5 Tips for Surviving the Drought

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[NOTE: This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

Michael Gardner PortraitLet’s face it, it’s hot! It’s also dry in many of our areas. Some say these drought conditions started last fall and continued through a cold, dry winter. Now that we’ve hit the hot, dry summertime, drought stress can kill our turf and our budget.

You may be a golf course superintendent, professional landscaper, or a homeowner caring for your yard. Drought conditions affect us all. Our differences may be our access to water, our water costs, and our budget. But they’re all tight. The sooner we alleviate turf stress, the better.

Drought is crippling the Southwest United States. As a matter of fact, water costs have gotten so high in the San Diego area that Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club closed indefinitely on July 9.

To avoid similar circumstances, we must make the water that’s available to us stretch to meet our needs – without killing the turf. How do we balance availability and cost against acceptable conditions?

1. Have a Plan

Good water management practices include a drought plan. In fact, if your region requires a water-withdrawal permit to irrigate, you’re probably required to have a drought management plan as well. Water conservation practices might include the following:

  • Lined ponds
  • Moisture monitoring systems
  • Irrigation inspection and maintenance
  • Scheduled aeration
  • Alternative water sources (effluent and brackish water)
  • Turf tolerant to brackish water
  • Drought-tolerant, no-mow turf
  • Raised mowing heights
  • Decreased mowing frequency
  • Naturalized grass areas with good soil conditions
  • Root-pruning trees to avoid water competition
  • Application of growth regulators before wilt/dormancy
  • Soil improvement
  • Root mass improvement
  • Suspension of fertilizers and pesticides when turf is dormant
  • The use of surfactants to increase water penetration

2. Use a Surfactant

Of that plan, one of the most important and quickest drought recovery aides is a high-quality soil surfactant. Surfactants decrease the surface tension of water, so it can penetrate and move through the soil more effectively. This makes available water more useful, productive, and efficient.

I’ve worked over 35 years in turf and agriculture and I’ve never seen a better surfactant than Huma Gro® Turf Surf-Max®. Surf-Max® works in a unique way, moving water horizontally before pushing water down through the soil profile. This has many benefits. On sand-based greens, we don’t lose water straight down through the soil profile. More water is kept in the root zone. In clay soils, Surf-Max® helps water penetrate with less pooling on the surface. Surf-Max® also moves water quickly and efficiently through thatch layers that are traditionally difficult for water to penetrate. Additionally, Surf-Max® increases the availability of nutrients and soil conditioning products in the soil as they are able to move freely with the water through the soil profile.

3. Improve Soil Health, Feed (beneficial) Fungi

In conjunction with surfactant treatment, soil needs to be conditioned to be more receptive to water. At Huma Gro® Turf, we take a sustainable approach of improving soil structure and soil health. Healthy soil allows better water infiltration and has better water-holding capacity. We accomplish this with Huma Gro® Turf Fertil Humus® to stimulate the beneficial fungi in the soil. Fertil Humus® also breaks down and recycles organic matter in the soil, producing humus-rich soil.

4. Feed (beneficial) Bacteria

On the other hand, Multi-Purpose™ improves soil structure by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the soil and stimulating microbial activities. The combination of Fertil Humus® and Multi-Purpose™ produces a long-term, healthy soil environment that saves water, makes nutrients more available, and sustains healthy turf.

5. Increase Root Mass

Finally, a superior root system should be developed. The more mass to the root system, the greater the water and nutrient uptake and overall plant health. Huma Gro® Turf increases root mass with a product called Breakout®. When applied to soil, Breakout® promotes a dense fibrous root system.

Recap

The sooner we start preventive and recovery measures, the sooner we see results. Here’s the recap:

  1. Preventive – be prepared: Have a drought plan.
  2. Quick fix – surfactant: Surf-Max® aids water penetration and distribution.
  3. Long-term – soil health (fungi): Huma Gro Fertil Humus® feeds beneficial fungi in soil.
  4. Long-term – soil health (bacteria): Multi-Purpose™ feeds beneficial bacteria in soil.
  5. Long-term – root mass: Breakout® promotes root growth.

Product trials for water infiltration and water savings are available upon request. A thatch infiltration bench test of Surf-Max® demonstrated by Dr. Johann Buck is available on YouTube: http://bit.ly/HGT-SurfMaxVideo

Let’s use water as efficiently as possible as soon as possible. Whether in drought or abundance, we can do more with less both on the golf course and at home.

