Mandarin, what is he retarded or something?"

Although you can see free-market-wheel-and-deal Capitalism everywhere in the mainland, I was reminded that it's still a Communist country when I tried to "google" things on the internet and access sites like Facebook. No dice. No Turf Disease Blog update either! China's got a ways to go regarding free speech, but this trip overseas was a reminder that we have something pretty special here when it comes to our freedom of speech and information.

All in all, I'd really encourage folks to visit - it's eye-opening to see what's going on over there. China's in an exponential growth phase both economically and socially, and getting a better understanding of our biggest trading partner is a good thing.

Ok that's it for this week. Signing off from the left coast.....

And the winner is...

Congratulations to Andrew Lanigan (@TurfIntern) for his winning caption seen below. Andrew wins a copy of the Compendium of Turfgrass Diseases courtesy of Syngenta.

Alright Happy, just two putt around the sinkhole and we'll beat him in sudden death. No, I think I'll just win it now.

For the background story of the putting green.  This green was at Burning Tree Country Club in Connecticut.  Water running off the Merritt Parkway (just up from this green) is captured and transferred through the pipe seen in the photo.  I'm not sure when the pipe was put in, but you can see the slight angle that was made where two pipes were connected.  It was just a matter of time before it broke, and when it did it washed a lot of soil and a large portion of the green away.  Also notice the large steel plate (right/top) that was placed right on top of the connection where the contractors new there may be problems...guess that didn't hold it.  Finally, for all of you that hit rocks with the cup cutter, check out the large "boulder" that was unveiled during the washout (right/bottom).  Native soil greens are so much fun!

I like to use this photo in my talks, especially when it has been a tough summer.  The job of a superintendent can very stressful and often times turf managers worry about things they can't control.  This photo is just an example of one of those uncontrollable things (Mother Nature being the most troublesome). I want to thank Mike Barton (pictured above) for allowing Turf Diseases to use this photo for our first contest.
    We would also like to give a HUGE THANKS to our First Sponsor Syngenta. Their contributions go to support the APS Turfgrass Pathology Student Travel Fund which provides travel funding for graduate students to present their scientific research at the annual American Phytopathological Society.  These students are the future of Turfgrass Pathology!

    Cooler temperature are here to stay.

    It's been a while since I last posted and temperatures during this past month have been highly variable.  Warmer to actual hot temperatures were observed in many parts of the Northeast over the past week, but the forecast for the upcoming 10 days looks like cooler temperatures may be here to stay.

    With these cooler temperatures will still come the potential for disease activity.  Over the past couple of weeks, dollar spot has made it's typical late season resurgence and we are probably not out of the water completely as far as this disease goes.  A couple of year's ago when warm temperatures extended into December and January in the Washington, D.C. area, dollar spot activity continued through the end of the calendar year.  However, the only real problems that I have seen showing up at this point are brown ring patch and yellow tuft.  Brown ring patch, which has been described in detail in previous posts (click here to see all related BRP posts) will likely continue with the predicted weather conditions.  Yellow tuft, not really a major problem, has shown up in areas that have poor drainage issues or in areas received heavy rains.  For those of you not familiar with the disease, symptoms are small yellow spots (about the size of a US quarter) which generally appear in areas where water can sit for a period of time.  To diagnose this disease, you can simply "tease" out the yellow tufted plants and look for the excessive tillering of the plant (photo below).

    One thing that superintendents further North should really be on the lookout for now is the development of Microdochium patch (aka Fusarium patch).  The cool wet weather we are about to head into for the season is PERFECT for the development of Microdochium patch. There are many fungicides effective for this disease, but the combination of chlorothalonil + iprodione has always been a go-to for many of the superintendents in the New England region where chronic problems with this disease occur. This would also be a great tank-mix for our international readers, particularly those in the UK where this is the primary disease.

    As with Megan, I hope to be posting more updates in the coming months.  This will likely focus on some research results from fungicide evaluations conducted this summer and also on the numerous conferences that many of us will be attending between now and March. If you have anything specific that you would like to hear about, please feel free to leave a comment below.  If I have any information relevant to the topic, I will make it the focus of a future post.

    If you could use me to channel a message to the general manager...


    First, thanks for the great responses on the caption contest. I've enjoyed reading them.

    I, too, have been slacking on the posts lately. Though I'm not in China or Hong Kong (that is awesome, Frank... enjoy!) I did have a fair amount of travel in September (including a visit to my very cool nephew Zack who is just turning 6, and brand new baby niece Haley who is 3-months).

    But, the main reason is that it's been kinda quiet on the disease front and I just have not felt all that inspired. As fall progresses I'll try to get some research summaries out, and switch into "winter mode" where my posts tend to be more discussion and less of a report on the week's array of turf death and destruction. Thinking back about this summer's turf death-and-destruction still makes me tired!

