Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Know the Benefits, Do You?

It is that magical time of year when the most common phrase heard around the club is: "Just when the golf course looks great again, you are going to destroy it".  The short response to that is Yes, yes we are, but only with the goal of creating healthier turf, and the "destruction" will be short-lived. 
It's aerification time! After an extremely difficult summer, I can think of no better way to help finalize our recovery than by aerifying all major in-play areas.  Many of you probably understand the basics of aerification, but do you truly understand the long term benefits and why there is the need to perform this task multiple times each year?

This photo shows the importance of aerification. The long roots
are taking advantage of the better growing environment in
an aerification hole, while the shorter roots are not
growing in an aerification hole.
Everyones first reaction to the benefits of aerification is that it reduces compaction.  While this is true, it most likely is not the most importanat benefit, especially on greens. Creating openings in the soil profile, regardless of whether it is a green, tee, fairway etc. is the primary goal of aerification.  As the name implies, it creates an opening in the soil that will allow for more air (oxygen) to penetrate the soil leading to enhanced root and plant growth.  The holes also lead to an increase in water infiltration.

Another benefit of aerification is the removal of organic matter and thatch. All of our playable areas have very manageable levels of thatch due to our commitment of regular and timely aerification. Do not take this as a sign that we can become relaxed in our approach. If we allow our thatch to begin increasing again, we will be creating a more favorable environment for disease, which, as we saw this summer, we don't need any more of.  Thatch is also capable of holding many times its weight in water.  What does this mean? Softer and wetter conditions. Nobody, including me, wants this.

This is certainly an older photo, but it gives you an idea of how
much soil and thatch is removed. We are now aerifying greens, tees 
and fairways on different weeks to minimize the disruption and
give us ample time to make sure the process isn't rushed.

After summers like the one we had this year, I can't imagine what we would have been faced with if we didn't have the commitment to the cultural practices that we do.  Beginning with spring aerification to the venting of the greens on a regular basis throughout the summer months to the fall aerification that we are now preparing for.  All of these go hand-in-hand and allow my staff and I to provide you with the conditioning that you have come to expect.

As witnessed this season, our program does not always guarantee perfect, disease free conditions all of the time, but it does help set us up for success even during a difficult stretch of weather.

I know that this process is typically not well received and that the timing never seems right, but we must complete this process while the weather is good and while the turf has enough time to recover before the long winter sets in. Since we have purchased two new aerifiers, we can now, with the help of good weather, have all 26 acres of fairways aerified and cleaned-up within three days (last year we were done in two days). Historically, this has been a week long process or more. Remember, the long-term benefits drastically outweight the short-term inconvenience.

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