Remediating Hydraulic Spills on Golf Courses

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[NOTE: This article first appeared in the June 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

Technology is all around us. There aren’t many places we go where technology doesn’t influence us. Golf is no different. In fact, golf is exploding with new technology. Just watching the PGA Merchandise Show on the Golf Channel is amazing.

Last year, my son was using one of my old drivers on his high school varsity golf team. The local pro told him it was time to “get into technology.” He advised us that the best technology in a new driver included a properly-sized grip, shaft flex, and length, and new metals in the head with a forgiving face. This new technology added 45 yards to my son’s drives.

Golf technology doesn’t stop with drivers. It’s in our golf balls, shoes, club fittings, spin rates, GPS, clothing, and more. I recently saw a golf cart with a custom cooler, stereo, and air conditioning unit on top. And now, you can buzz around the course on a Golfboard.

I would like to discuss a technology of significant importance to the game. Byron Nelson was once asked what he thought the greatest technological breakthrough was in golf. Most of us would have listed one of the aforementioned items. Byron Nelson’s unexpected, yet genius response: “the lawn mower.”

The mower has taken golf to a new level—it benefits all players with no regard to their equipment. If you were to glimpse into the maintenance shed of your local golf course, the first thing to catch your eye would be the high-tech mowers: riding greens mowers, triplex mowers, push-behind greens mowers, fairway mowers, and mowers for the rough.

Unfortunately, advancements in technology come with a price. The hydraulics that power these high-tech mowers can damage the turf. As hard as our superintendents and mechanics work to keep equipment running smoothly, leaks will occur. We’ve all seen the effects of hydraulic leaks on the course: that tell-tale brownish yellow streak across the green.

It’s impossible to predict when a leak might occur. Because greens are mowed during the dark of early morning, it’s difficult to see a leak while it’s occurring. Fluid is left behind the mower in a split second, undetected by the operator who is facing forward and mowing quickly across the greens.

How can we minimize the damage and speed recovery? Firstly, the extreme temperature at which hydraulic fluid is used kills turf on contact. Secondly, hydraulic fluid is toxic to both the roots and the soil, disrupting photosynthesis and respiration, literally smothering the life out of the soil. By taking oxygen out of the soil, it kills the microorganisms in the soil.

So, what about biodegradable crop-based hydraulic fluids? Because turf is killed on contact by the high temperature of the spill, whether the hydraulic fluid is crop-based or petroleum-based, the initial damage is the same. However, turf damaged by crop-based hydraulic spills does recover quicker than turf damaged by petroleum-based hydraulic spills, reducing down time.

I’ve worked on spills 30 feet long and four feet wide. At Huma Gro® Turf, we repair this kind of extensive damage through soil remediation and turf repair, eliminating the visual damage as quickly as possible. Huma Gro® Turf has put together a Hydraulic Spills Program that remediates the effects of hydraulic spills by breaking down contaminants in the soil, bringing natural health and color back to the affected grass. This program stimulates soil microbial activity that attacks and digests hydraulic oil residue, changing its molecular structure so that it’s no longer toxic. It also provides the nutrients and stimulants needed to help grass recover.

A combination of Huma Gro® Turf’s Surf-Max®, Kleenup™, and Breakout®, along with Turfplex® VII, dilutes the contaminants and begins the repair process. Surf-Max® is a surfactant designed to improve both penetration and lateral movement of water within the root zone and to increase soil moisture retention. Kleenup™ is a soil remediation product. It encapsulates the toxic molecules and starts the soil detox and rebuilding of soil health.

Many times, with extensive damage where the turf and roots have died or are severely damaged, new growth must creep inward from the outer edges. Breakout® stimulates and rejuvenates the root system for quicker horizontal turf growth. Turfplex® VII supplies the nutrients and energy turf needs to repair itself.

Huma Gro® Turf products contain Micro Carbon Technology® (MCT), a proprietary blend of very small organic carbon- and oxygen-rich molecules that enable more effective absorption of nutrients into the plant through the soil and the leaves. MCT-based products promote the growth of roots and beneficial microorganisms in the soil.