    We have been enjoying some beautiful fall weather--clear, sunny days, cold nights. Last weekend we had a night or two with light frosts in some areas.

    Talking to GM's: Looking for your advice

    In about 10 days I'll be speaking to a group of regional golf course general managers. Other than a couple of local guys that I know personally, I have not dealt much with GM's, and I have been pondering what kinds of things to talk about. I'm going to give a brief overview of how we at KSU work with the golf industry to set research goals, how the diagnostic lab works, and then a review of some of the environmental stresses and diseases of 2010, with lots of photos, discussion, etc.

    Just by chance, this morning I came across a set of new articles by Keith Happ from the USGA. Golf course general managers, golf pros, and superintendents were all asked the same set of questions about challenges of running a golf course, issues that can lead to conflict, and strategies for reaching consensus. These articles gave me a few other ideas on things to mention.

    General managers:



    Anyway, if any of you have suggestions on what I, as a plant pathologist, should discuss when talking to GM's, shoot me some ideas. You can use the comments below or on Facebook.

    Finally, a pic of some very dewy bermudagrass at the KSU football practice facility on a cool morning. It was so shimmery it looked like frost, but not quite...

    A way-past due update from the West

    Damn, sometimes life gets so far ahead of you that it's hard to catch up!

    Sorry for the lack of posts for the last several weeks, no excuses, other than just being lame.

    California has certainly had one of the weirdest summers I can remember having a slow, cool start and ending with record high 100s in southern California in October. I think it wasn't too bad overall judging by the total number of samples we had in the diagnostic lab. Anthracnose and summer patch were pretty active this year on Poa greens, but diseases like gray leaf spot on rye were not big troublemakers this year. Hopefully as guys start aeration, they'll have a chance to relax a little after this summer, well, unless you have rapid blight (see below).

    As far as the desert guys go, there could be some bumps ahead on the road for overseeding. Last week, we had a few days in the 90s with rain and night time temps in the 70s; this next week, the night time temps could stay above 68F for a few days during the week, so keep an eye out for Pythium during the overseed.

    It's Back!!!!
    Rapid blight is starting to pop up on Poa greens in California as temperatures start to mellow; leach greens prior to aerification if you can as the sand topdressing can really flare rapid blight if it's salty. Application of fungicides like mancozeb, Compass or Insignia will ceratinly help, but salt is the #1 issue to deal with.

    NCGA's 2010 Assistant Superintendent Bootcamp

    Last week, I had the pleasure of attending this event in Monterey, CA organized by Mike McCullough at the NCGA. There were about 35 attendees there who got to hear presentations from speakers such as Mike Richardson (Univ. of Arkansas), Bruce Wiliams (Valleycrest), Ty Murray (California Highway Patrol), Andy Staples (Golf Resource Group), and Brian McRae (The Preserve Golf Club) as well as group discussions with Tom Junk (Robert Talbot Co.), Jimmy Becker (NCGA), Bob Klinsteker (San Francisco Golf Club), Drew Barnett (Philadelphia Cricket Club) and Earl Kennel (Monterey Peninsula Country Club). Here you can see Mike McCullough addressing the group at the NCGA HQ at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach.

    Quick summary and highlights of speaker presentations (boiled down to the syrup) that I was able to attend (apologies to the guys who I didn't get to see talk!):

    Mike Richardson: 'New Technology to Enhance Your Course'
    - Technology is everywhere, use these tools for environmental measurements, mapping applications and even your iPhone to stay ahead of the curve for turf management.

    Frank Wong: IPM Planning for Disease Management'
    - Check out GCSAA's new IPM planing tool:

    Bruce Williams: 'Networking'
    - 'It's not just what you know, but who you know as well' --> creating sucessful networks is a part of having a sucessful career.

    Ty Murray: 'Transporting Hazardous Materials'
    - Lock it down and label it when you're taking any hazardous materials on the road or face the long arm of the law.

    Mike Richardson: 'Foliar Fertilizer Programs'
    - Regular foliar applications of low rates of nitrogen fertilizers give you more consistent plant growth and quality; think urea - it's effective and cost-efficient.

    Frank Wong: 'Optimizing Fungicide Applications'
    - Mike Fidanza says: Flat fans nozzles using 2 gal water/1,000 sq ft give you the best overall disease control; extra water is need to control soil borne diseases like fairy ring.

    Brian McRae: 'Outside Influences on Your Career'
    - Bad stuff can happen to you; it may be out of your control, but personal relationships you make in the industry & the networks you establish can often help save you or at least soften the blow.

    Andy Staples: 'Sustainable Golf Courses'
    - 'Sustainability' and green projects have the most impact on golf course design and operations when ther is a real cash value or benefit associated with them; green projects for the sake of 'feeling good' aren't as likely to be as sucessful as green projects that can save (or make) a course a real dollar amount.

