WARM SEASON GRASSES FOR STATE-OF-ART GOLF GREENS (END)
Seashore Paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) began to find its way onto golf courses in the 1970s and early 1980s. Driven by the need to find new grasses that could tolerate high salt content water along with the stresses of heat and humidity, golf course superintendents, turfgrass researchers and commercial grass suppliers turned to Paspalum as a real solution.
Paspalum is a tropical grass originally found in North and South Americas’ warm coastal regions. As a perennial it spreads rapidly by both stolons and rhizomes. Its greatest attribute is that it has a very high tolerance to saline soils and brackish water once established.
Interest has rapidly developed in Paspalum since the 1980s and solid progress has been made to research its physiology and management. One highly promising cultivar that is now commercially available from Phillip Jennings Turf Farms is called ‘SeaDwarf’ Seashore Paspalum. SeaDwarf promises to become a very viable golf putting green grass – and even more.
SeaDwarf is a true dwarf cultivar of Seashore Paspalum that exhibits a super-fine texture, high tolerance to salts and demands low inputs of irrigation and fertility. Like all Paspalums, it must be carefully nurtured to an established maturity and then a low-input maintenance regime can be implemented. It must be noted that over irrigation is a nemesis to Papalums and this requires a changing of attitudes by managers.
To learn the latest practices and gain success in managing Seashore Paspalum, I highly recommend an excellent book by Dr. R. R. Duncan and Dr. Bob Carrow entitled, “Seashore Paspalum: The Environmental Turfgrass.” This book is a must for anyone who intends to seriously consider growing Paspalum.
Keep a close watch on the Pasapalum species over the next several years as interest in the market place is heating up and breeders are now focusing on developing improved cultivars–much to the relief of many golf course superintendents around the world.
Overseeding and Transition
In the transition zones between the tropics and the temperate regions, the use of warm season grasses can provide for excellent putting surfaces during the hot and humid seasons. Then using cool season grasses to overseed can extend the green color for a longer golfing season.
Zoysia does not lend itself well to a cycle of overseeding for winter color. The problem is the slow transition in the spring. A skilled superintendent can overcome this problem with careful applications of contact herbicides that will remove the cool season grasses before the Zoysia begins to green up in spring. However, this must be done with much technical understanding and careful chemical application in order to avoid damaging the Zoysia.
By far, the hybrid Bermuda grasses do the very best with a cycle of cool season overseeding. In the desert regions of the United States and in Florida, overseeding of Bermuda has been developed into a reliable and precise management practice. A trip to Palm Springs in February will provide good proof of this fact.
By far the most tenacious disease problems on warm season greens most usually involve the numerous ‘patch’ diseases that attack the roots and crown of the plants. These diseases (typically ectotrophic root diseases) are most often exacerbated by more management practices related to fertility and the buildup of thatch. Usually the real damage is done to the plant’s root system in the late fall as dormancy is entered. Then in the spring the damage earlier done in fall becomes obvious as the spring dead grass shows up.
In sum, properly follow the 4Ps of golf green management and you will avoid most all disease problems with warm season grasses on golf greens.
The Key To Success
As with all grasses used on golf course putting greens, the key to success or failure is simply management! One big concern of many of us in the golf course business is that poor management will lead to failure of some great, emerging cultivars in all species. It is important that when deciding to use the new grasses on golf greens, the golf course must be totally committed to the proper education of its management and the training of its staff on how to best manage these grasses. While it is not ‘brain surgery,’ it is still science and technical management. These require the ‘brain maintenance’ of the management team. Classes, seminars and turf conferences are a necessary investment along with the investment in the new grasses.
Don’t allow poor management to give the new, emerging, warm season cultivars a black eye! Make sure your golf course management staff is as up to speed as these new, great grasses are.