Thursday, November 16, 2017

Vole Management in Turf

One of the biggest issues for superintendents in the mountain west are those little pesky voles. Voles are rodents and a relative of the mouse. There are over 100 species of voles. The meadow vole is responsible for the bulk of the damage in a turfgrass situation. Voles are herbivores and the majority of their diet consists of grass stems and leaves. In the summertime voles migrate to thick taller grassy areas for protection against predators. However, when snowfall arrives they have protection under the snow and this is the time they migrate to fine turf areas and cause damage. This makes golf course turf very susceptible to wintertime damage. Voles cause turf damage by chewing grass plants extremely low to the ground and can chew so low they cause damage to the crown of the plant. Voles also create runways in the winter, first by chewing the plants, then by using these to forage for additional food each day. These runways can see extensive traffic throughout the winter as voles forage each day on 10-15 trips.


Vole Damage in a fairway situation with no Milorganite applied. 
Most of the time voles don’t directly kill the turf plant, although if they damage the crown extensively it is possible. The main issue with vole damage is the slow recovery of the turf in the spring. With the combination of cold soil temperatures and damaged turf plants, recovery can be extremely slow. The other issue with vole damage is its effect on playability. When a golf ball lands in one of the vole tunnels, it can nestle down and make for a very poor lie. So until complete recovery happens playability suffers.


Vole Damage to Kentucky Bluegrass tee surrounds. The tee surface received
 an application of Milorganite and sand topdressing and is not touched!

Controlling voles is extremely difficult if not impossible. Over the year’s superintendents have tried many different products with minimal success. One product I found which shows some vole repellency is Milorganite fertilizer. I discovered this primarily by accident. I have used Milorganite fertilizer for many years as a dormant feed on greens, tees, and fairways. What I didn’t realize was all those years of apply Milorganite, I was also repelling voles in those areas. 


All the years we applied Milorganite to the fairways we were getting
a side benefit of vole control, which we really discovered in 2014.
This came to light during the winter of 2014-15. That fall we had early snow cover and only finished 11 fairways with our Milorganite application. That spring we had extensive vole damage on fairways that didn’t receive the Milorganite application. We also noticed that spring that late topdressing applications also reduced vole damage. With this in mind, we decided to apply Milorganite to the rough as well in the fall of 2015. We also set-up some small test areas with check plots to test our theory.

Some testing I performed in some grassy hollows which every year suffers
from vole damage. No Milorganite applied on the left and 0.75#N/M applied
to the right. Totally clean from any damage with the Milorganite.
In the spring of 2016 we were amazed at almost the complete lack of vole damage on the property. Our test plots also show without question that Milorganite certainly repels vole activity. We used rate of 0.75#/N/M in all the rough and in our test areas. The results were fantastic. Not only do you repel voles, you also get the benefits of a great dormant fertilizer application HERE: https://oncourseturf.blogspot.com/2017/10/dormant-fertilization.html . Getting two things accomplished with one product, that is a big plus!

Friday, November 3, 2017

TurfNet TV - Latest Video is Live

My latest video for TurfNet.com features Derek Rose, Golf Course Superintendent of Eagle Ranch Golf Club in Eagle, Colorado. Derek tells me about the solar power installation at their golf course maintenance facility. Click HERE to view.



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Special Trip to Bandon Dunes

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Bandon Dunes to be part of the WinField "Lunch and Learn" educational team. All I can say is, "what a great experience"! Really fell in love with this property! We started the day with our educational seminar for the Bandon staff. Myself, Dr. Doug Soldat, University of Wisconsin, Gary Grigg, Grigg, and Rob Garcia, Winfield United all spoke on various golf course management topics. Roger Henderson, WinField United local sales representative, put on the event and did a wonderful job. It's the first time I have ever been in a conference room that used a wireless signal from my laptop to the projector. Who knows, maybe the days of all those cables will be over soon. It was a great morning of education and the Bandon staff was very interactive.

Dr. Doug Soldat, University of Wisconsin, talking Iron Management in turf.
The group then enjoyed a fabulous lunch prepared by the staff at the Bandon Dunes clubhouse facility. After the great lunch, we headed out on the course to get a private tour of the facility by Jeff Wilson, superintendent of the Bandon Dunes course. I met Jeff just over a year ago at the 2016 Ryder Cup, where we enjoyed the week together. So we piled in the truck and off we went.