Enjoy technology, embrace it. I plan to enjoy the beautifully mowed greens where my favorite courses are mowed with increasingly high-tech mowers. And when those high-tech mowers leak hydraulic fluid, as they inevitably do, the technology of Huma Gro® Turf Hydraulic Spills Program will be there to clean up and remediate affected turf and contaminated soil.

Huma Gro® Turf Special Turf Programs can be found at https://humagroturf.com/special-turf-programs/.

 

Relieving Golf Course Heat and Heavy Traffic Stresses

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[Note: This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

I just had one of those days on the golf course when you sit back and think, “Wow, what a great day!” I played a fabulous course in Carlsbad, Calif., where the ocean breeze is cool and refreshing and the sun warms your soul.

The course runs through coastal hills and valleys with impressive elevation changes. From the hill tops, you can see the ocean. Down in the valleys are wetlands, streams, and what are called “environmentally sensitive” areas where the foliage is thick and tall. An impressive 7 miles of cart paths weave in and out of canyons. You may drive 2 to 3 minutes through beautiful surroundings to get to the next tee box.

This day reminded me how much I love the beauty of golf. Not necessarily the game itself, but the actual beauty of the game. Standing on the first tee box with a large ravine in front of me, the green grass of the fairway in the distance, and the ocean to my right, I felt life’s stresses fading away.

I often think about the different stresses of life. As a “turf guy,” I’m aware of the stresses affecting golf courses. Just as stress affects our bodies, the different avenues stress takes are no different with turf. Stress from different angles affects turf health and playability.

Golf turf stresses are similar throughout the country. It’s a warm weather activity and local courses get a lot of play. These factors bring stress, not only to the courses, but to the golf course superintendents.

With spring around the corner, and soon the summer heat, it’s important for superintendents to get an early start on soil health and hydration. The summer heat brings drought, hot spots, water repellency, and other issues. Proper soil health ensures water penetration and retention, alleviating and reducing heat stress symptoms, now and in the future. Huma Gro® Turf focuses on long-term soil health to combat the summer heat.

With summer also comes the stress of soil compaction caused by heavy play. This includes all parts of the course: cart paths, walking paths, fairways, tee boxes, and greens. Running hundreds of golf carts each day takes a toll on golf courses. Superintendents take great care in directing traffic to reduce compaction. Proper soil health can help maintain air pockets in the soil and break up compaction.

Other proactive measures to prevent damage caused by summer heat and heavy play include raising mowing heights and using smooth rollers, alternating mowing and rolling and skipping a day when possible; aerating soil using smaller tines; fertilizing in small doses; and monitoring traffic patterns. Water management is essential—a surfactant should be used for quick water penetration and to increase moisture retention during a drought or to treat hot spots. A preventive fungicide is recommended.

Whether stress is created by the environment or the game, Huma Gro® Turf products can help. Programs have been developed that use a range of turf products to combat stress caused by summer heat and heavy play. Huma Gro® Turf products can be another tool for superintendents to use to prevent many stress issues on the course.

Huma Gro® Turf Surf-Max® soil surfactant improves water penetration and movement through the soil and roots. Turfplex® VII is recommended to nourish and correct deficiencies for vigor, vitality, and color; Calcium is applied for strength, growth, and plant health; Sil-K® for stronger blades for heat and wear tolerance; and Multi-Purpose™ for improved air and water exchange in the soil. These products are the Heat Stress Program and can be mixed together.

The Heavy Traffic Program includes Turfplex® IV, a fast-acting, long-lasting nitrogen source for vigorous turf, as well as Sil-K® and Multi-Purpose™, which are also in the Heat Stress Program. These products are recommended for use prior to tournaments and in heavy traffic areas. They strengthen the grass stem to prevent ball marks, fight cleat damage, and give the ball a faster, truer roll.

In addition to preventing heat and heavy traffic stress, Huma Gro® Turf Promax® is a recommended zero re-entry pesticide to cure and protect against nematodes and diseases in the soil. Huma Gro® Turf products can be mixed together.

Huma Gro® Turf provides the tools for stress-free turf. Whether you’re a superintendent enjoying your stress-free turf, a turf guy like me, and/or a golfer, the next time you’re standing at the tee box, look out and enjoy the beauty of nature, take a deep breath, and feel the stress trickle away.

