Golf Course Superintendents Form Winterkill Research Group

A group of golf course superintendents in the Northeast, in conjunction with turf specialists from the University of Massachusetts, have begun a multi-year research effort looking at one of the Northeast’s most pressing golf management issues—winterkill.

During the study, the group will attempt to identify specific factors leading to winter-related turfgrass injury, determine best autumn management practices for preventing winterkill, and evaluate the effectiveness of various types of greens covers.

“Traditionally, winterkill is something we’d experience to some degree every few years,” says Tedesco Country Club superintendent Peter Hasak, who is spearheading the project. “But during the winters of 2001, 2003 and 2004, the problem was very widespread, and many courses got hammered. So a bunch of us got together and decided that we needed a specific course of action to figure things out.”

Winterkill can be caused by a host of problems, including turfgrass fungi, ice damage, desiccation, and direct low-temperature kill. According to Mary Owen, one of the participating UMass turf specialists, the ability to correlate specific weather events with turfgrass injury will be an important aspect of the study.

“Our protocol will require that each superintendent monitor turf canopy temperatures and air temperatures using HOBO data loggers and send us turf samples on an ongoing basis,” she explains. “We will grow out grasses from the samples in our greenhouse and analyze the collected temperature data to assess mortality/survival rates of the samples.”

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