© Richard Muniz Photography, courtesy of Tim Huber

When cool-weather courses are blowing out irrigation systems, applying snow mold applications and shoveling pavement, warm-weather superintendents begin a critical tussle.

Pythium becomes the focus of many southern disease management programs from November to March. Let Tim Huber, the director of agronomy at The Club at Carlton Woods in suburban Houston, explain why Pythium surged to the top of winter disease watch lists in his area.

“In December, we have had some good rain events and it’s been that perfect Pythium and leaf spot weather,” Huber says. “Pythium on Bermudagrass loves that 40- to 60-degree window and that’s been where we have been at.”

Tim Huber

Huber oversees the maintenance of two elite private courses, including a 20-year-old Jack Nicklaus design that plays and drains differently once Bermudagrass enter dormancy. An active storm season in the Gulf of Mexico elevated the potential for winter Pythium outbreaks.

“When you have dormant grass, the water isn’t actively being soaked up,” Huber says. “Our Nicklaus Course gets a little more pressure, greens included, because it just doesn’t drain as well (as the club’s Fazio Course). You get these rain events, and if it’s 1½ inches, the golf course is wet for a few days. Because the turf isn’t growing, it’s not sucking up the water and the water is not evaporating because it’s not hot and that’s why disease pressure is a lot higher in the wintertime, even though our soils are sandy.”

Huber started preventatively treating for Pythium every 28 days beginning in early November. Applications include a tank mix of two fungicides labeled for Pythium control, with Huber planning to incorporate SePRO’s Zio Fungicide into the five applications planned on the Nicklaus Course greens.

Huber first used Zio, an Organic Materials Review Institute-listed product, at the end of last winter and saw enough encouraging signs to make it a part of this winter’s Nicklaus Course greens program. A pair of traditional fungicides are rotated alongside Zio in each application.

“We aren’t seeing any Pythium,” Huber says. “Zio is that comfort factor that’s in there with it. I know it adds that second mode of action, that second protective quality in there. Coming into the fall, since we didn’t have any issues last winter, I wanted to continue that same program, even though Zio wasn’t in there until the tail end of it. I thought I would give it a shot again.”

Unless something drastic changes, Huber anticipates using Zio again during the 2021-22 winter cycle. “It’s just one of those things that has a place in the program,” he says.

The Nicklaus Course greens have remained strong and vibrant, despite soggy stretches and heavy play. The Club at Carlton Woods has experienced significant increases in golf activity due to members working from home and having limited recreational outlets during the pandemic. Huber is grateful for how his team and programs responded to 2020 stresses.

“It validates a lot of what we do,” he says. “It’s a team effort. It’s the programs, it’s all the time spent staying on top of the latest and greatest products, the latest techniques and all the hard work we do with cultural practices such as aerification. I couldn’t be more proud of our team. We’re not quite out of the hard challenge of turf not growing and the pandemic is still around. But if what we have done is indication of where we are going to go, I’m pretty confident we will do well.” ?