Consult your local Huma Gro® Turf representative or turf specialist for specific recommendations. Huma Gro® Turf products include Micro Carbon Technology®, a proprietary blend of very small organic molecules that allows for more effective absorption of nutrients by plants.

Huma Gro® Turf Special Turf Programs can be found at https://humagroturf.com/special-turf-programs/.

 

Keeping Greens Healthy

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[Note: This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

Greens are the most valuable real estate on a golf course. Keeping them in top condition is a priority for every golf course superintendent. We always try to be proactive, to address known potential problems before they become actual problems that the members and patrons notice. But even with the best planning and prevention measures, unexpected problems come up. And if a problem is on the greens, then it’s “all hands on deck” time.

Technology is available to help us maintain the health of our greens, not to mention our entire courses. I’m a big fan of soil and plant analysis, using science to its fullest to help create and maintain good plant health. Soil analysis, in particular, can be a big help, because many turf diseases stem from soil conditions that are known to be conducive to pathogens. These conditions should always be on our radar so that we can deal with them before serious problems arise.

Soil is where all things good and bad begin for turf. It is the foundation of almost everything we do to create healthy, playable conditions for all to enjoy. Analysis not only gives us a view of nutrient levels, but also gives us a view into our soil structure, organic matter, our soil’s potential for health, and much more. These analyses can also help us to look into the future to see if there is an emerging environment conducive to pathogens that can lead to turf disease.

Huma Gro® Turf has developed a standard turf health program for greens that has been successful all over the world. The focus is on soil health and nutrition along with plant health and managed growth. The program is a package of four products, all powered by Micro Carbon Technology® for quick plant and soil response. They include MULTI-PURPOSE™ for soil health, BREAKOUT® for turf density and increased root mass, TURF IRON™ for color, and TURFPLEX® VII for balanced nutrition. These liquid products are simply poured into a sprayer tank prefilled with water—no dissolving needed, no compatibility issues, and no clogging of nozzles. Better yet, no watering-in is needed. These products can be applied in your normal application routine and can be watered in as part of a standard irrigation program.

One of the benefits of the Huma Gro® Turf products is that the Micro Carbon Technology® protects the nutrient molecule so that leaching and runoff become less of an issue for your course. This results in less wasted product and makes the courses much more environmentally friendly.

With the best plans in place and with the best of intentions, problems can still arise from time to time. Sometimes these are the result of inherited problems caused by years of mismanagement, and sometimes they are the result of extraordinary circumstances that are out of the superintendent’s control.

One such challenge is fairy ring.

Fairy ring can be caused by multiple types of fungi. When large numbers of these fungi colonize in a particular location, the soil becomes hydrophobic, or water repellent. Fairy ring can be a simple nuisance in the early stages, but it can lead to turf death along the rings when not confronted. When signs of fairy ring first emerge, it’s important to begin treatment before turf damage occurs. One proven intervention is Huma Gro® Turf’s PROMAX® product—an organic, OMRI listed, broad-spectrum fungicide that can be applied any time without harm to the turf or the environment. It has a zero-reentry interval, meaning that golf play can resume the same day as treatment. PROMAX® is both a curative and preventive product. When applied once a quarter, PROMAX® can also help to keep a healthy soil environment that is pathogen-free.

When spot-spraying PROMAX® or any other fungicide for fairy ring, it is important to treat both sides of the ring—fairy ring travels as the fungi seek out new food sources. It is also important to get product deep into the soil environment. Fungi can be present in the thatch layer down to 10+ inches deep in the soil. Once the fungi have been dealt with, it is important to address the hydrophobic “dry spot” they created in the soil. This can be dealt with by applying SURF-MAX®, a surfactant that brings moisture back into the soil and allows healthy hydration and nutrition uptake to resume.

Another preventive measure that can be taken to minimize the threat of fairy ring is proper management of the thatch layer itself. Huma Gro® Turf’s FERTIL HUMUS® product can aid in this management by decomposing the thatch layer and building a humus-rich soil.

Although any turf disease is a complex situation that may require special interventions, the steps and products I’ve described here provide additional tools for the superintendent’s arsenal in achieving overall soil health—the first step to creating healthy greens.

A complete list of Huma Gro® Turf special programs can be found at https://humagroturf.com/special-turf-programs/.