Jeff Wilson, second from left explains their natural sand topdressing pile.
One of the first stops that Jeff wanted us to see was the topdressing pile. The greens construction at Bandon used the natural sand on site. With the native sand greens construction, they are also able to use on-site sand deposits for topdressing. The area above was designated to save as their topdressing sand. We were all amazed at the sheer size and volume of sand stash for future use. Let's just say they won't need to purchase any sand for a while. Pretty neat stuff, having your own deposit of topdressing sand on-site.

It was a big treat to spend some time with my Ryder Cup friend and Bandon Dunes course superintendent, Jeff Wilson.
Next up we stopped to look at and discuss the gorse issue at Bandon. Jeff had been chatting in the truck about gorse and educating us about what a difficult plant this truly is. When we stopped to check it out, we knew right away Jeff wasn't kidding about what a tough plant this is. Very invasive and difficult to control is a bad combination.


Gorse, as tough of a plant as there is! If you hit it in there, leave it!


After our Gorse education, we returned to the truck and concentrated the rest of our day on seeing the various golf courses. For myself, it was a golf course junkie's dream. The setting, topography, and great architects truly make this place special. I can't wait to return to Bandon and bring my clubs someday. I want to thank WinField United, Roger Henderson, the educational team, and the folks at Bandon Dunes for a spectacular visit! Enjoy a few of my favorite photos.

The Team checking out some of the greens contours.




As rugged as its gets!
Love this stuff...who said bunkers had to be manicured?
Spectacular Stuff!
Nothing to say here except...WOW!
The Punch Bowl, a 2.7 acre putting extravaganza!
Bandon Preserve, a Par 3, 13 hole course by Coore/Crenshaw.
What a way to end a spectacular trip!

Monday, October 16, 2017

TurfNet Tips and Tricks Video

My latest Tips and Tricks video for TurfNet.com is live. This is a great tip from Rick Tegtmeier, Director of Grounds, Des Moines Golf & CC. Rick shared this tip with me while I was at the Solheim Cup this summer. Everyone's contact information on one card, perfect! Video link HERE


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dormant Fertilization...

Dormant fertilization is one turfgrass management practice that I believe is vital to a successful upcoming season.  I have been a big fan of dormant fertilization throughout my entire career.  My definition of dormant fertilization is:  fertilizing when temperatures have dropped sufficiently to stop top growth - basically, when mowing has ceased. At this time, however, root growth can still be active.

What fertilizer is best for dormant fertilization?  There are many choices, but for 40+ years of golf course management career I have used the natural organic Milorganite.   Milorganite was my go-to fertilizer for all dormant applications.  Each fall when top growth stopped, we fertilized the entire golf course with Milorganite

Alway a great time of year when the dormant Milorganite application goes out!
Always a smile on my face when spreading Milorganite.
Greens, tees, fairways, and rough all received between 0.75#N/M-1.25#N/M.  Even today, as a consulting agronomist, it is the single most important fertilization practice I recommend and discuss with clients. I do get questions on why Milorganite.  So, let’s discuss the reasons why it’s such a great fertilizer and why it’s particularly great for a dormant application.

First, Milorganite has been in business for over 90 years. That is some kind of staying power. Some of the reason for that is the consistency with the manufacturing of this product.  In my 40+ years of using this material, I have never opened a bag that had an issue - truly remarkable.. To have a better understanding of the production of Milorganite, check out this great video link, HERE

The consistency in the manufacturing of this product is truly amazing!
Second, Milorganite may be the most researched fertilizer in the world. So, why is it such a great dormant fertilizer choice?  First, as an organic, it is very stable and leaching concerns are non-existent during fall/winter.  So, from that aspect, it is very environmentally safe and gives great piece of mind. From a turfgrass plant use, the real key to dormant Milorganite is all about nitrogen mineralization.  Consistent research results show that microorganisms responsible for the mineralization of the organic nitrogen in Milorganite remain active even in frozen soils.  The percent of nitrogen mineralization throughout the winter period has been shown to be in the 15% range.  This has been documented multiple times through university research.

Possibly the most researched fertilizer ever!
So for example, if you apply 1#N/M to your fairways as a dormant application, there will be 0.15N/M available immediately to the plant after snowmelt.  Nitrogen availability, along with the iron content, will produce tremendous spring green-up without any flush of growth.

Early spring fairway green-up.
Early green surface green-up.
This nitrogen availability will easily be 2-3 weeks ahead of any spring-applied fertilizer. So, it’s that time of year to set yourself up for next season – using Milorganite as dormant fertilization will certainly be a big help!  Milorganite is a fabulous choice for dormant fertilization.