Jonathan D. Eisenback, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,

Nematodes were the topic de jour at the 2018 Michigan Turfgrass Conference, and nematologists and turf research offered the latest news and insights (both good and bad) on management techniques, including the potential use of a fungus that attacks ring nematodes. And, yes, there were a number of stomach-turning, enhanced images of nematodes doing their thing.

The conference, organized by the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, took place Jan. 3-5 at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center. The foundation directly supports research at MSU’s Turfgrass Research Program.

If you were hoping this winter’s string of extremely low temperatures will curb spring nematode populations, University of Rhode Island turf pathologist and nematologist Dr. Nathaniel Mitkowski says the cold hard facts are nematodes can weather the cold, even extreme cold, citing an especially frigid stretch in the Pittsburgh area two winters ago where the region experienced four weeks of 20 degrees or below temperatures. “Spring came and we didn’t see a lot of mortality among nematode populations,” he says. “Nematodes have the ability to survive a harsh winter … And there is no correlation between low winter temperatures and nematode mortality.”

And there are a few reasons why nematode populations are growing and spreading on golf courses. For example, topdressing, over time, has removed the harmful heavy metals from the soil profile that has kept nematode populations in check, Mitkowski says. In addition, the cultural trend of lower heights of cut stresses turf, which results in shallow roots susceptible to nematode infestation. But without a doubt, the loss of Nemacur has had an impact. Newer (safer) control options are more expensive and haven’t had the same broad knockout punch.

Management options that may offer some control include: raising height of cut; reducing Poa invasion; establishing better rooting and plant health; and early soil sampling and treatment.

On the topic of nematode control, Dr. Billy Crow, University of Florida nematologist, commented he is confident (and excited) that chemical companies have new nematicides in the pipeline for the turf industry.

In other conference news…

  • Michigan State research may be busting a commonly held myth about irrigation timing, water rates and their impact on dollar spot. Popular thinking is that deep and infrequent watering will get turf roots to chase water into the ground, thus establishing deep rooting. However, recent research suggests that “deep and infrequent” resulted in the most instances of dollar spot when compared to turf plots that received daily irrigation, which had virtually no dollar spot. Researchers suggest daily, nighttime (10 p.m.) water of 1/10th of an inch to better manage dollar spot severity.
  • The majority of renovation work on Michigan golf courses for the last five to seven years has centered around greens. One of the turf revelations to come out of this work addressed how to encourage maximum growth for a grow in. Researchers suggest keeping nitrogen levels high (between .2 - .25 lbs. N per 1000 sq. ft.) to get the turf seedlings growing, and added that there was no observable negative impact from using increased nitrogen levels.
  • Ever wonder about the maintenance budget at St. Andrews? According to guest speaker Gordon Moir, director of greenkeeping, he manages a maintenance budget of around 4.6 million £, or roughly $6.24 million USD. That total is for seven courses, including the famed Old Course.
  • Watch the pH when you tank mix chemicals prior to application. You may start with a pH near neutral, but the addition of various products can bring those levels either up or down and can render AIs ineffective. The result: panic calls to supplier reps about why the product isn’t working.
  • Seeking a way to reverse green damage due to golf spikes? Researchers reported that staying on top of regular topdressing resulted in less visible wear on creeping bent and Poa greens.

Zawacki is GCI’s editor.

Tartan Talks No. 18

Kevin Norby used an orange ball when playing his first round of golf. The course? Pebble Beach.

A landscape architecture major who attended South Dakota State University and the University of Idaho, Norby had never played golf until a memorable college trip to California’s Monterrey Peninsula. Norby describes his path from Pebble Beach to forming a golf course architecture firm with Don Hertford in a Tartan Talks episode.

Norby runs his business from Chaska, Minn., the Minneapolis suburb where 2016 Ryder Cup host Hazeltine National Club is located, and works frequently in the Upper Midwest, where a short golf season doesn’t suppress enthusiasm. Wetlands are common in the region and Norby describes on the podcast how working with environmental features can benefit a golf course. “It’s hard to find a project that in some way doesn’t involve wetlands,” he says.

The podcast also includes guidance on flood mitigation and rebuilding following a natural disaster. CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.

The 2017 Syngenta Business Institute brought a inquisitive group of superintendents to Wake Forest.

Overheard and observations at SBI17

Labor was the topic of interest with the 2017 class of superintendents attending the Syngenta Business Institute Dec. 4-7 at Wake Forest University.

For the last decade, Syngenta has partnered with Wake Forest's School of Business professors who teach a program focused on interpersonal and intergenerational communication, financial management and budgeting, delegation, and negotiation tactics. Superintendents apply to attend SBI, and Syngenta hand picks 26 attendees.

Here are some takeaways from this year's event:

  • Superintendents lament over the fact that labor is in such short supply, often blaming housing surges in their markets for poaching labor. Many are forced to pay record wages to secure their turf management teams.
  • Speaking of labor, assistant superintendents are in short supply in the Midwest. According to attendees, not only are turf schools not churning out the number of junior turfheads like they had in the past, but these graduates instead head toward the East and West Costs in pursuit of internships and jobs, leaving a large hole in the middle for talent. One Michigan turf manager said he was forced to promote a long-term laborer into the assistant position because pickings are so slim in his market.
  • When it came to intergenerational relationship building, much of the conversation was steered toward how younger superintendents can better manage laborers who may be 20-plus years their senior. To further complicate matters, some of the older laborers are retired former superintendents. Junior superintendents were intent on learning skills to overcome anxiety and better manage those who have "been there, done that."

Remember GCI

How and where to find our team and digital coverage during the 2018 Golf Industry Show.

GCI is preparing to two-step its way into Texas with a variety of events designed to enhance the 2018 Golf Industry Show experience.

Our base Feb. 7-8 will be booth #9082 inside San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Visitors can interact with GCI editors and personalities, offer story ideas, subscribe to the magazine, and obtain copies of the popular State of the Industry and Turfheads Take Over issues.

The booth is a Facebook-, Twitter- and selfie-friendly zone, although the social media highlight begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 7 with the presentation of the seventh annual Super Social Media Awards at #GCITweetUp18. A Happy Hour featuring free drinks and live music proceeds the ceremonies at 2 p.m. Aquatrols booth #5097 is the site of the festivities. For those who can’t make it to San Antonio, use #GCITweetUp18 to follow along.

Coverage from San Antonio can be followed via @GCIMagazine on Twitter and on our Facebook page. GCI is also producing two enewsletters about GIS-related happenings.

2018 Super Social Media Award Winners

Kaminski Award

Matthew Wharton, Carolina Golf Club, Charlotte, N.C.

Best Overall Use of Social Media

Ian Andrew, Ian Andrew Golf Design, Brantford, Ontario St. Andrews Turf Team, St. Andrews, Scotland

Best Twitter Feed

Steve Hammon, Traverse City Golf & Country Club, Traverse City, Mich.

Steve Wright, Pine Tree Golf Club, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Best Blog

Chris Harriman, Cattail Creek Country Club, Glenwood, Md.

Richard Johnstone, Nairn Dunbar Golf Links, Nairn, Scotland

Best Use of Video

Atlantic Golf Course Superintendents Association, “Deep Roots”

Megaphone Award for Hurricane Recovery

South Texas Superintendents