May 26, 2013

12 green

Over the past few weeks we have been dealing with a mystery turf issue. I have been waiting until I had more information before I mentioned it on the blog. I sent off samples to Oregon State University and Rutgers University in an effort to get past the mystery. Neither Oregon State or Rutgers found any typical turf pathogens for commonly occurring turf diseases. Oregon State came back with a diagnosis of phytoplasma (which is like a bacteria but different?) Apparently, a vector (such as a leaf hopper) with piercing-sucking mouth parts spreads the phytoplasma to different areas. Since there are no fungicides that are labeled for phytoplasma, I was advised to keep the turf healthy and keep stress low. The Rutgers samples went out the week after the Oregon State samples. Rutgers called the issue white leaf and agreed with Oregon State about it being caused by phytoplasma. Rutgers had no way to test for phytoplasma, but felt confident about the Oregon State diagnosis. I have been in an email loop with some of the best turf experts in the industry in order to come up with the best plan of attack for moving forward. Maintaining adequate fertility, reducing stress, over seeding (in the worst areas), and reducing the vector populations were recommendations I received.

"white leaf" ?

On Thursday, I went to an Oregon Golf Course Superintendents meeting and shared the information I had with the rest of the group. There were a couple of Superintendents from other courses that were having similar turf issues. On Friday morning, I received a follow up email from Oregon State. The original diagnosis was further evaluated in the lab and was found to be a false positive for phytoplasma. So as of Friday morning, I was back to square one.

mystery turf issue

The not so good news is, the turf issue can be found on each green. Greens 1 and 2 are the worst. The better news is most people will not notice the issue on most greens. You have to look closely to distinguish the issue from Poa annua seed heads on most greens. The vast majority of the areas do not cause ball roll issues and are only aesthetic. There are however a few areas that have suffered some die back and may cause the ball to hop here and there. Most of the areas with die back are beginning to fill in with bentgrass. The bentgrass seems to be resistant to the issue. As far as I can tell, the issue is not being spread by mowers or equipment. The good news is, the greens are rolling nicely (except for the odd spot here and there) and are still very enjoyable to putt on. I will be maintaining adequate fertility and keeping stress as low as possible until we get past this mystery turf issue.