    Drew Barnett: 'Blogging'
    - Use this medium to keep your membership aware of why things are happening on your course; it's a way to show that you're looking out for their long term interests.

    Bruce Williams: 'Developing Skills that Make You a Desired Commodity'
    - "When your girlfriend (or wife) asks you 'does this make me look fat?' the answer is obvious, but sometimes how fast you answer makes all of the difference."

    *Probably the most important thing I heard at the meeting! Bruce was talking about having an updated resume ready and being ready to respond when opportunity knocks on the door.

    NCGA Seeks Interns for 2011
    Speaking of opportunities, the NCGA is looking for interns for next year. If you're just getting into the industry and want some experience in California, check this out:

    Applications are due November 1st!

    OK - that's about it for this week's entry - I'm in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing from October 10 - 22; hopefully I'll have things to share from the far far West next week!

    Until then, signing off from the right coast... (PS - my sabbatical is officially over when I get back from China, so expect me to be back on the left coast regularly starting in a few weeks).

    The 5 finalists are...

    Our contest giveaway is almost complete.  After receiving over 60 captions in the comments of the blog and several more on the Facebook page, we have narrowed down our list to just five.

    Here are the five finalists in the "Give a Caption, Win a Compendium" contest sponsored by Syngenta. For more information on the contest details, please check out the original post here.

    The five captions selected by the authors of this blog (no complaint's please) are:
    • "Hey boss, is this a bad time to talk about that raise?" Sodfather
    • "The good new is, I was able to remove the rock I hit with the cup-cutter." Paul Sabino
    • "Well, it only took 39 years, but Alan Shepard's 6 iron from Apollo 14 finally hit the green. Looks to be pin-high too!" Chris Blair
    • "Where do you think they got the idea for the bunker in the green at Riviera?" Sean
    • "Alright Happy, just two putt around the sinkhole and we'll beat him in sudden death. No, I think I'll just win it now." TurfIntern Andrew Lanigan
     Now get check out the poll in the upper right corner of this blog and VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE!

    I wanted to also mention a couple of other captions that made us laugh and nearly made the cut! Well done to Stephen Hicks for "Well then, I guess we gotta tone down that Sub-Air system, eh?" and to both Anonymous and David for pointing out the double pass of the mower in the same direction.  Did anyone else catch this?

    We thank all of those that participated and put in a caption.  The participation was great and we greatly appreciate everyone providing us with a few laughs as we wrap up the end of the summer and head into better weather. Results will be posted next week!

    We would also like to give a HUGE THANKS to our First Sponsor Syngenta. Their contributions go to support the APS Turfgrass Pathology Student Travel Fund which provides travel funding for graduate students to present their scientific research at the annual American Phytopathological Society.  These students are the future of Turfgrass Science!

    When is Scalping a Good Thing?

    When is scalping a good thing? When it teaches us something useful. In parks and commercial landscapes in Southeast Asia, the normal maintenance for broadleaf carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) or manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) involves infrequent mowing at low mowing heights. Grass may be allowed to grow to a height of 30 to 50 mm (1.25 to 2 inches) or higher and then it will be scalped down with a string trimmer nearly to ground level, to something less than 12 mm (0.5 inch). See the video below from a resort at Pai in northern Thailand. I was here recently for some belletristic work.

    This scalping would seem like rather poor maintenance, but I suggest that the scalping is a good thing in that it teaches us something about these grass species and their adaptation to low light conditions. Broadleaf carpetgrass and manilagrass tolerate (or even thrive with) this regular scalping, while seashore paspalum and bermudagrass do not. Sure, the average turf quality would be better if the grass was mowed frequently rather than scalped, but this removal of 70 to 90% of the leaf area at one mowing produces a good turf for many resorts and parks and lawns and roadsides in this part of the world.

    I like to think about scalping as applying artificial shade to the grass. Shade reduces the amount of light available for photosynthesis. And so does scalping, by removing nearly all the leaves. The grasses that can tolerate scalping in Southeast Asia are also those that are well-adapted to this growing environment. And these are also the grasses that have minimal disease problems and thrive on golf courses. Golf courses planted to bermudagrass or seashore paspalum generally have more disease pressure, whether that be bermudagrass decline or dollar spot or an assortment of leaf spots and other maladies.

    mowing pattern of carpetgrass fairway at hong kong

    Now consider broadleaf carpetgrass (above, on a fairway mowed at 8 mm [0.3 inch] in Hong Kong) and manilagrass, by comparison. These grasses can be scalped. And they are relatively disease-free. Other than fairy ring, I have never seen any disease on broadleaf carpetgrass anywhere in tropical Southeast Asia. In sub-tropical Asia it may suffer from large patch during the short winters. That’s all. The only diseases I have seen on manilagrass in tropical Southeast Asia are fairy ring and curvularia leaf blight. Just those two. Ever. The curvularia leaf blight (see below) only occurs during the rainy season and is relatively easy to control.

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