Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Tough March

The golf course was showing signs of coming out of the winter without any problems in early March, but then the snow came.  In March alone we had over three feet of snow that caused some late winter damge to the golf course.

The areas that were primarily effected were ones in which poor drainage and surface water flow occurs on the turfgrass.  These areas can be seen on greens, fairways and rough.

The primary loss of turf occurred to the Poa Annua and some Ryegrass. Losing both of these species of turf is good for our long term agronomic programs, but it has made some areas on the course look worse than they are.

The technical term for what occurred is called Crown Hydration. The process is complex, but it involves water freezing in open spaces around individual plant cells in the crown portion (growing point) of the plant. The ice crystals forming around the plant cell pull water out of the cell causing dehydration inside the cell. The process causes irreversible damage to cell membranes and death to the individual cells. A hardened plant can tolerate this condition, but once a plant loses hardiness (a natural occurrence in late winter) individual cells lose the ability to combat the dehydration process and severe injury can occur. The process is still not fully understood but damage seems to be worse when certain environmental conditions are met.


Crown hydration damage usually occurs when warm temperatures are followed by quick drops in soil temperatures below . Hardiness of plants are generally reduced at this time when exposed to thawing. Free moisture (usually from melting snow or precipitation) around the crown of the plant freezes and draws water from the cell. This form of winterkill is more likely to occur in early spring once the snow begins to melt and there is excessive moisture present. Exacerbating this problem can be low-lying areas where water sits, poor drainage, and heavy soils.

I believe this damage occurred in the first two weeks of March when the heavy snows melted quickly during the warm daytime temperatures which were followed by cold freezing nights.  In this time period there were days in which temperature swings of more than 45 degrees ocured in a 24 hour period of time.

We will be addressing the damaged areas individually and use the appropriate method for repairing these areas whether it is sodded or seeded to best put the area back in play.